Difference means danger in America

This is 26-year-old Ethan Saylor,  killed in a Maryland movie theater in 2013  by three off-duty sheriff’s deputies who were working security.  Mr. Saylor,  who had  Down Syndrome and an IQ of 40, had been ordered to leave the theater and had refused. He wanted to see the movie again and to wait for his caregiver,  but had no money for a second ticket and was ordered out.  He died shortly after deputies threw him to the ground and knelt on his back to handcuff him.  Although the coroner ruled his death a homicide caused by asphyxiation, the deputies were not charged.  It took until last month, after years of public struggle and legal appeals, for the Saylor family to finally win what would have to pass for justice for their son.

America  is a dangerous place for some people.  Identifying  those most vulnerable to state intrusion or violence reveals  much of what is most important about our country.

We cannot for a moment set aside the intense scrutiny required of us by law enforcement’s constant threat to African American lives.  In 2017, for example,  although only 13 percent of the population is Black,  23 percent of police shooting fatalities were Black.  But that specific danger lies near the far end of a continuum on which every degree of difference from a narrow norm represents a risk A lot more of us are on that continuum than we realize.  In spite of national rhetoric to the contrary,  the United States is really a strikingly conformist society,  something we often don’t notice until a kind of confrontation suddenly pops up – that is, when the language of a public ideal collides with widespread social stigma instead of covering that stigma up.



Down Syndrome is such a good example of how that happens, even after the long, hard, and apparently successful struggle by families to transform public perception. It’s hard to believe the clumsy, rough, mean-spirited, and ignorant treatment Ethan received.  He called out for his mother, yelling that he was hurt, shortly before he drew his last breath. And this happened long after Down Syndrome meant a lifetime in institutions, beginning in early childhood. In fact,  America has long been introduced to both the potential and the particular charm of Down Syndrome people, many of whom have big personalities. Until you remember that they used to be routine targets – of ridicule, bullying, physical abuse, hostility, and social isolation. And it looks like, under society’s veneer,  they still are – that’s the mentality exhibited by the deputies who killed Ethan. They admitted that they had immediately recognized him as disabled, but for them that clearly didn’t mean he had specific civil rights protected by federal law.  For them, his disability had a meaning much older than that:  Ethan was upset and uncooperative,  not compliant and inferior. Thus, the deputies ignored the informative pleas of Ethan’s caregiver and moved with quick hostility put him in his place.



Witness accounts: Theater goers who were present during the incident reported hearing Ethan cry for his mother and struggle with the officers


 If we look at what I  believe must be a constant struggle for humanity on the part of just this one segment of disabled Americans,  we have reason for deep sadness on behalf of so many, many more of our people. Inside their hearts, it’s almost like no one really believes they fit in! Maybe that’s why so many of us are preoccupied with keeping others out. I think our nation’s legacy of slavery was so prolonged that violence crept into every crevice of American culture, where it lives like a poison in our bones.




This is Florida resident  Gilberto Powell, 22,  beaten in the face by police who found the bulge in his shirt suspicious. The bulge was Powell’s colostomy bag.  Gilberto has Down Syndrome





Junie in the House of Gold

Junie was rolled into the House of Gold late last summer on a dry desert afternoon, three weeks before her 98th birthday.  A wind followed her through the huge front door, carrying the smell of walnut trees and hay. Hundreds and hundreds of walnut trees surround Casa de Oro, extending in neat rows as far as the eye can see.  Junie lay back and watched the ceiling lights zoom past  far above her as she was whisked along a network of  hallways smelling of urine and bleach.  The ceiling was the only thing she could see.  It was a view I had come to know well.

I was hunched on my bed  with the curtain pulled closed when Junie was deposited three feet away onto the adjourning  bed.  If I had looked, I would have seen the  tiniest, oldest, and most fragile woman in the world.  I would have been taken aback by  Junie’s unexpectedly purposeful and glowing gaze.

