Sojourner's Blog

March 6, 2018

The Great Silence

Filed under: Subversive Screens — brucehartford @ 10:24 am
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What Muellor’s recent indictments reveal about Soviet (excuse me, “Russian”) interference in our elections is infuriating and Trump/Republican attempts to distract, disguise, distort, and deny it are despicable. People (or at least the news media) are finally talking about it which is good.

But all the TV commentaries and news column inches, all the talking heads and pontificating pundits, are being carefully silent on something that someone needs to finally say out loud. To quote Malcolm X “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

Over the past 70 years the greatest interferer in free elections has been the U.S. government, the CIA, and the trans-national corporations whose interests both Democrats and Republicans have slavishly served.

President Eisenhower sabotaged and halted the Vietnam reunification election called for by the Geneva Peace Accords because, as he himself publicly admitted, the other side would have won. That election interference resulted in the Vietnam War, close to 60,000 American war dead and the death of somewhere between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 Indochinese men, women and children.

When Mosaddegh was democratically elected by the people of Iran in the only secular democratic election they were ever allowed to have, he and his government were overthrown by Operation Ajax, a CIA coup d’etat because big oil opposed his social and economic policies. The U.S. then installed the Shah, a ruthless dictator who ruled through a U.S. backed and funded terrorist police state. The current, fanatic Islamic theocratic dictatorship in Iran that so violently hates the West (and particularly America) is the direct and inevitable result of that election interference.

These are not isolated incidents but merely the most extreme examples of a general pattern of U.S. interference in other countries such as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the deposing and killing Salvador Allende in Chile, election meddling in France, Italy, Ukraine, Greece, and elsewhere in Europe, the overthrow of Nkrumah in Ghana, the Contra war in Nicaragua, backing UNITA in the Angolan civil war, the military occupation of the Dominican Republic, the Magsaysay election in the Philipines, the “dirty war” in Argentinia, unseating the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala at the behest of United Fruit Corporation, to name just a few.

Around the world, for decade after decade, the U.S. government has interfered in other nation’s elections through bribery, campaign financing, overt and covert propaganda, puppet-candidates, blackmail, disinformation (“fake news”), assassinations, coups, proxy-wars, and direct military intervention. Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe have all been victims of U.S. election interference. The only reason Antarctica isn’t on that list is they haven’t had any elections.

Yes, what the Russians did (and are still doing) to us is infuriating and intolerable. But shouldn’t we take a moment to acknowledge and apologize for the dirt on the hands of our own government?

April 4, 2015

The Historical Context of Voting Rights

Filed under: Subversive Screeds — brucehartford @ 8:41 am
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[Presentation given as part of a “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Voices of the 1965 Voting Rights Struggle” panel at the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora, March 21st, 2015. The other panelists were SNCC field secretary Wazir Peacock, Selma student leader Charles Bonner, and voter registration worker Maria Gitin.]

The Alabama voting rights campaign of 1965 that all four of us were part of was not an isolated event. It did not spontaneously spring into existence. Rather it grew out of a long historical context, and it can only be understood within that context. We used to talk about “1st and 2nd class citizens.” But today, Bob Moses of SNCC analyzes the voting rights campaigns in the framework of “We the People.”

The very first words of the American Constitution are: “We the people … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It does not say: “We the states”
It does not say: “We the politicians”
It does not say: “We the 1%”
It says: “We the People.”

But who are “We the People?”

Abstract political debates aside, as a matter of practical politics those who are eligible to vote — and who actually DO vote — are members of “We the People.” They are what we used to refer to as “full-citizens.” They are the recognized stakeholders of our society. As a matter of practical politics, those who are barred from voting are not part of “We the People.”

When we were founded as a nation, a fierce political battle erupted over who would have the vote. In essence, it was a fight over who was included in “We the People.” We have been fighting that political war ever since, and we continue to fight it to this day. The issue of who has the vote continues to be a fight because those who are well-served by the status-quo want to limit the voting power of those who they fear have good reason to be dissatisfied with the way things are. And, of course, the dissatisfied and disenfranchised want to have their voices heard and counted.

