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Fri Sep 21, 2012, 07:55 PM

Working Class Submarines

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function, you're so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be ….

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be …..

There's room at the top, they're telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like all the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be ……
-- John Lennon

Back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, while working with Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman on a burial protection case in a community in upstate New York, my young nephews used to come to watch Paul and I perform at Town Board meetings. These nephews were the sons of both of my sisters -- one from my oldest sister, and three from the younger sister. The three were living in a two-parent, upper middle class home; the other, in a single-parent, economically “poor” home. (My older sister worked hard at several low-paying jobs. Like many, many single parents, she was a “working class hero,” who did the very best she could for her children.)

Traditional society is distinct from modern culture in many important ways. For example, I remember Paul telling me that -- in time -- my nephew from the more difficult living situation would eventually be the person who took over my role. It wasn’t that he was any smarter than the other three, or that they were not just as valuable as individuals. Rather, it is because there are specific roles in society that life’s experience can prepare one for ….even if at the time, one is not aware of the reality that they are being prepared.

In July, I told this nephew that it was time for him to run for a local elected office. It is something that he has discussed, at times, with both his wife and his favorite uncle. He then discussed it with a close friend, who had experience working with John Kerry’s 2004 campaign, at the national level.

Our first task was getting him on the ballot. Although he is registered as an independent, I contacted the head of the Democratic Party in his community. There are two board seats up for this election, and we agreed to have the party endorse the single candidate they had, and my nephew. Then it was simply a matter of getting both of their petitions signed, to get them on the ballot.

In this community, there are twice as many registered Independents as Democrats, and three times as many Republicans. Many years ago (and I surely do mean many), my father told me about how the local republicans ran their machine. For example, at a Democratic Party meeting last week, when one of the people there said, “The republicans are being really quiet this summer,” I told of how my father said to never confuse that with their being inactive: their machine works efficiently under the radar, with “phone trees” that deliver instructions regarding both what to think and how to act.

More, the republicans will, as a rule, not ever vote for any democratic candidate. However, my father said, if there is a democrat who also is running as an independent, some republicans will press that independent lever in the secrecy of the voting booth. Then, should anyone ask them who they voted for, my father explained, they can honestly say, “Well, I damn sure didn’t vote for that democrat!” (Indeed, the totals from the last local election cycle -- in which I assisted two candidates -- showed that my father was correct.)

So, we next got my nephew on the November ballot as an Independent, too. We anticipated that at least three of the four candidates who had announced for the republican primary would also run as independents; however, only one did. Now, besides my nephew, there is the other Democrat, another Independent, and two republicans on the ballot.

The independent is 100% against hydrofracking, which is an extremely important and controversial issue in that town. However, he is quite conservative on every other issue. (Of course, by rational standards, opposition to fracking is “conservative.” He is in a real sense more consistent than the vast majority of modern republicans.) The two republicans are gung-ho; one, a Tea Party mutant, has publicly said that he does not care if fracking poisons people’s water supplies. The other Democrat has expressed some opposition to fracking, although both he and his wife are employed by the two large local industries that have threatened to “relocate” if they do not get access to a large supply of cheap gas.

The local republican party has had serious divisions in the past two years, all of which are the result of the republican “good ‘ole boys” versus the more rabid Tea Party members. This internal struggle has resulted in a number of registered republicans -- primarily women -- being willing to vote for independent candidates.

The potential for divisions between the local Democratic Party and various Independents is real, and has a lot to do with fracking. Even in a medium-sized town, there are Democrats that are relatively conservative, moderate, liberal, and even some progressives. Among the Democratic Left, there are not only some liberal and all progressive Democrats, but also Greens, Socialist-Democrats, and other environmentalists.

The local republican machine, with the prompting and assistance of non-local people connected with the gas industry, have recently attempted to exploit the potential divides. But, to paraphrase Malcolm X, the political jungles contain not only hunters, but those who hunt the hunters. And, simply put, that is where my well-established network of connections to people with information has come in handy. Those republicans are not alone in being able to work quietly, behind the scenes.

Small stuff? Maybe. But building -- and rebuilding -- from the ground up is the only way that we can possibly establish a democratic foundation in our society. And as a young man, I used to lay both rock and brick. Building a solid foundation is hard work. People driving by don’t see you, or appreciate the hard work you are required to do to put together a quality foundation. It’s a job that gets you sweaty and dirty. You get tired. And you get cuts and wounds, on your hands and arms. Sometimes, you find yourself looking at how little you really have to show for a week’s hard work. But, when you get done, you know it was worth it.

H2O Man

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