Thursday, May 18, 2006

Divider Not a Uniter

by Rich Miles

Ever see the movie "Matewan"? It's a fictionalized account of a real incident in the coal fields of 1920's West Virginia, showing the beginnings of coal miner unionization efforts. Stars Chris Cooper ("American Beauty", among others) and Mary McDonnell ("Dances With Wolves", again among others.) I recommend it to your attention.

The reason I mention it now is that I saw it again the other day, and Cooper has a really great speech along about the middle of the picture, when the white miners are highly resistant to the idea of letting black miners, who were originally brought in as scabs to break the union, join them in their organizing efforts. I'll paraphrase a bit, but here is approximately what he says:

"They got you all fighting each other - white against colored, native against foreigners, holler against holler. That's what they want you to do - that plays right into the Company's hands, if they can keep you fighting each other, you don't think so much about fighting them."

As I say, that's a close approximation, but it resonated with me, because it's exactly the strategy our government is using today to keep us from thinking so much about fighting them.

Pres. Bush's speech on immigration Monday night was pretty much a useless mishmash of half-formed and inconsistent ideas, self-evident observations, and unfunded commitments of our National Guard. But more than that, it was practically an invitation to the white majority in this country to tap into their deepest racist fears about, as Bill O'Really? put it, the "browning of America".

Bush (and O'Really) have been really good at pitting us against each other for as long as he's been in office. Democrat against Republican, Right against Left; pro-Iraq war vs. anti-war; pro-choice vs. anti-choice, pro-gay marriage vs. anti, radical Christians against leftie liberals, and on and on.

And for Bush, the net result of this has been that he is still in office, and not in a federal prison somewhere.

Because if we - the American people - were ever to put aside the ancillary points of disagreement that keep us at each other's throats and just agree to disagree, and live our lives according to our own values, and allow others to do the same, it would give us the time and the leisure to take a closer look at how our government is screwing us in so many ways.

And that sort of scrutiny just can't be permitted by this president - and the very fact that it's starting to happen anyway, despite Bush's best efforts to distract us and set us against each other, scares the living hell out of him. That's why I wrote the post He's not leaving back on May 2 - because he's going to keep trying to scare the hell out of US so he can cook up some really good reason not to let go of power in January of 2009, so he can continue to stay out of prison.

We're the ones with the power ultimately. Bush is trying his damnedest to keep that simple fact from us, as he does so many others.


yellowdog said...

Precisely. I note you left out what happened at the end of the movie: even when the miners united, a lot of them ended up dead, although their cause, of course, eventually prevailed. Let's hope it's an incomplete analogy, unless you count the Iraq casualties as our martyrs.

Logically Negative said...

You're right about the end of the movie, and you're right that their cause eventually prevailed - though the whole cause of unionism has been essentially dismantled outside of the auto, coal, steel and a few other big industries.

But I don't think it is an incomplete analogy. Would fewer miners have died if they HADN'T fought the Baldwins and unionized? And will there suddenly be no more Americans dying anywhere if we don't oppose the Bush administration?

Ever see the look on the face of a beef animal as it's being led to slaughter? Looks just the same as it does when it's grazing in a pasture. That tell you anything about resistance and its costs?