“Mr. Coal operator call me anything you please, blue, green, or
red, I aim to see to it that these Kentucky coal miners will not dig your
coal while their little children are crying and dying for milk and bread.”
— Aunt Molly Jackson, the ultimate Pistol Packin’ Mama,(1880-1960)
This morning I’m thinking about The Great Depression of the 1930s. Over the course of four years, 1929-1933, the unemployment rate reached its peak to 25% of the population. Today, twelve years after The Great Recession of 2008, America’s unemployment rate is 25%. This morning CNBC reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged Sunday that the U.S. unemployment rate may have already reached 25% as the administration works to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
I like that word “may”. As if they have no way of telling; probably because the system is so overwhelmed. There is a good chance the government may not actually know how many are without work, without income, have no savings, have not received a stimulus check.
During The Great Depression, there was a union war. The folks that were pro-union were among the bravest souls in history. They stood up for their rights in the face of dire circumstances including starvation and death. Coal miners, exhausted from working +12 hour days, demanded an eight-hour workday, more safety features for the miners, and also a fair wage. Many union members paid with their lives; the henchmen of the owners shooting some on-site!
Like the Aunt Molly Jackson story and song, today there is an injustice, a darkness, that is costing the lives of many, pressed by the heel of greed and power. The worldwide shelter in place mandate emphasizes the hurt that was already here. If the world ever needed the voice of a hero it is now!
Oh, how I wish justice could shine down from heaven like a bolt of lightning and solve all the world’s problems! I am not political or a part of any militia; I am a poet. Designed to observe and report. This is the job of all artists. Although I have no solution, I have an alarm to sound and it is saying the bent branch has split! You can no longer demand buds, flowers, or fruit from what has died! The devotion to the wicked will end quickly! Home of the brave you say? The brave are in neighborhoods donating time and supplies to their neighbors. The brave are working in grocery stores and hospitals. While our leaders lay impotent, the common person once again helps the helpless. Although I understand the solution to COVID-19 & why we shelter in place, I am angered that the epidemic of homelessness, disease, and poverty has festered for decades. In America, WHY is it a constant fight for equal rights, equal pay, a fair living wage, affordable healthcare? Why is that?
All this week Aunt Molly’s song played in my mind while processing some sad news about an acquaintance. The stoic teaching tells me the obstacle is the way. We all have our own gutters to climb out of, I hope I am brave enough to reach out a hero’s hand to those around me.
Here is an old poem I shared with the Poetry Discussion group on Saturday.
Lunch at the Sycamore Square
Fountain water hits each tier
breaks off into the air
landing on my notebook paper
sprinkles a blank page
A cart of baked bread
rolls by through the courtyard
towards the Italian restaurant
A tourist asks when does
the shoe store open
A dog on leash pisses
on the floor
We all ignore it
even the owner
This photo really touched me. It is my current mood expressed by a news photo. -take care & be well, Shannon