David Rovics sings of the Saint Patrick Battalion, in concert at Belfast.
Long time Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren writes about the real rulers of the United States.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.
Justin Akers Chacón offers some context with regard to the latest wave of immigration from the South.
The children and youth coming to the U.S., chiefly from Central America in the current wave, are victims of faceless economic, political and military policies engineered and implemented by the U.S. government, either unilaterally, or working through ruling elites in the region.
These young migrants are journeying north to be reunited with their families or in a desperate search for work and security. It is a further indictment of the U.S. government’s inhuman immigration policy that these innocent victims are treated as criminals and undesirables.
Please read the full article: Children forced on a dangerous journey | SocialistWorker.org.
Here are some words of wisdom from James Patrick Cannon’s essay, written for July 4th, 1951. He says that if you go to Marx, you find America.
It is wrong to confuse internationalism with anti-Americanism; to relinquish the revolutionary traditions of our country to the reactionaries; to let the modern workers’ revolutionary movement, the legitimate heir of the men of 1776, appear as something foreign to our country.
Happy Independence Day!
This is an article that I wrote in June of 2003, long before I began blogging. In anticipating Flag Day, I realized that I hadn’t yet published it on this updated version of the Weblog. It explains pretty well, I think, why I don’t fly the Stars and Stripes much anymore.
Among the Believers
“In each generation, with toil and tears, we have had to earn our heritage again. If we fail now, we shall have forgotten in abundance what we learned in hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it gives, and that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored.
“If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because of what we believe. For we are a nation of believers.”
— Inaugural Speech of Lyndon Baines Johnson, January 1965
For many years I would fly an American flag at my home on every day that weather permitted. From my earliest recollection it has represented something very deep and spiritual to me. It has represented unity.
At first, it was the unity of national identity – my tribe. In Oreana, Illinois, USA the tribe’s members were typically native midwestern, Anglo and Christian, but I had the sense very early that there was a bigger tribe. I was taught that America was a big place where all kinds of people came from all over the world. E Pluribus Unum – “From the Many, One.” What made us “one” people? Why did so many folks come from so far away and endure such hardship? They did it because they wanted to be free. So, sometime during grade school the flag began to represent freedom.
As I grew a little older, I began to learn that freedom is relative. I remember seeing Norman Rockwell’s depiction of “The Four Freedoms” – freedom from fear, freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from want. Growing up in the 1960s, it was easy to sense that some people living among us weren’t completely free. The ideal wasn’t being fully expressed and experienced yet. We had to keep working for it. This was only right and just and our duty as Americans. So the flag began to represent justice.
When I was 11 we moved to Decatur and I still recited dutifully with my hand over my heart every morning in home room – “with liberty and justice for all.” The flag was so beautiful. It embodied the most noble and desperate longings of humankind, and it belonged to me. It belonged to all of us at Stephen Decatur High School. It belonged to the Blacks and the Italians and the Greek girls who came to school with ashes on their foreheads at the beginning of Lent. It belonged to my history teacher, who was Jewish. It belonged to every creed and race, even us mutts of generic European extraction. It belonged to us all. The ideal belonged to us all. The dream belonged to every one of us, and we belonged to each other. One tribe out of many. E Pluribus Unum.
Now that I’m older, I realize how naïve some of my perceptions may have been about our distance from the ideal. The truth is that for many people in our society the words “liberty and justice for all” have sometimes been akin to a cruel joke. Despite that, I’ve never once doubted the ideal itself.
People used to poke fun at me for flying my flag all the time. “What’s up with the flag? It’s not a holiday today.” Then it seemed as if overnight that changed. Suddenly, there were flags everywhere. Stores were sold out of flags that had collected dust for years. People put flag decals on their cars and taped newsprint flags to their windows.
I’d like to fly my flag along with the others, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to most of the people waving it so frantically these days. In fact, the sentiment expressed by many is like some dark, shadow version of my American Ideal. It’s full of anger and revenge and political partisanship blended with no small measure of religious and racial bigotry. My flag isn’t like that. My flag isn’t about hatred or fear.