In the Presidential Election of 1800, it’s been estimated that no more than 10% of the adult population were eligible to vote. The other 90% were barred from voting. They were excluded from “We the People.”

Well, who were these 90%?

Women — half the population — could not vote. In 1776, Abigail Adams asked the Continental Congress to support voting rights for women. Her husband John Adams told her, “Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. … [We will not be subject to] the despotism of the petticoat…” For 151 years, women fought for the vote. They fought to become part of “We the People.” For their temerity, they were beaten, jailed, brutalized, and demeaned. But they carried their battle to every city, town, and rural hamlet in the nation. The Woman Suffrage movement was one of the longest, and most powerful, social movements in American history.

In the election of 1800, Native Americans could not vote. Indians did not win legal voting rights until 1927 — 140 years after the Constitution was adopted. And in many areas after 1927, white terrorism, legal tricks, and official fraud continued to deny them the vote long thereafter. Which is why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) that we fought for in Alabama specifically included and covered areas of California, South Dakota, New Hampshire and all of Alaska, areas with a long and sordid history of denying the vote to Native Americans.

In most states in 1800, only white men who owned property could vote. Renters, apprentices, farm tenants, sailors, factory, and mine laborers could not vote. In New York City, for example, 75% of white men were denied the vote because they did not own property. The struggle to end explicit property qualifications was fierce and often violent. It lasted 80 years. North Carolina was the last state to end property requirements in 1856 — North Carolina, last in so many respects.

But implicit income restrictions were not ended until poll taxes were finally outlawed in 1964. And many of us believe that today’s new Voter ID laws are, in fact, a covert method of again limiting voting rights of the poor and elderly who don’t drive, and don’t have passports or concealed-carry gun permits.

In 1848, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the War Against Mexico. It promised that Mexicans living in the conquered lands would be free American citizens with full voting rights. That did not happen. In Texas & California, legal voting rights were granted — in theory. But Anglo terrorism, legal tricks, & official fraud prevented all but a few from actually casting ballots. In Arizona & New Mexico, however, Mexican-Americans were legally denied the vote until 1912. During those 64 years, their lands and water rights were confiscated by judges & legislators elected only by Anglo voters. Across the Southwest for more than 100 years, Latinos fought and struggled for the vote — to be full and equal members of “We the People.” That’s a little-known struggle they don’t make movies about. A struggle that in many respects continues to this day. And, in fact, one of the best-kept secrets about the VRA is that it also won voting rights for Latino citizens.

Today, we see a Republican Party adamantly opposed to immigration reform. I believe their opposition stems from a combination of out-and-out racism and the fact that newly enfranchised immigrants tend to vote for Democratic candidates. In other words, immigration reform is also — in some respects — a voting rights issue because it impacts and defines who is included in “We the People.”

And not just Latinos. After the Immigration Act of 1870, and then the Chinese Exclusion Acts, Asian immigrants were denied the vote. Asian immigrants did not finally win full citizenship and voting rights until 1952 under the Eisenhower administration. One of the reasons that Japanese-Americans could so easily be rounded up and sent to concentration camps during WWII was that many of them had no vote, and were therefore not part of “We the People.”

As originally adopted, the Constitution defined slaves as property, not people. And in most states, free men of color were denied the vote through legal barriers or intimidation. Despite what the passionate defenders of “Southern Heritage” now claim, we all know that the Civil War was a war against slavery. But in a broader sense, it was part of a long, and still ongoing, fight to include citizens of African descent as full and equal members of “We the People.”

The Civil War did end slavery, but it did not end the fight over “We the People.” That struggle continued through Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the Square Deal, World War I, the New Deal, World War II, and the modern Civil Rights Movement that we four were part of. And as #BlackLivesMatter reminds us, in many respects the struggle continues to this day.

When I arrived in Selma Alabama in early 1965, I had only an abstract, intellectual understanding of the importance of voting rights. I knew it in my head — but not in my gut. That changed early one morning when an errand took me down to the basement of 1st Baptist Church, a block from Brown Chapel.

