Ruminations on the crazy people we are, by a retired teacher/musician. Can't get the "requests" out of my system after years of barroom/lounge/restaurant/party gigs mining 100 years worth of the musical mother-lode.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Something Lost

There is a mantra that fans of St. Anthony use:
"St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around,
Something's been lost and must be found."

I was listening to a CD of some great sounds by Pete Seeger, and some of those old labor union songs came on, like "Which Side Are You On?" out of the coalminers struggles, and "You can't fool me, I'm sticking with the union," one of many union songs that used earlier folk tune melodies, in this case replacing the words from "Red Wing," "There once was an indian maid," with "There once was a union maid." Simple, but very effective. I felt a great sense of nostalgia, and perused my memory to explain why.

I had been a union member, once in a factory before I joined te ranks of professionals, and once as a teacher. The feelings were the same in both instances. Being on strike at the risk of loosing your job is a bit scary. It's scary when you're single, and much more scary when you are married and are responsible for others besides yourself. Both occasions came to a successful conclusion. I learned a lot more about unions, however, at first when I studied them, and later, as a teacher, when I taught that aspect of American History. Union history is full of guys and gals who took the big step, willing to be the first ones out front to be harassed, or beaten, or sometimes, to be killed. Those people are American heroes, but most often are not given that acclaim in our history texts. They understood one idea: when someone seeks to use you, there is no choice but to prevent it.

What brings on my nostalgia most is the memory of what strength of character it took for those early leaders of unions to put themselves at risk for the benefit of others. We have lost sight of that kind of struggle. The "interests," as Dos Passos used to call them, are not as clearly visible. They're bigger, but less visible. How so? Well, in many cases, the interests of working people have become entwined in the interests of the "interests." The middle classes have seen themselves too much as potential capitalists, and less as members of the work force. In addition, the "interests" have become much more adept at pulling the wool over everyones eyes so as to have us all thoroughly bamboozled.

"Something's been lost and must be found." I think something truly must be found that has been lost: a sense of fighting the battle in behalf of the ordinary working people of this world. We need to be aware that the pols, the "interests," the sellers of everything from pills to perfection, must be reduced in their power, and the "people" regain a sense of their people-ness.

End of ruminations for today, 7/25/06. Stay the course.


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