I didn’t  open the curtain right away, though, or even say hello. Medicaid had just kicked me out of the House of Gold’s Rehab Unit without  any  notice  or  stated  cause, thus eliminating my physical therapy. I’d been hustled out of my separate  Rehab Unit  room with a speed   rarely seen in Casa de Oro, and certainly never hinted at by teenage nursing assistants Yolanda and Tutu.  The surgery I’d  been preparing myself for was automatically terminated.

I sat  behind the curtain, absolutely seething, waiting for a medical van to take me home.

I wasn’t used to this part of the House of Gold and I couldn’t wait to leave.  I was there thirty years too early.

Nurses and their assistants came in and out, speaking loudly to Junie, but not listening to her replies. She spoke very softly, which made it easy for them to ignore her.

I finally pulled the curtain, leaned over, and took her hand. Then I  listened to Junie as hard as I could.

“I know all of the walnut trees,”  she whispered. “And I knew all of the horses.”

Now that I am safe in my own home, I think of Junie.  I won’t ever again set foot in the House of Gold, but I want you to remember what she said.

Junie knew all of the walnut trees and all of the horses.


Note: Please pardon the poor formatting


 Why God Made Spanish. 

 Spanish Comes Just in Time.


Las Cruces, New Mexico at nightfall. The city is larger than it appears from this distance, with a population of about 125, 000.


Once upon a time, about two and a half months ago, l was stuck in a motel in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where my car had died:  suddenly, without warning, and in the middle of a six lane highway .. wait –

during rush hour. When else?

The cost of the tow truck, a new alternator and the motel bill had left me with exactly $4.26 to my name. Sounds about right. I mean, what’s my point here?

Let’s see..twenty minutes before my car came to a dead stop, I’d been lying in a hospital bed a few blocks away, expecting surgery and rehab for which I’d been waiting three and a half years. I’d prayed only that it wasn’t too late:  that is, I’d certainly been able to walk three and a half years earlier. Had New Mexico’s public health system included actual medical treatment, I’d have been walking long ago.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was told there would be another delay, but I was. By now, though, I’ve learned that filing complaints, calling Santa Fe, appealing to state social workers and otherwise pitching a fit are stupid things to do if you are poor in New Mexico. So two nice medics wheeled me out to the hospital parking lot, sort of shoved me into my car, tossed my walker in the back seat and waved as I pulled into rush hour traffic. Hopefully, there’d be someone around to shove me back out of the car when I got home. A few blocks later, my car suddenly slowed down….

And that’s where you came in.


 Five years ago, I stood alone against Vampires Are Us Media Group, aka GateHouse Media and its neoliberal lawyer and/or journalist pals.

At stake was the life of a Mexican-American father who was being framed for murder after he had acted to defend himself from a white supremacist attack .1

During and after the case, I was attacked by a relentless barrage of  lies, threats, retaliation, libel, and textbook defamation. 2

It turns out that the idea of a reporter’s faith in the truth is actually a huge media joke.

Everything that made up my life was smashed and broken in order to destroy my credibility.

After they broke my heart, they broke my back.


No, I didn’t stay in this motel with the cool sign / Google Images

Meanwhile, Business Begins in the Motel Lobby

In spite of the increasingly surreal quality of my world, I nevertheless maintained a dim sense that life went on. For example, I awoke the next day from motel dreams of swerving traffic and began lurching down the hall toward the free breakfast. A sharp flash of pain immediately reminded me that I’d left my walker on the passenger seat of my old Crown Victoria, which had been towed away.  The pain  remarked, in the overly familiar tone of a permanent guest, that the motel hallway had certainly grown longer overnight.  I ignored it hatefully and leaned heavily into the wallpaper, sliding almost horizontally toward the distant lobby.


The breakfast area was a sea of Anglos:  half of them were attending business meetings, and the rest were families on vacation. I looked around for something to help me through the line and as I grabbed a large luggage rack on wheels, I was pierced with longing: a memory of gliding swiftly through  crowds, able to estimate their size,  take photos, grab phone quotes and spot the outside auditors arrive without missing a beat.