In Selma in 1965, the public, taxpayer-financed hospital would only see Black patients one day a week. They refused to treat civil rights activists at all. Which is why Rev. Reeb had to be driven 90 miles to a hospital in Birmingham before a doctor would see him — a distance that probably cost him his life. After Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus bridge, volunteer doctors & nurses with the Medical Committee for Human Rights set up an emergency aid station for injured demonstrators in the basement of 1st Baptist. Soon they were treating everyone who was excluded from the public health care that was routinely available to whites.

On the morning I’m talking about, a young woman came down the steps into the church basement. She was carrying a newborn infant just a few days old. Sick. Bad sick, even I could see that. And she was terrified. Absolutely terrified. For her baby — and for herself.

She lived on a plantation 10 miles out of town. The master had refused to let her take her dying child into town to see a doctor. He forbade it. Either because he didn’t want to pay the doctors fee, or he didn’t want her exposed to dangerous Freedom Movement ideas. Or both.

Somehow, through the grapevine, she heard about doctors who would treat Black patients in Selma. In the dead of night, like an escaped slave, she snuck off the plantation, trudged on foot, carrying her baby through the bogs and fields and rural ravines of Dallas County to the basement of First Baptist Church. She knew she could never return to the plantation. She had defied the Master’s edict. She would face his wrath if he ever saw her again. She knew that no matter what he did to her, he would face no sanction or consequences from any elected official or court. He could brutalize her, rape her, even kill her with no fear of punishment.

She had no vote, she was not part of “We the People.” She knew with dead certainty that not only would white officialdom fail to protect her, they would turn her over to the plantation master. So she had to give up her family, her home, and her few possessions, to save her child’s life. To go in fear of being forced back into a form of semi-slavery. She did not know these white doctors and nurses with the Medical Committee for Human Rights. She was terrified they would send her back to the plantation. I heard her beg them, over and over, not to send her back. Of course, they would never do that.

I don’t know what happened to her or her baby, my work was elsewhere. I never even knew her name. But I never forgot her because she taught me the human price of not being part of “We the People.” The human cost of not having a vote to hold politicians, sheriffs, and judges accountable.

September 21, 2014

Insanity is… (Bombs & Bullets vs Terrorists)

Filed under: Subversive Screeds — brucehartford @ 1:30 pm
Tags: , ,

cartoonThey say that: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I was reminded of that by the above newspaper cartoon from a few days ago.

The White House and Pentagon have tried — and failed — to halt Jihadist terrorism with bombs and bullets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and no doubt other places I can’t recall at the moment. Israel has tried to do the same with Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad with an equal lack of success.

Sadly, it seems to me that many who oppose military action as the first resort to any social-political-economic-religious problem are caught in the same “repeat and fail” syndrome. Condemning and opposing Obama’s military reaction to ISIL atrocities without simultaneously rejecting and opposing misogynistic, bigoted, feudal, theocratic tyranny, ends up preaching only to the choir with the same lack of effectiveness as has been had in halting previous military endeavors.

Instead of just saying “No bombing” over and over, what if we said, “Cutting off terrorist funding is more effective than bombing villages”? What if we argued for an economic “war on terror” instead of a military one?

For 3,000 years, money has been the essential ingredient of all forms of military action — including terrorism. Everyone (even Washington) knows that Islamic fundamentalism and Jihadist terror networks have been — and continue to be — funded by oil sheiks and petro-nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and so forth. Our first response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict was economic pressure, why is cutting off terrorist funding our last (or nonexistent) resort? Could it be that the greed of giant trans-national energy cartels and their cozy deals with Kings and Emirs does more to shape U.S. policy than common sense? (Oh, say it ain’t so, Barrack!)

Psssst! Here’s a secret, don’t pass it on. Oil ain’t worth squat until and unless it’s been shipped, refined, processed, and delivered to market. The politicians and pundits tell us that ISIL is financing itself from oil fields it captured. Do we really believe that thugs with their minds firmly planted in the 8th century are refining, shipping, and marketing petroleum derivatives on the global market all on their own without any direct involvement and connivance of Exxon, Shell, BP, Sinopec, Total, Gazprom, et al? Instead of dropping bombs on mud-hut villages, how about dropping some injunctions and whopping fines on some corporate boardrooms?

