6 September 2006: Disaster Anniversaries

Disaster anniversaries reflect on administration

We’re in Virgo now—the time for harvesting grain and picking ripened fruits. Many hold it is their favorite time with warm, dry days, colors changing, and football. Labor Day, intended as a celebration of the American worker and industry, has become our annual end-of-summer weekend. Generally, it’s not a period one associates with tumult. Yet, the two most devastating events in our recent history, the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Katrina, took place at this time.

Labor Day signals as well the beginning of the election season, and this one is proving to be a season of discontent. When asked by pollsters if America is heading in the right direction, an over-whelming majority say no. It’s become quite obvious that Americans have lost faith in the Republican governing majority and have become skeptical, even cynical, with good reason.

At the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we’re no closer to finding justice for the victims and their families. The perpetrator, Osama bin Laden (a.k.a. Osama Been Forgotten), is doing, as rightwing nutcase Ann Coulter put it, “swimmingly” in Afghanistan. By contrast, in less than four years, America, lead by Franklin D. Roosevelt and in concert with our allies, defeated the Imperial Empire of Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany.

What was not a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalist extremism, Iraq, has now evolved into one due to the arrogance and ineptitude of America’s ruling elite. That same ineptitude along with detached callousness has exposed an emperor without clothing. “Clueless in Crawford” campaigned in 2004 on the promise he would protect America, but when crunch time came in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, he was again AWOL.

Labor Day was declared a national holiday in 1894, 12 years after fiery labor leader Peter McGuire proposed the idea. President Grover Cleveland resisted the idea, but like Ronald Reagan with Martin Luther King Day, he succumbed to public pressure and signed it into law. A national holiday for labor changed little in the attitude of the ruling elite, however. Just 20 years later on April 20, 1914, the Ludlow Massacre took place in southern Colorado with 66 people killed by Colorado National Guard and federal troops, including 11 children and 2 women fried to death in a pit under an iron cot.

When suggesting a day for American workers in 1882, the idealistic McGuire said, “Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry,” McGuire, along with Eugene V. Debs and other titans of the American labor movement, would be shocked at the feebleness of today’s American industry and the labor movement. Among the results: a minimum wage that has less buying power in a half-century; average wage buying power in decline since 2001; 37 million Americans, some 12.6 percent, living under the poverty line; and 45.3 million people, about 15 percent, without health insurance.

The Wal-Martization of the working class and evolution of a two-class society has not been happening just over the past six years, but over the past four decades. Nixon’s Silent Majority was the precurser of the Reagan Democrats, voters taken in at the expense of their own self-interest. There are signs that trend is reversing, however, as workers (Democrats) accept the reality the governing elite (Republicans) cares little about their welfare. As with the previous Gilded Age of the late 19th century, a progressive era is rising in reaction to this Gilded Age Redux. Bernie Horn, Director of the Center for Policy Alternatives has delienated four progressive values that characterize it: freedom, security, opportunity, and responsibility. I would add “hope” and “freedom from fear.”

Fear-mongering has been an effective strategy by the ruling Republican majority since 2001. Like the boy who called wolf too many times, the tactic has worn thin. Nonetheless, over the next two months, rightwing politicians and pundits, taking their cue and talking points from the Republican Party’s national leadership, will clamor that those who dissent, who question the policies of the ruling elite, are un-American terrorist loving traitors.

Dissent, though, is American as mom, the flag, and apple pie. When the fear-mongering right was terrorizing the American people in the McCarthy Era, Edward R. Murrow said, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

The choice in November is simple. If the Republican governing majority has “done a heckuva job” and all is going “swimmingly,” Americans should vote to “stay the course.” Otherwise, it’s a no-brainer—throw the bums out. It’s American as mom, the flag, and apple pie.

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