DSCF0425 (1)


Then I moved my back the wrong way and cried out as a flash of electricity instantly knocked  me over – I mean way, way over. I was bent completely in half and I couldn’t move.  Everyone just sat and pretended they weren’t looking at me. I looked at the floor because it was all I could see.

“I’ll get to her as soon as I can,” a motel employee said impatiently (and to someone else!) from behind me. Instantly I was resolved not to ask for help.



However, I knew that I would soon fall to the floor, so I rapidly ran through my options. I was fairly sure that if I cried in front of this large group of strangers, I would hurl myself in front of the first rapidly approaching cement truck I could find.
I heard what sounded almost  like a sort of scuffle, and twisted my neck as far as I could.  A man rapidly approached, elbowing  people aside so that he could place a chair under me and – very slowly – help me to sit down.  With the authority of a single gesture, he signaled a passing businessman  to assist him in lifting the chair into an adjourning lounge and getting me onto a couch, Once lying on my side,  the pain soon subsided.



Just shoot me! Oh, never mind, I’ll jump in front of this cement truck.


The man’s name was Ruben, and he was evidently pissed off at the entire breakfast crowd.

(Hey, me too hermano! Over here! I am pissed off too – at everyone. !Mira – aqui!)

?”Usted hablan Espanol?” I asked Ruben. English was not working out for us.

“Si, si!”  he replied enthusiastically and I arranged my brain in preparation.  At least ten or twelve minutes later, however I realized that my brain had bypassed the prep zone and gone, unsupervised, straight to Spanish.


This blew my mind. I’d been speaking Spanish freely and effectively without thinking about it!

Let me tell you, it was like a visit from magic! I shall never forget it. My brain had inexplicably changed in significant, even profound ways, and my world had suddenly become much bigger. Infinitely bigger than if I had suddenly been able to get up and run.




Ruben and I didn’t have a complicated conversation, but it was, by every measure the best kind of conversation because it connected us. He was a Mexican national who had recently taken his time exploring North America’s west coast from Vancouver to San Diego. He said he had seen Mexicans everywhere he went. I told Ruben that I have been studying Pancho Villa and E. Zapata. Some of Villa’s generals were actually Americans – these were by far the most moronic scoundrels in the conflict. ( No, I didn’t say “by far the most moronic scoundrels” in Spanish.)

Villa himself, of course, had the heart of a lion.







When I mentioned the EZLN and “Commandante Marcos”, Ruben gave me a huge smile and a small victory sign. I told him that for 15 years my life’s biggest dream has been to join the Zapatista struggle in some way. Ruben said they are a role model for every resistence struggle in the world. He thought the right-wing coup in Brazil should be a global priority right now, because it represents a huge threat to all of Latin America. Looming right behind that is, of course,  the relentless aggression of the United States.


Zapatista Youth and Women in La Realidad


Hugo Chavez


We ended by vowing that Hugo Chavez will live forever and  the Bolivarian Movement will triumph. The very last thing I told Ruben was that although I was born in New York City, Mexico is the country of my heart. Ruben didn’t roll his eyes. (Thank-you, lord ) Instead he called me a sister of Mexico before disappearing around the corner.


Southern New Mexico Desert / CLAIRE O’BRIEN 2014



That afternoon, I drove north through the bright desert. To the west, eight or ten coyote loped  along at easy pace, out well before sunset and close to the flatland farms they know to be dangerous. They were looking for water.

What I knew had been lost to me:  I didn’t believe it anymore. But Spanish had returned it to me that morning  (or at least pointed the way) because Spanish holds memory forever. It infuses the past into the present until collective memory crackles in the air. As itself a living thing, Spanish recognizes you.