Just a thought.

July 18, 2014

The Missing Word

Filed under: Subversive Screeds — brucehartford @ 9:42 am

As a writer by trade, I love the English language. I love its richness, its  breadth, its depth. Yet it’s missing a word. We know and hold an important  concept for which English provides no word that I can find.

Today, those few schools who make an effort to teach the Civil Rights  Movement generally do so in terms of the Supreme Court putting the cause  into motion with a bold ruling, one or two charismatic leaders, a handful of  famous protests in a few well-known places, some tragic martyrs, and the  gracious largess of magnanimous legislators. Or, as Julian Bond summed it up  so succinctly, “Rosa sat so Martin could march so Obama could run.” But we  veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement know that without the activity,  determination, and bravery of hundreds of thousands of men and women of all  ages in cities and towns and hamlets across the South (and the nation) there  would have been no court rulings, no movement, no famous leaders, no new  laws, and no change.

For us, the Movement we participated in was above all a mass peoples’  movement — people coming together to make history for themselves. What was  most fundamental and profound in that struggle was the central role played  by men and women, boys and girls, transforming their own lives for  themselves through extraordinary courage. For us, these non-famous folk who  are overlooked or undervalued by mainstream history were the heart & soul,  blood & bone of the Freedom Movement.

When speaking of these unsung warriors, we sometimes use terms like  “ordinary” and “regular” to distinguish them from the famous and well-known,  but that’s not right. There was nothing “ordinary” or “regular” about the  men & women who risked all to defy white-supremacy by lining up to register  at the courthouse, or those who sat on their porches with shotguns guarding  us from night-riding terrorists, or the young girls and boys who dared dogs  and firehoses and filthy jail cells to march for freedom. No, the “ordinary”  people took counsel of their fears and stayed away from “that mess.”  “Regular” people did not attend mass meetings, go on freedom rides, sit-in  at the five & dime, or defy Bull Connor and Sheriff Clark. So what do we  call those who did?

Selma Alabama had one of the largest local movements in the South. Because  of a court-ordered appearance-book system, we know that somewhere around 15%  of eligible Dallas County Blacks attempted to register when it was hard, and  humiliating, and dangerous to do so. Fifteen percent doesn’t sound like  much, but it was way more than most local movements achieved. Wherever it  was across the South, and whether it was 5% or 10% or 15%, those brave few  who risked life and livelihood by daring to defy the white-supremacy were  neither “regular” nor “ordinary.”  

Perhaps Bob Moses comes closest with the term “unexpected actors,” and from  the point of view of our cultural gatekeepers they certainly were unexpected  (by them). But for those of us familiar the Peoples History that Howard Zinn  wrote about they were not unexpected. Down through the generations there  have been many peoples’ mass movements that changed history — movements  carried in the hearts and on the backs of thousands, tens of thousands, and  hundreds of thousands. The labor struggles of the 1930s changed the economic  and social face of America, as did the Woman Suffrage movement, and the  Populists, and the Abolitionists, and the (well, you get the idea).

But as with the Freedom Movement, when that history is taught (if it’s  taught at all) it’s in terms of the famous few, not the unsung many — John  L. Lewis & Walter Reuther, Susan B. Anthony, William Jennings Bryan, William  Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Breecher Stowe, and (hopefully) Frederick Douglas &  Harriet Tubman. But not the labor rank and file, the courageous suffrage  protesters, the embattled sharecroppers, or those who risked their lives on  the underground railroad. They too were neither famous nor “ordinary.”

For some of us, social and political causes are the major focus of our  lives, and for us there are words. We’re called “activists” or “organizers”  (and, yes, even “shit-disturbers”). But we alone do not make history, we are  always too few. History is made and changed when the fives and tens and  fifteen percents of not-ordinary, not-famous people stand up for justice.  The thousands of children who marched into Birmingham jails, the thousands  of adults who lined up outside county courthouses, the thousands of men and  women who housed and guarded us at night.

