The Past Revisited

27 Oct

It is axiomatic of American thought that the past will always be forgotten when speaking about the present.  Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts on January 12th.  I will be curating a local exhibition to commemorate that long, brutal strike.  And just as today’s Occupy Wall Street movement focuses on the 99% and 1%, the truth of 1912 was that 1% of the richest Americans owned 50% of the country’s wealth.  Conducting a difficult eight-week struggle during the dead of winter against “Textile Trust” mill owners, banks, state militia, police, clergy and local government, this strike involved thousands of immigrants, nearly half women, fighting for justice and human rights, a watershed moment in the history of American labor struggles.  LaborFest will be commemorating this event with a cultural and arts event at ILWU Local 34.

Spinning Room, Mechanic’s Mill, Fall River, Mass. Stereoscopic card. Kilburn Brothers, Littleton, New Hampshire, date unknown. Kilburn Brothers No. 617.

Immigrant Anna LoPizo was shot dead on the street, a crime local authorities unsuccessfully tried to pin on Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti for the words these labor organizers used to embolden workers to fight for better conditions.  A young Syrian immigrant named John Rami died from a wound inflicted by a militiaman’s bayonet.  (Read Bruce Watson’s Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, Viking, 2005, or visit, http://www.breadandrosescentennial.org/node/77).  And yesterday, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was hospitalized with a fractured skull and brain swelling after possibly being hit by an Oakland Police Department tear gas canister (see http://www.baycitizen.org/occupy-movement/story/iraq-vet-critically-wounded-occupy/ or http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/10/25/18695124.php).  Please add your name to a petition asking for an investigation, even though an announcement has been made that an investigation will take place: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5966/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8589

It seems we will never stop the use of physical force.  Whether Ludlow, Hiroshima or Vietnam, physical force has been the desired catalyst for change throughout our history.  When I unearthed the post-World War I cartoon that appears below I was stupified.  Of course, our dictates are reasoned when leveled by Uncle Sam.  And so on down the chain of command.

“America Looks At Neighbors,” New York World-Telegram, 1932 (Rollin Kirby, artist).


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