You have to know the way / Claire O'Brien 2012

Claire O’Brien 2012


I was more than halfway home. Although the day remained shining yellow and blue, the earliest signs of  evening had  begun to appear in the western sky – so subtle as to be nearly invisible. By now, Ruben was zipping through West Texas,  heading southeast to San Antonio, where he planned to cross the border at Laredo Nuevo

If only one comrade can hear you, all  can hear you.

Some families are lost to their daughters forever, and some are not. Somewhere, the people are waiting intently for snow.

The last and smallest of the yellow flowers are blooming now in the New Mexico desert,

Still, even in loneliness, no heart beats alone.



Sleeping Indian, Caballo Mountains, Sierra County


!JaJaJaJaJa! (Ha, ha, ha!)   That is the sound of my remembered laughter. No matter what anyone says, it is also the sound of Sandinistas laughing from far away.





Was it magic? Well, my Spanish adventure hasn’t happened again – not like that, not that way.  For the most part, except for the common exchanges of daily life, and a political vocabulary known to all, my road to Spanish  remains a careful and deliberate, albeit always generous one.

But hey! Don’t you know that God sends Spanish just in time?





These are meant for readers interested in further clarification, and supplement the numbered statements above.  

111. Media and popular support for my refusal to identify a confidential source evaporated in the face of my conviction for contempt of court. Without my knowledge, First Amendment stars such as Harvey Silverglate and Lucy Dalglish joined corporate media lawyers in a behind-the-scenes effort to force my testimony. This is in and of itself a basis for disbarring all attorney on both sides.

2 Worse, the coverup was itself a series of flagrant federal civil rights law violations that propelled  already alarming evidence of entrenched press/corporate corruption into a much more chilling sphere.  It revealed that non-profit public policy giants such as the ACLU have a real disregard for both the First Amendment and sections of federal civil rights law. It’s a disregard as genuine as that displayed by the most recalcitrant corporate offenders.




By Nika Knight, staff writer, Common Dreams


Americans “overwhelmingly support” shuttering all of the country’s juvenile prisons and replacing them with community-based rehabilitation and prevention programs, according to a poll announced Thursday by Youth First, a new campaign to close youth prisons nationwide.

“We believe that youth prison model should be abandoned and replaced with more humane and less costly alternatives to incarceration,” Liz Ryan, president of Youth First, said during a Thursday press conference.


Among other proposals to reform the system, 83 percent of poll respondents agreed with Youth First’s argument that states should invest in alternatives to incarceration. A whopping 89 percent agreed with the group’s proposal to design new forms of treatment that include family members. The support held across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 81 percent of independents agreed with all of the group’s suggestions for reform.

Youth First argues that the current system “isn’t safe, isn’t fair, and doesn’t work” and advocates for a new model of treatment for youth convicted of crimes, including involving family in a treatment plan that emphasizes rehabilitation and prevention. The group also argues for closing incarceration facilities and using the resultant savings to fund new community-based programs.

Support for Youth First’s reform proposals was robust even among those who have been victims of crime and those who have family members who have been victims, the poll found. Crime victims do not support the “tough on crime” rhetoric and punishment-based programs that were touted by U.S. politicians in recent decades, which were responsible for the corresponding dramatic rise in juvenile incarceration rates, the group said.

Da’Quon Beaver, an advocate with youth prison reform groups Just Children and RISE for Youth in Richmond, Virginia, described his own experience as an incarcerated child during Thursday’s press conference. He was tried as an adult at age 14 and sentenced to 48 years—which meant he spent his most formative years in multiple maximum security juvenile prisons, he said.

“My experience at these prisons—they are prisons, it doesn’t matter what softer names they give them,” Beaver said, “anything you can imagine happening at adult prisons are happening at these juvenile prisons.”

Beaver described mentally ill children being placed in isolation units in lieu of treatment, legally-mandated school hours being called off for days at a time because of “lack of security staff,” and kids doing nothing for 12 hours a day but sitting in a tiny windowless room watching “a box TV with about four channels.” This is not to mention the violence, the ever-present threats of sexual assault, and the prevalent use of chemical and physical restraints by correctional officers in youth detention centers also cited by Youth First in its reform initiative.