The culture promulgated by our schools and mass media tell us that history  and change are made by individuals — kings and presidents, tycoons and  innovators, wealthy thieves and violent terrorists, but never by masses of  non-ordinary, non-famous people who show up and take a stand. We who  participated in the Freedom Movement know how wrong that is, but how do we  fight back against this false history? How do we wage this culture war?  Perhaps, as scripture tells us, “In the beginning was the word.” But what  word?

July 5, 2014

Meditation on July 4th

Filed under: Subversive Screeds — brucehartford @ 11:18 am

All over the country, we the people celebrate Hotdog and Fireworks Day. If we attend some official event organized by the powers that be, we are treated to an orgy of flag waving, patriotic bombast, and bloviations on “Liberty” (the details of which are unspecified). But almost never is there any reading of the Declaration of Independence that today we supposedly honor.

It’s no surprise that the ruling elite prefer to ignore the Declaration because at that document’s core are five fundamental assertions that they wish to conceal beneath piles of patriotic blather:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,”

This never meant — then or now — that every individual has the same talent, ability or character. It does mean that there is no class of people, no aristocracy, who are inherently superior by reason of their wealth or birth. And that those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are not lesser, or sub-human creatures who deserve lives of drudgery devoid of hope. That there are no “ten” whose lot in life is deserved toil so that “one” can repose in leisure and luxury. It also implies that criminals who use their power and position to rob pension funds and loot the economy should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes because they are rich or politically-connected.

Yes, it’s true that most, if not all, the Declaration signers assumed that “men” meant that males are created equal and that women were not included in their concept. And yes, it’s also true that for many, possibly the majority, of the signers “men” were assumed to be white because Native Americans and Blacks were not in their eyes fully human. But it is a testimony to the living power of an idea that once articulated it grows and expands beyond the limitations of the original authors so that today most of us read this to mean “all humans are created equal.” And American history can (and should) be interpreted as an ongoing and unending struggle to broaden to concepts of equality to include women, nonwhites, immigrants, gays, non-Christians, laborers, and yes even people with odd ideas.

“That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”

That God endowed everyone — not just the king, not just the aristocracy, not just the obscenely wealthy — with fundamental human rights that cannot be justifiably abridged or denied on the basis of birth, religion, money, or assertions of social superiority. That all humans have rights, not just those who possess economic wealth or political power. That “might” does not confer “rights,” but rather that rights are inherent in humanity.

“That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That all people, from all walks of life, yes even the peons, serfs, and slaves, have the right to live in safety, free of oppression. That the murder of a Black man is as much of a crime as the murder of a white, that all people, citizen and immigrant, white and nonwhite, man and woman, straight and gay, must be free to walk the street and pursue their dreams.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

That political power is not handed down by God to kings and nobles, that legitimate power comes neither from the barrel of a gun nor from bribes and contributions of money and favor. But rather legitimate government and political power comes from the informed consent of the people (which does not necessarily equal winning an election).

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its   foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

That “We the People” have the right to determine how, and by whom, we are governed. That we have the right to choose, and remove, those who exercise political power. And that if necessary, we have the right to change the methods and forms of government, or completely overthrow an old government and replace it with a new one.

October 16, 2013

The March on Washington 50 Years Later

On a sweltering August day in 1963, I listened to Dr. King speak his dream, articulating the highest aspirations of our Freedom Movement. My heart soared, and to this day I am still moved by those words no matter how often I hear them.

But now, 50 years later, as the media tributes and commemorations flood the airwaves I am struck by their thundering silence on the issues of economic justice, poverty, and income-inequality that formed half of the protest’s bedrock core.

The March on Washington was a march for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis of SNCC, and James Farmer of CORE, all insisted that the march must be as much about economic justice as about social segregation. We marched that day to make 10 demands on American government and society (see ). Half of those demands addressed economic issues such as a living minimum wage, jobs and job training, fair labor standards, and an end to employment discrimination. The first portion of Dr. King’s speech — the part which the media and the politicians never quote — spoke to issues of wealth and poverty and income inequality.

