The Violence of Birth

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The Death Special

 

On a cool spring morning the day after Easter, the sun rose over a a makeshift city of white canvas tents that were the homes of 1200 striking mine workers, their wives and their children. Beneath the rough wood floors of the tents, men had dug pits into which they and their families could quickly jump, seeking safety when random shots were fired into their canvass homes by Colorado Fuel & Irons (CFI) company guards. These same guards, with CFI knowledge had also converted a sedan into an armored vehicle with a mounted M1895 machine gun, appropriately named the Death Special, and was used on a daily basis to terrorize the striking workers and their families along with the random sniper shootings.

Before the sun set that cool Spring day, the leaders of the strike would be found dead, shot in the back, the camp razed, all the tents burned to the ground. Among the brutality, two women and eleven children were dead, found huddled together, having suffocated in a shallow pit. Bodies were left lying for days as an example to other would be strikers.

Their grievances:

Recognition of the union as bargaining agent

An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase)

Enforcement of the eight-hour work day law

Payment for “dead work” (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)

Weight-checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)

The right to use any store, and choose their boarding houses and doctors

Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws (such as mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the company guard system

Promptly at 11 am on July 17th under the hot Arizona sun, 23 cattle cars whose floors were covered in several inches of manure, arrived in Bisbee and 1300 men were loaded, given no food, very little water, and under armed guard were routed to Hermanas, New Mexico, a trip of 12 hours on a 90 degree day. Kicked out of the cattle cars, the 1300 were given no food, no water, nothing except a dire warning to never return to Bisbee again.

Their crime, a peaceful and legal strike.

In September of 1897, 19 unarmed men were shot dead by the Luzerne County Sheriff and his men near Hazleton Pennsylvania for participating in a legal, peaceful strike.

In 1911, 146 garment workers died in what is known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. These women died not only because of unsafe and hazardous working conditions but also because they were unable to leave

The Aftermath
The Aftermath

the building when the fire broke out. Doors had been chained and locked to keep the women working.

While the Ludlow Massacre, the Bisbee Deportation, the Luzerne massacre and the Triangle fire all happened over a hundred years ago, these events should never be far from our collective memory. These humiliations, these tragedies forced upon everyday, hardworking people should always be remembered as the foundation for every Union member. People suffered, people died, their children died under the most horrible abuses of the rich and privileged so that today I have an eight hour work day, the right to shop where and when I want, the right to visit a doctor of my choice, the right to to a safe and secure work environment and to be paid a fair wage.

I do not forget why I am Union!

It would be an easy argument for one to make that these were the result of the times, that they were the result of the fledging Union movement and the abuses should have been expected, given the times. That abuses and tragedies such as these could never happen in the modern era. My rebuttal would be be a simple word, ‘Bullshit’. The murders and injustices happened not because of the tenttime of day but because of human nature. Human nature has not changed, federal intervention has.

Indeed, nothing really changes.

I say to you, that if you believe all the benefits you have today are the result of the goodwill of your employer, you are wrong.

I say to you, that if you believe your employer has your best interest at heart, you are wrong.

I say to you, that if you believe Unions have served their purpose and their time has passed, we will again revisit the days of deportation, murder and humiliation.

If you do not understand this, than Patria Valdez and her three young children died for nothing.

 

Why not check out my website robpaxton.me and my Youtube Channel as well.

Disposable People

148We live in a society where our culture is to use, abuse and toss. Be it our entertainment and news, our veterans, our grandparents or our toaster. Our trend is to get excited for thirty seconds, then forget. Get involved for a quick minute, then move on. For a nation that talks about sustainability, the truth is we’re pretty poor at sustaining anything in our lives outside of debt and fear. Commit a crime, go to prison, Disposable! Mentally handicapped, Disposable! Veteran, Disposable! Old, in a nursing home, Disposable! Poor, Disposable! Not white, Disposable!

Granted, I’ll get arguments that I’m painting with too much of a broad brush, but most of those arguments will be coming from those who are not disposable. Those who haven’t suffered from the distinction of being touched by the law, by war, schizophrenia, hunger or senility.  Yes, there are those who have lived through their challenges, survived the hurt and pain bought on by life, but you are the few, and that is the hard, and fast truth. Many people overcome obstacles, many more do not. Those who do not are disposable, and not by choice.

No veteran, damaged by the onslaught of violence deserves to be homeless, much less suffer in the silence of their own thoughts. No person whose mind is wired so differently than mine should be viewed with fear and distrust, no grandparent should sit alone on their birthday, no child suffer a distended belly because of hunger. Yet, they do. Yes, there are people who want to help. Yes, there are organizations who want to help. There are wonderful places doing wonderful things for those in need.

There are not enough people or organizations! Or money to help everyone in need. Why is that?

Because we live in a disposable society. We rather gather our poor into down trodden apartment complexes, neighborhoods with unkept lawns and littered streets where you don’t want to go. We shove our mentally challenged brothers and sisters out into the streets and shun them, or worse, blame them for their crimes and commit them to the horrors of prison. There is little understanding and a lot less compassion. Few people take the time to visit their elderly grandparents, except for a birthday, or a funeral.

Chances are you’re waiting in anticipation for the next national scandal, or blockbuster to debut. Chances are your making plans to take a nice vacation, do some fishing, or go out to eat for a nice supper. Nothing wrong with that, ‘cept I have to ask, have you ever thought about doing something a little different for once, something that makes a difference.

See, the thing is, that difference I’m talking about works in some strange and amazing ways, friends. We can change not only our lives for the better, but the lives of others, simply by deciding to care about others, by speaking up, by doing, by engaging. No, we can’t solve every single problem, cure every disease, sooth all the pain, but we can care.

Once enough people start caring, and illustrating that care through action, things will start changing.

I’d like to give a small, real world example of what I mean, of what the impact a single action can have on a life.

From a friends FB post

Yesterday coming home, I saw a man hitching across from Davy Jones. He had long disheveled white hair & beard. Plus acting goofy. Didn’t know if from drugs, alcohol or what. I went on to the Post Office and coming back to that corner, he was still there. I got home and found I forgot to do something so I took off again to town. Getting back closer to that cor047ner, this hitch-hiker was standing and waving his arms. I stopped. He wasn’t on drugs or drunk. He was mentally handicapped and needed a ride to the Devereux Center. He was harmless and really likes music, loud. Now, some would say what I did was a ‘christian’ thing to do. I totally disagree! Just how many ‘christians’ do you think passed him by? …… just saying

His name is Joe and I reassured him that I will pick him up when I see him.

I have to add. When we got to the Devereux Center, Joe was so thankful, he reached out and touched my arm, nodding. I reached out and touched his shoulder saying I’ll always pick him up.

The above post on FB bought a tear to my eye, because I have a son just like Joe and I hope when my son needs a person like Sherry Benjaman, that person is there for Sean when I cannot.

My son is not disposable, nor are our Vets, our elderly, our prison population, people of color, or our poor. Our toasters might be, but not our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, our neighbors, our friends.

Robpaxtons  website