Youth First also announced the release of an online mapping tool that allows visitors to explore the racial disparities of youth incarceration—children of color are incarcerated at far higher rates than white children charged with the same crime, the data showed. Its mapping tool also brings to light the surprising number of enormous detention centers built for children in the 19th century that are still in use today.

A bipartisan coalition of governors from three states—Connecticut, Illinois, and Virginia—have also recently committed to closing some of the old, outdated facilities in their states, the group said.

Beaver attested that the “things we’re doing aren’t just wrong because we’re doing them to kids, they’re wrong because we’re doing them to humans.”


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


It took ( and takes)  a pernicious and, well, sociopathic  eye to view

In many ways, they are like child soldiers

American law and policy makers would hasten to claim that the New Zealand and US systems are just different approaches to shared social goals. Ha! Ha! The approaches themselves ARE the respective goals . When New Zealand makes the mutual claims of citizenship on children who are lost, the goal is clear to everyone.

Twelve-year-old Americans are sentenced as adults for one reason: in order to insure that they will get life sentences – that is the goal.
I wonder how much of the world realizes the barbarity to which all African-American children- and other American children, but particularly Black – may be legally subjected.

At the drop of a hat.

Yolanda Baltimore and the King of Michigan

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Yolanda Baltimore and the King of Michigan / Claire O’Brien 2015

Five minutes after Yolanda Baltimore’s escape, everyone inside the Detroit Emergency Management Camp knew that she had not only spotted the sign on time, but had also displayed a spectacular, even singular finesse, the like of which may well not be seen again

Hearts soared with hope and pride. That Yolanda.


They could not have asked for a stronger sign. The sky brimmed over with the brightest stars anyone had ever dreamed. Immediately, over 500,000 people began moving outward from the center of Detoit. This movement was so intensely focused, so controlled, so slow and so impossibly quiet that it was almost impossible to see. At least that’s what the government observers who were supposed to be monitoring the Camp’s massive NSA security system kept reporting, until officers threatened to throw the next guard who “just couldn’t see right” down an open mine shaft into Camp Appalachia.


Alicia Evans-Gonzalez prepared to step into the flow of people from her position in a crumbling doorway in Section Nine, where she’d been pretending to nod off on the low-grade heroin that managed to make it past the machine guns, razor wire and drone attacks when bread and milk could not. The United North American Home Security Forces had no idea that actually, only a handful of people in the Detroit City Concentration Camp continued to use heroin. That meant 8,000 troops the UNAHSF didn’t know about.

Evans-Gonzales scratched herself convincingly, then lowered herself with one brief twist into the passing stream.

Ten seconds later, she had disappeared.


“We had no doubt we would win. We knew we would win” Evans-Gonzalez told her grandson, DeRay twenty years later as the two worked together at the 15th George Jackson Memorial Apple Harvest. “We just knew. We’d been preparing ourselves every moment, from that first morning we woke up to find the city surrounded by razor wire, electric fences and gun towers, attack dogs patrolling and helicopters buzzing overhead – right up to the night of Yolanda’s escape.”

Evans-Gonzales bit into a big Yellow Delicious apple.

“Well, of course we’d actually been preparing for generations,” she corrected herself as she chewed.

“But why didn’t you send a grown-up?” asked Deray, who thought of himself as twelve years old. Actually, he had just turned eleven.

“An adult wouldn’t have stood a chance. Believe me, we tried,”  Evans-Gonzalez replied. “Six lives were lost before the People agreed that our only hope lay in the kind of person the guards had always ignored: a little girl.”

DeRay nodded.

“Sometimes we make everyone a king,” he said.

His grandmother smiled.




Yolanda had crossed the Buffer Zone,  a mile and a half of flattened rubble encircled by a high fence. Several times she had laid down flat at the approach of a helicoptor, but the searchlights had swept the sky, not the ground below, and she had felt very glad to be a small girl.

