Wednesday , April 24 2024
The legacy of the Democrats

Obama, JFK and FDR

A recent article of mine about Obama was the impetus for this piece. For reasons that are probably too lengthy to explain here, the song “Working Class Hero” came to mind as I thought of the various reactions and responses that little article engendered.

I have been listening to the John Lennon track over and over and find myself amazed at just how much it means to me. Forget for a moment that he was one of the most famous people in the world at the time, and an extremely wealthy one at that. Just consider the opening lines:

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be

This is not a music review. If anything, it’s a companion piece to my recent political piece. But the words John Lennon wrote strike at the very heart of how I feel as a person.

Not that anyone cares, but I have a story (to be told as briefly as possible) to tell. My grandfather was born as what we now (or used to) call a “bastard child” in 1902. He hit the “rails,” or the hobo life, at 12. Too young to be considered for action in WWI, and without any skills whatsoever, he was on his own. Try as the family might have over the years, he never really explained to us how he survived until the WPA projects of FDR in the thirties.

He, and my grandmother met while he was working on the roads for the Glacier National Park in Montana. They met, married, had three daughters, and never parted until her passing in 1972. My grandfather’s name was Roy Rieck, and I have never in my 48 years ever met a man I have respected more.

He wound up working in the shipyards in Bremerton, WA. And I will repeat the rich, English-born musician’s lines again because I think they say it better than any I have ever heard:

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be

And just to be complete in this, and not present my grandfather as some sort of saint; In 1984 when Jesse Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic party, Grandpa told me he was “done with the Democrats.” His Missouri upbringing 100 years ago had never erased the inherent racism endemic to the South at that time. I like to think that Obama’s election in 2008 did a lot to erase that legacy. But I will never know, as he died in 1992.

And I might as well finish this off by telling you that my son has taken a job which has forced him to become a member of a union. It is simply a requirement as far as he knows; so I tried to explain the concept of unions to him.

Laugh, or agree with me. But I told him that once upon a time, a company could screw a worker at will, and that particular employee had very little recourse. But if 100 workers walked off the job together, then the company was forced to actually listen to their demands, or shut down. I also told him how this situation became extremely corrupted, with millions of dollars flowing in, with no real oversight. The initial develoment of Las Vegas was such an amazing example.

I always thought that Nixon’s portrayal of the Republicans in1968 as the party of the Silent Majority was inspired. I also thought Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid” to be equally effective. I cannot imagine either party coming up with anything in 2012 that will resonate with voters in any way shape or form. In all honesty, very little has changed. Sadly, the latest exploits of Kim Kardashian seem far more important to everyone. No wonder the entire nation is looked upon by the rest of the world as — well, you tell me. “Geniuses at the forefront of technology, or morons,” both impressions fit.

An earlier comment by El Bicho made the valid point that 10 months is a long time in politics. Yes or no, only time will tell. Outside of the resurrection of JFK as a Republican, we are with Obama until 2016.

About Greg Barbrick

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