Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did you vote yet?

My older daughter came home to vote. The university that she attends, known by Fox News as "Havana North" does not schedule classes on election day, nor on the day before, so that students, faculty and staff can travel, if need be, to vote where they are registered. Yep, that does sound commie, doesn't it-giving people the time and opportunity to have a say in their government.

Anyway, we went off to the polling place, with identification and fully prepared for long lines and long waiting times to find...no lines, poll workers who knew us, no challenges to our right to vote, and no smiley flag stickers that announced our good citizenship! Hey, you mean all we get is representational government?

Its no secret that we voted for "That One," yeah, the one that "The Other One" kept calling a socialist. Which is pretty funny, because there were at least 2 candidates from 2 different socialist parties running, here in New Jersey. Besides, Barack Obama is no socialist. I know, I am related to a man who was a socialist his entire adult life and it would be wonderful if Barack Obama could grow up to accomplish as much as my Great Grandfather did.

Pop (my great-grandfather, the socialist) came to this country at the end of the 19th century, two steps ahead of the czarist police and not quite a full step ahead of the woman who would be my great grandmother (but that is a different story). Pop was a tailor by profession, but a union organizer by avocation.

(If you were taught American history by the Great Man method, I suggest that you google: The Homestead Strike and Riot, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, The works of Jacob Riis and read "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. That will at least be a start. If you were never actually taught American history, well crap, we do have a problem, don't we?)

When Pop arrived in this country, working class people were often seen as less than fully human, and were treated as such by the owners of capital (let us get is straight right now-democracy is a type of political system, capitalism is an economic system-they are not synonymous). Do you have weekends off, or regularly scheduled days off from work? Thank the unions. Prior to the rise of unions in this county, working people could possibly have Sunday off to attend church, many times, though they would only get 1/2 a day off. Pensions? Also, thank the unions, working class people were expected to work until they died-and then the widows and orphans would go to the poor house, wherein "respectable" society would moan about the cost of supporting such useless waste. The expectation of health care? Of the six children born to my great-grandparents three survived childhood, not an unusual ratio in working class slums.

Now, I know that Pop was one of many many union organizers. He was one of many who, through hard and dangerous activities tried to bring some balance to the economic life of this nation. At the same time, he managed to support a family as a tailor, help start the American Garment Workers Union (no Wobbly, he. Sigh, yeah, google that, too), and go to school at night to learn English, which would be the fourth language he ended up being able to speak. (eventually, he learned 2 more, but was never quite as fluent in Spanish or Italian as he was in Russian, Polish, Yiddish or English). His three surviving children, all daughters, finished high school, went to college, and ascended out of the working class-which is the way it is supposed to be.

Speaking of the three daughters (one of whom is my Grandmother, whose 97th birthday we will be celebrating this winter), once Pop felt that his union was firmly established, he moved his passions to a new cause. For most of the rest of his life, he worked toward removing the barriers to higher education for women and girls. All of his female descendants and all but one of the male (extenuating circumstances) who have reached adulthood had university degrees.

So, where am I going with all of this? One-go vote, dammit, if you haven't yet. Two-Barack Obama is no socialist. Three-what this nation needs is an economic system of balance (umm, middle pillar, anyone?) and Four-name calling is crap, what positive affect have you had on society?

Oh, and if you read "The Jungle" and decide that maybe you will become a vegan, you should know that the Pure Food and Drug Act that was passed after the publication of the book and the work by Ida Tarbell (maybe you should google her, too) regulated more than the meat industry. It was not uncommon prior to that act to have saw dust or chalk added to bread (depending on whether it was white or whole grain breads) or formaldehyde added to milk. The Chinese capitalists have nothing on us.

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