Now Yolanda stood very still, looking through the fence and standing free. Evening had just fallen, and it had begun to rain. She had nearly arrived at her destination, a small garage at the end of a one-way street, and had begun peering about sharply for the message she had retrieved in dozens of dreams over many months.

Yolanda was eight years old. The world was wet, but not dark – the impossible stars were almost too bright to know what to do with themselves. But the fence was very high. Yolanda might have been afraid, but then she wasn’t – how could she be? she asked herself.


We dreamed that Yolanda could fly

For surrounding her as far as anyone could  possibly imagine, in every direction were the People, stretching out to her from the prison that could never hold them, from across the country, across the skies, across the oceans and across the centuries. There were the living, of course, as well as the people still to come. She did not know about other people’s ancestors, but as for her own, Yolanda Baltimore’s ancestors were here, right here – and they left no question about it.

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Please click on the link above. It’s a contribution from Eddie Star at http://eddiestarblog.wordpress.com

Check out Mr.Star’s blog!


This Is Our Selma

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II /Common Dreams

North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement has been tens of thousands into the streets to protest the repressive policies passed by the GOP government. (Photo: twbuckner/cc/flickr)

In 2006 the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to re-authorize the prized 1964 Voting Rights Act and President George W. Bush signed it. After the first Black President won two elections, five U.S. Supreme Court justices over-ruled 98 senators and gutted the law.

Their ruling, called Shelby, two years ago opened the floodgates, giving the green light to state legislators throughout the South. One North Carolina state senator even declaring that Shelby had removed the “headache” of pre-clearance. The right wing that had seized Mr. Lincoln’s party was turned loose to wage war on our sacred right to vote. These extremists filed a 14-page voter suppression bill on April 4, 2013, the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and added 57-pages of anti-democracy laws, with a single purpose: to abridge and shrink the growing electorate of color. Two hours after Gov. McCrory signed it into law, the North Carolina NAACP filed a lawsuit.

Monday, July 13, 2015, is the day of reckoning. Today we go to trial. Tens of thousands are joining us in the streets. This is our Selma.

The NC NAACP together with the Advancement Project, U.S. Department of Justice and other vulnerable voters will enter the Federal Court in Winston-Salem to put into the record evidence that shows these 57-pages are designed to slash democracy in North Carolina, particularly voting rights for people of color.

From cutting same-day registration, early voting by a week, early registration for all high school 16- and 17-year-olds, to requiring new hurdles for obtaining photo IDs which some 300,000 North Carolinian African Americans, Latino and older voters (even those who have voted for years) will have trouble completing. Add to all this, allowing poll watchers from anywhere to intimidate voters of color (we are easy to spot) at the polls.

This is precisely why voter suppression laws are so underhanded and so dangerous to our American democracy. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act protects voters against any law that makes it disproportionately harder for voters of color to participate. This standard is not about whether voter suppression tactics make it impossible to vote. The lawmakers who crafted that 57-page bag of tricks had sense enough to know not to say: “You are black, and therefore we are taking away your right to vote.” Even North Carolina’s legislators know they must stick to code-words and code-policies today.

When they held their hearings on the bill, scores of witnesses presented evidence that showed the new restrictions would make it “disproportionately harder for voters of color” to participate in the electoral process. Every legislator knew the restrictions would abridge our right to vote. They chose to pass it anyway.

Perhaps they knew their days were numbered if a fair voting system remained in place. Perhaps they were aware that same day registration, early voting, and provisional balloting made it easier for everybody — particularly poor and working people with children — to vote. Perhaps they had seen that these alternatives made it possible for working people who could not get off work to vote on Tuesday, voted in the thousands on Saturdays and Sundays. Turnout among North Carolina’s black voters skyrocketed, from 41.9 percent in 2000 to 68.5 percent in 2012, when 70 percent of African Americans used early voting. Although African Americans comprise 22 percent of North Carolina voters, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration. And we cast out-of-precinct ballots at twice the rate of White voters.