Today, as we know full well, those issues are still with us, still unaddressed, still festering. Now, 50 years later, issues of economic justice, income inequality, and systemic poverty still remain the taboo topic of political discourse in America. Fifty years ago we assumed that the roots of poverty lay in discrimination and lack of opportunity. Today we understand that such issues are also inextricably bound to the realities of political power, the enormous disparity of influence between the wealthy few and working many.

Year after year, anti-union laws and court rulings cripple the ability of hard working people to earn a living-wage, while pro-business legislation and government policies encourage and subsidize the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs in a race to the bottom of lower labor costs. Housing and urban renewal policies result in the poor paying greater portions of their income for substandard housing than the affluent do for luxury accommodations. Political dis-investment in education, public works, transportation, and public health steadily widen the income gap and disproportionately impact the poor. Despite rhetoric about “family farms,” federal agriculture policies and subsidies are designed to enrich corporate agribusiness and impoverish small subsistence farmers. Business and consumer “protection” laws and international treaties are written to favor corporate profits at the expense of We the People.

One of the March demands was to raise the federal minimum from $1.15/hour to $2.00. When you adjust for inflation, $1.15 in 1963 is equal to $8.78 in 2013. Yet today, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25, significantly lower than what it was 50 years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the $2.00/hour minimum wage called for by the marchers would be equal to a minimum wage of $15.27 today, more than twice what it actually is. Congress sets the minimum wage. It is corporate political power that keeps it low, and the only way to raise it is by building popular people power.

Dr. King understood this relationship between economic justice and political power. In a lecture shortly before his assassination in 1968 he said, “The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”

August, 2013

October 15, 2013

October 14, 2013

Taxes and Liberty Poles

When I was a kid they taught me all about the American Revolution, “No Taxation Without Representation,” the Stamp Tax and the Boston Tea Party. Yay! Go Yankees!

But for some reason (an oversight, no doubt), they left out the context. Those taxes our ancestors were protesting were imposed to finance imperialist war. From the 1740s through 1760s, Britain fought the Dutch, French, and Spanish to conquer Canada, seize sugar islands in the Caribbean, take Senegal & Gambia in Africa, and grab Bengal & Pondicherry in India. That required a massive expansion of the British Army & Navy, first to take and then to hold those prizes against rival powers and local resistance.

But the riches and wealth from those colonies went only to the British 1%, the aristocrats and merchant princes who owned the East and West India companies, the plantations, and the mines. And, of course, the slaves, serfs, & indentured servants forced to work them. Since they controlled Parliament, they arranged a tax system where they paid very little and the 99% were bled dry for their benefit.

The resulting tax protests didn’t just occur in America, there were protests, riots, and uprisings in Ireland, Scotland, and England itself. The “Boston Massacre” we read about in school, for example, was called “massacre” in memory of the “St. George’s Fields Massacre” in London two years earlier when 15,000 people protesting taxes and denial of free speech were fired on by Redcoats.

One of the tactics of popular resistance used on both sides of the Atlantic back then was erecting “Liberty Poles” on public and private property as protest symbols and rallying points. Some of those poles were very tall, and all of them were hung with signs and symbols of protest. When the authorities tried to cut them down, sometimes they were defended, occasionally with violence, but more often with what we would today call nonviolent mass action. If a pole was taken down, a mass action was mobilized to put up a new one. The authorities discovered that it was much easier for the protesters to erect new poles than for the Redcoats to take them down against public opposition.

Ah well, just a curiosity of history I suppose. So glad all that sort of injustice and abuse is long in the past.

February 14, 2013

The Roots of Poverty

Fifty years ago, Black and white college students active with the Civil Rights Movement undertook freedom sojourns in rural communities of the deep South. For many of us, our starkest and most enduring memories of that intense time are not of KKK violence, mass protests or filthy jail cells but rather images of devastating, intractable, systemic poverty. In 2005, TV images of Katrina’s aftermath forcefully reminded us once again that beneath America’s celebrated affluence lie rural and urban wastelands of abysmal poverty and human suffering.

