Grant Wood's most famous
an iconic farmer,
his prim daughter and a pitchfork. His most satiric painting was
white-haired ladies pose with raised teacup before a recreation of
Washington Crossing The Delaware. With
their hatchet mouths and squinty, almost feral, eyes, they seem to
gloat over the mere fact of their birth.
completed the painting in 1932 when the country was deep in
depression, thousands out of work, homeless. Breadlines were
common. Wood makes the point—still relevant today—that the
robber barons surely had nothing to fear from the polite, pampered
ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who are about as far from real revolution as one
often wonder how a country so enamored of its revolutionary origins
could produce so many obedient apostles of the status quo, which
always aligns itself with wealth and power against those who have
example: all those who sided with the insurance industry against
universal health care, including the so-called “Tea Party”
Republicans, who have been known to dress up in the costumes of their
I understand it, the kinds of revolutionaries celebrated by the DAR
and the Tea Party don't usually side with the well-fed and complacent at the top, but arise
from below, when the have-nots begin to suspect the political and
economic cards are stacked against them.
seems to be where we are now: record numbers of people in poverty,
who, in spite of their best efforts, even working full time, still
struggle to get ahead. Among them are many former middle class
people—nice, decent folk who woke up one morning to find they couldn't
send their kids to college. Now many of them
can't even adequately feed their families or keep a roof over their
Detroit, where the price of tap water has soared above the average and
many are jobless, the city has cut the water off for thousands of
people, mostly black, who can't pay their bills—a move condemned by
the United Nations as an international human rights violation.
to believe this is the U.S.A.! In fact, it's what happens when you
have a small cadre of multimillionaires deciding the fate of the rest
of us—which campaign to back, which legislators to buy, whether or
not we'll have health care or keep Social Security, and where the
next war will be. Literally life and death decisions, rarely
motivated by decency or ethics, but strictly driven by profit.
result is a wholesale attack on the Commons—to wipe out pension
funds, destroy unions, slash public education, and turn everything,
even the right to clean water, over to corporations.
rest assured, if it succeeds in Detroit, it can happen anywhere.
stellar example of this mentality is Texas' own Greg Abbott,
candidate for Governor, and enthusiast for privatizing just about
everything, including education. In 2011, Abbott supported cuts to
Texas schools by $5.4-billion, resulting in job losses for 12,000 teachers across the state.
Attorney-General, Abbott ruled to keep confidential the locations of
dangerous chemicals, like ammonium nitrate, the stuff that
blew up the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, obliterating dozens of
homes, a middle school and a fifty-unit apartment complex.
campaign receives funding from the billionaire Koch family, which has
interests in the chemical-fertilizer industry.
the playing field is out of plumb. And it's not apt to change for
the better so long as those in power remain virtually
indistinguishable from the robber barons they serve.
can we expect much support from the likes of the “Daughters
of Revolution” or
the Tea Party, those stalwart celebrants of our first war for
freedom, who, had they actually been there, likely would not have been throwing tea in Boston Harbor, but would have sided with the Tories, just
as they side with those in power today.
there's nothing particularly honorable or noble in polite conformity.
It would be hard to name a single positive change in our world
achieved by that crowd. Conformists did not cross the color line to
occupy lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, nor did
they risk their lives registering blacks to vote in Philadelphia, Mississippi in
'64. Conformists did not end child labor laws or bring women the
right to vote. They had no hand in creating Medicare or Social
Security. And just as they were absent in the marches to end the
Vietnam War, they're now missing in the struggle to end our current wars, including the latest senseless provocations toward Russia.
If somehow we manage to get workers unionized, if we succeed in
raising pay to a living wage, if we start making corporations pay
their fair share, and make college available to all, you can bet it
will be the conformists—the power-brokers and their apostles—who
will stand in the way, as they always do.
most revolutions start from below by people without wealth or power,
so this one will, too. The Occupy Movement was the beginning. Let
the conformists stay home.
First published in Fort Worth Weekly.