Black voters, in particular, need alternative voting measures because, after almost four centuries of exploitation and oppression, many of our sisters and brothers continue to lag behind whites in income, education, access to transportation and residential stability.

North Carolina is the test case for the national anti-democracy forces who desperately seek to constrict the new, multi-cultural, southern electorate. North Carolina may be the state with the worst anti-voter laws on its books today, but these voter suppression tricks have been exported to one southern state after another, with a confederate flag brazenness.

Now, like Selma in 1965, the moral call is central to the gains our courageous elders made toward achieving some justice and equality. Citizens from North Carolina and across the U.S., with attorneys and faith leaders at their side, are in Winston-Salem to wage a pivotal state fight. The outcome in Winston-Salem will impact voting rights across the nation.

It’s a sad and shameful truth that 50 years after the bloodshed in Selma — 50 years after our prized Voting Rights Act — African Americans have fewer, not more, voting protections today. This is a moral struggle. We call on people of faith and moral character to unite. Once again, we must put on our marching shoes. Once again, we must sound the clarion trumpets in the name of liberty, and justice, and the right to vote, for all.


The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, president of the North Carolina NAACP and pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro.



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Both corporate media interests and the ACLU have welcomed this recently released photo of journalist Claire O’Brien at age three, as vindication of their campaign to oust O’Brien from the industry. O’Brien (front row , far L) is pictured with a small cell of communist spies, including her parents, operating out of a rural base in western Massachusetts. (Her father is not shown here)



My siblings and I began belting out our favorite Commie song when we were six  or so. I felt very sophisticated about Harry as I  turned eight, for by then I understood that the song was something of an inside joke – and I was able to sort of  get  the joke on its most elementary level. As well, my brothers and I were  big hams, and the roars of  laughter and applause that greeted our renditions of Harry would have kept us singing all night if we had not  been ordered to bed at what we considered to be an outrageously early hour.


Harry Pollitt was a workman, one of Lenin’s lads

But he was fouly murdered by those counter-revolutionary cads.

So Harry went to heaven, he reached the Gates with ease,

Said, “May I talk with Comrade God?  I’m Harry Pollitt please.”

“Who are you‘?  said Saint Peter, “Are you humble and contrite?”

“I’m a friend of Lady Astors.”   “Well, OK. that’s quite alright. “


and his wife Nadezhda, Kashino, Russia, 14 November 1920. Artist: Anon

Lenin (center), some of his lads, and his wife Nadezhda, Kashino, Russia, 14 November 1920. Artist: Anon


They put Harry in the choir, but the hymns he did not like

So he organized the angels and he led them out on strike

One day when God was walking round heaven to meditate,

Who should he see but Harry chalking slogans on the gate?



May Day, 1922


They brought him up for trial before the Holy Ghost

For spreading disaffection amongst the heavenly host.

The verdict it was guilty, Harry said “Oh, well’

He tucked his nightie round his knees and he drifted down to Hell




Seven long years have passed, Harry’s doing swell:

They just made him First People’s Commissar of Soviet Hell.


Bread and Roses


Well the moral of this story is an easy one to tell:

If you want to be a Bolshevik, you’ll have to go to Hell

You’ll have to go to Hell, you’ll have to go to Hell!

If you want to be a Bolshevik,  you’ll have to go to Hell.


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Woolen Mill, Ware, Massachusetts /Google Images


My father painted the entire chimney of this woolen mill – all by himself



This world that’s owned by parasites is ours and ours  alone

It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.

In our hands we hold a power greater than their  hoarded gold.

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.

_From Solidarity Forever_

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Stephen Page

Author: The Salty River Bleeds, The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Alum: Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College. Follow on twitter @SmpageSteve on Instagram @smpagemoria on Facebook @steven.page.1481


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