The mass media presents us with two opposing views of poverty’s root causes:

To oversimplify, and in a sense caricaturize, the view of the political right is that there are two kinds of poor folk. The “deserving poor” (orphans, accident victims, those with debilitating illness, etc.) for whom we should provide some ameliorative charity. And a much greater number of “undeserving poor” who live in poverty because they are lazy, shiftless, alcoholic, drug addicted, or are sexually promiscuous women who engage in serial pregnancies. Providing assistance to the undeserving poor just enables their life-style choices and encourages them to remain permanent social parasites feeding off the hard work and taxes of “productive” citizens.

Again to oversimplify, the liberal view is that in most cases the root cause of long-term poverty is lack of opportunity. Inadequate education, lack of job training, no child care, inadequate public transportation, no jobs available, or jobs denied because of race, gender, or some other form of discrimination. And therefore the corresponding solution is to supply opportunity by ending discrimination, providing education, training, child care, transportation and investing public and private funds to create new jobs.

I and many other civil rights workers initially held the liberal view. But once involved in the Freedom Movement we quickly learned that while discrimination and lack of opportunity are certainly important factors, lack of political power (broadly defined) is a deeper, and more fundamental root cause of systemic poverty. In this context, “political power” refers to the ability to change (or maintain) some economic aspect of society. This kind of political power can be expressed via elections, lobbying, economic action (boycotts, strikes and mutual aid), and all the varied tactics of nonviolent direct action.

Year after year, anti-union laws and rulings cripple the ability of workers to earn a living wage while pro-business legislation and government policies encourage and subsidize the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs in a race to the bottom of lower and lower labor costs. Housing and urban renewal policies result in the poor paying greater portions of their income for substandard housing than the affluent do for luxury accommodations. Political disinvestment in education, public works, transportation, and public health disproportionately impact the poor to their detriment. Despite rhetoric about “family farms,” federal agriculture policies and subsidies enrich corporate agribusiness and impoverish small and medium farmers. And business and consumer laws are written to favor corporate profits at the expense of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The result is that most poor people have productive jobs — often multiple jobs — and they are working longer and longer hours, but they remain mired in permanent poverty. This is not caused by lack of opportunity alone, it’s also caused by lack of power to change the systems, policies, and practices that create and continually recreate poverty.

In essence, the liberal “lack-of-opportunity” view was the intellectual foundation that underlay the federal “War on Poverty” programs of the 1960s. Despite LBJ’s rhetoric, empowering poor people was not included in those programs and when people in the field made efforts in that direction they were immediately reined in by both local and national power brokers.

Such was the case with the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), one of the earliest and most successful Headstart programs. Among its organizers were a number of Freedom Movement veterans who favored training and hiring actual poor people to staff the centers (as opposed to professional educators with college degrees). They organized poor parents to take active decision-making roles in both the education of their children and broader community affairs.

The CDGM came under immediate and intense political attack from the Mississippi power-structure led by Senator Stennis who accused it of being “Communist” — not because the alphabet blocks the children played with could be used to spell “red,” but because it was empowering poor people to exert some influence and control over their own lives. Bowing to political pressure, Washington soon defunded CDGM, replacing it with a program where middle-class professionals provided services to the poor who were expected to consume and accept what was given to them as passive clients.

Dr. King understood this relationship between poverty and political power. In a lecture shortly before his assassination he said:

The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty. — The Trumpet of Conscience, Beacon Press.

 That was the underlying vision of his Poor Peoples Campaign, to build a national, multi-racial alliance of poor people to fight on their own behalf. Not to plead for more charity or welfare, but to demand and win economic justice.

November 6, 2012

Running Wordstar 6 for DOS on Windows 7

Filed under: Technical — brucehartford @ 11:46 am
Tags: , , , ,

Because formatting HTML pages on WordPress is so klunky and user-hostile, it’s easier and quicker for me to simply create a PDF file and because WordPress doesn’t allow me to update a file without changing the URL, I’ve stored it on my personal website. Click on this link to open the PDF: Running Wordstar 6 on Windows 7 Using vDOS.

I’d welcome any comments or corrections you might have.

I should also mention that Paradox 4.0 for DOS also neatly runs within DOSBox. Standard DOSBox setup is all you need, so long as you remember to mount both the Paradox software directory and your data directories.


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