I worry about my flag and my country. The America we live in today seems so different from the America of my enduring imagination. I wonder if that America will survive this age of abundance. We’re obviously at a crossroads, at a time both of great opportunity and grave danger, and may well look back on this decade as a defining moment for generations to come.
I don’t know how well my generation will stand the test of “toil and tears” required to earn our heritage. I do know that what we have and what we own, our military and economic hegemony, these things will inevitably pass. What we are, what we stand for – unity, freedom, justice – these ideals will last.
Can we become, finally and truly, “a nation of believers?”
Here’s an account of one of the earliest known commemorations of Memorial Day, from professor David Blight’s book The Civil War in American Memory. I may try to learn “Rally ‘Round The Flag” on banjo this weekend in tribute.
African Americans founded Decoration Day at the graveyard of 257 Union soldiers labeled “Martyrs of the Race Course,” May 1, 1865, Charleston, South Carolina.
The “First Decoration Day,” as this event came to be recognized in some circles in the North, involved an estimated ten thousand people, most of them black former slaves. During April, twenty-eight black men from one of the local churches built a suitable enclosure for the burial ground at the Race Course. In some ten days, they constructed a fence ten feet high, enclosing the burial ground, and landscaped the graves into neat rows. The wooden fence was whitewashed and an archway was built over the gate to the enclosure. On the arch, painted in black letters, the workmen inscribed “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
At nine o’clock in the morning on May 1, the procession to this special cemetery began as three thousand black schoolchildren (newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools) marched around the Race Course, each with an armload of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by three hundred black women representing the Patriotic Association, a group organized to distribute clothing and other goods among the freedpeople. The women carried baskets of flowers, wreaths, and crosses to the burial ground. The Mutual Aid Society, a benevolent association of black men, next marched in cadence around the track and into the cemetery, followed by large crowds of white and black citizens.
All dropped their spring blossoms on the graves in a scene recorded by a newspaper correspondent: “when all had left, the holy mounds — the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them — were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond … there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy.” While the adults marched around the graves, the children were gathered in a nearby grove, where they sang “America,” “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The official dedication ceremony was conducted by the ministers of all the black churches in Charleston. With prayer, the reading of biblical passages, and the singing of spirituals, black Charlestonians gave birth to an American tradition. In so doing, they declared the meaning of the war in the most public way possible — by their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses, lilacs, and marching feet on the old planters’ Race Course.
After the dedication, the crowds gathered at the Race Course grandstand to hear some thirty speeches by Union officers, local black ministers, and abolitionist missionaries. Picnics ensued around the grounds, and in the afternoon, a full brigade of Union infantry, including Colored Troops, marched in double column around the martyrs’ graves and held a drill on the infield of the Race Course. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration.
Photo by Jim Capaldi
Pete Seeger was heroic in his testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1955.
“I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.”
Read Pete’s full testimony: House Un-American Activities Committee, August 18, 1955 – PeteSeeger.net.
It is sad to learn of the passing of Pete Seeger, who has been a personal hero of mine most of my life.
I’d like to share this excellent retrospective that Sam Anderson wrote on the occasion of Seeger’s 90th birthday in April of 2009.
“Seeger is, quite literally, a folk hero—in the sense that he collected, wrote, and popularized many of America’s essential songs. But he is also a folk hero in the sense that Paul Bunyan is a folk hero.”
Read the full essay here: Pete Seeger Celebrates His 90th Birthday — New York Magazine.
This letter is from the archives of the Seattle municipality. Dated November 16th, 1937, it’s addressed to the city council and written by the Chief of Staff of the Ku Klux Klan. Complete with a depiction of a burning cross and hooded night riders at the top, the letterhead features the motto “Communism Will Not Be Tolerated” emblazoned in the footer.
It is easy to forget, in our day and age, that the Klan was once a fairly mainstream organization in the United States. Their chilling self-characterization as “All Americans” who salute only “the Stars and Stripes” prefigures the American Right of today.