In Timothy Egan’s, The Worst Hard Time, a riveting account of the horrors of the dustbowl and The Great Depression, dust storms are rendered as viscerally real, tragic occurrences. I never knew how utterly devastating they actually were. I thought everything just got dirty. Truth be told, this was the least of it. People died from breathing the dust, in particular, children. The infant mortality rate skyrocketed, not to mention the pounding farmland took.
I now better understand The Grapes of Wrath and the courage of the Joads and the countless other “Okies” and “Arkies” and others from the Great Plains who endured these privations.
History is an odd word, in that we think of it as something that happened a long time ago, sometimes not realizing that we are part of its ongoing embroidery–it is happening now. The election maybe made people aware of it a bit more, considering the huge implications of Barack Obama’s presidency. He inherited the worst economy since FDR and a war to boot. Wall street has plummeted, giving pigs like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity the opportunity to scapegoat Obama for this, when we know that this death spiral was set in motion long before the current president even announced his candidacy. The republicans and Wall Street stole this country blind for eight years and now they want to lay it at Obama’s door. If we are, in fact, in another Depression, it is the funding of a wrong-headed and immoral war that put us there, and the collective greed of Wall Street and the real estate industries that put us there. In other words, we let them do it. We had two opportunities to 86 Bush and we blew it. This is not to say that the democrats are any better–there is plenty of dirty dealing on that side of the aisle as well. I hold out hope that Obama is better than the rest of them, even his own party. hope Obama, the idealist, remains and the politician Obama can always find his better self amid the sewage of the two-party system.
My point is that a lot of this country isn’t being lead, and hasn’t. . .maybe ever. To be poor in America is to be in exile. History teaches this over and over. In the 30’s and 40’s law officers in Arizona and California had “shooting parties” in rail-yards. They shot hobos as they jumped off of trains–with impunity. You could get away with killing poor people back then and sadly, you still can. Now we just starve them.
This is the Hobo symbol for” Get off the rails–go to the roads.”