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What was it like to live through the Great Depression?
My mother grew up during the Great Depression in Readville, MA. Readville was a freight yard hub and a place where there were massive railroad repair shops. My grandmother moved there in 1917 because the Boston and Maine had planted wild roses along all the berms to hold the soil in place and when she saw the flowers in bloom, she decided this is where she would bring up her family. Her house was built by a man named Kissel and was the first house in the nieghborhood with indoor plumbing in 1917. She has a husband who was a hard core drunk and deadbeat and six children plus one dog.My mother was born in 1926 and so by 1938 she was 12 years old. Based on what she told me before she died, and her two sisters, I wrote this answer about the Great Depression and what it was like.During the Depression on the outskirts of Boston, even within the city limits, you could wake up as a child in the predawn, look out your bedroom window and see dozens of gray-clad men shuffling to their factory jobs at the railroad car shops as they walked down the street in droves carrying their lunch pails, Chesterfield cigarettes glowing, talking to each other in low voices. You would watch them filing past from the window of your tract house, some of them on the sidewalk, some even in the roughly paved street because there were few vehicles and those that did pass were beat up and ancient. Your house, like your neighbors, desperately needed to be painted but neither you nor they could afford the paint. As a result, the entire row of houses looked decrepit and run down with peeling paint flaking off onto the ground.At 7 AM you heard the factory whistle blow at the car shops where the sounds of cranes mixed with the sound of drop forges and steam whistles and rivet guns and the sight of black smoke pouring from the tall stacks. From the back of the house you could hear the steam locomotive barreling down the tracks in the distance and you knew exactly what train it was by the distinctive whistle, and even gave names to the Engineer because each one had his own signature way of blowing that whistle.Later, you and your brothers and sisters would walk the tracks with a bucket picking up large pieces of unburned coal that fell from the tenders or from the shovels of the sweating firemen as they built up steam to race to the freight yards of Providence. You would meet many of your friends doing the same thing as everyone needed coal for their stoves and boilers and many people were out of work and could not afford to buy it.You would dash off a letter to the girl you liked from school and put a 1 cent stamp with a picture of George Washington on it. The 2 cent stamp for heavier mail had Jefferson on it but you couldn't afford to blow 2 cents on a stamp. You put your letter in the mailbox. The mailman would come by and deliver the morning mail before 10 AM. Later on that day he would come again and give you a reply to your morning letter. In some neighborhoods he would come back a third time in the evening.Summer time and the living was easy. When you woke up on Monday, the milk man was downstairs in the kitchen bantering with your mother as he dropped off the cream-top. If you were fast, you could go down and pet his horse as it waited patiently for him to climb back up in the buckboard. The horse was tethered to the cast iron fire hydrant in front of your house. The connectors of the hydrant were painted yellow to alert the fire department that this hydrant used a non-standard connector. Many a house burned down in those days because the fire engine came with the wrong size hose until the city finally standardized on one size of hydrant. In downtown Boston all the old horse drawn fire engines had been retired and replaced by Macks but here in the outskirts of Boston there were still teams of horses and steam pumps scattered around and housed in civilian barns, rented by the city as a hedge against another Great Boston Fire. The last one would finally be retired in 1938.On hot days the milk man might give you a handful of the ice chips that he used to keep the milk and butter cool on his early morning trek from the massive Canton dairy farms to the neighborhoods of Boston. Behind him came Billy the Egg Man's horse-drawn wagon making the same rounds. Sometimes a woman in a housedress and curlers would run from a house, screen door slamming, asking to purchase a single egg, or if she had another penny, two eggs for her husband's breakfast. The horses would clip clop along at no hurry, leaving piles of manure along the street which you and the neighbor kids would scurry to collect in a little wagon for the gardens out back that provided your vegetables.As the day went on you would sneak into the car shop rail yard across the street from your house. The massive gray building was covered with soot, the ancient rail yard overgrown with weeds as well as dandelions, sassafras trees and wild rasberries and blueberries, all of which you stopped to pick and eat... a free meal could never be passed up. The yard was first built during the Civil War and later housed the side tipping railroad hoppers George Munson used to fill in Back Bay. Now it was at the height of its existence. It was here that the railroads brought their damaged and worn out Pullman cars, flat cars and hoppers to be restored or to rot. It was here that ancient, wooden-sided freight cars and cabooses came to be retired and either resold or dismantled. Some of the decaying cars had dates on them from before the Great War, their heavy lead-based paint flaking off, covered in rust and smelling of old grease. Some of the rotting Pullman cars with their foggy glass windows and torn green shades were also made of wood, meaning they dated back to before 1912. They had open vestibules and cast iron filigree and displayed an old world elegance despite the weeds that grew up all around them and the hornet’s nests in their eaves. Despite the locks on the car doors and the rail yard guard, the abandoned Pullmans were the temporary homes of hobos and displaced workers who slept in the sleeper bunks behind moldy curtains and passed bottles of cheap booze back and forth. There were also massive red painted flangers, used to plow snow from the tracks, stored here until the winter when they were needed, and worn out steam locomotives with no bells and coated in red rust, the black paint long gone. You would collect long rusty nails from the ground and bring them home to sell on the sidewalk for a penny a pound to the many carpenters and tradesmen who plied the streets seeking work. (I saw all this up until the 1960s when the shops were finally closed)When you walked home from the noisy, busy and somewhat dangerous railyard you would stop to watch a crew of workmen building a granite wall along the side of the road. The WPA in Boston hired thousands of unemployed men who worked diligently every day to build walls and public buildings, all for about 7 dollars a week. The best thing about watching the workmen was the presence of a gigantic Keck steam traction engine, as big as a bus, with two huge water filled rollers taller than an adult man that would crush down gravel and flatten the weak asphalt that was all the city of Boston could afford this far from downtown. The operators were filthy sweating men who shoveled coal into the firebox as flames leapt into the cab, columns of black smoke billowed from the stack while white steam and spraying water seemed to blast from every joint.Around lunchtime you could see and smell the honey wagon, a galvanized tin truck with bug eyed headlights and a motorized trough in the back. The garbage man would pay your mother a penny for your garbage that you kept in a bucket that sat in a hole in your back yard, surrounded by millions of buzzing flies and filled with maggots and foul-smelling eggshells, rotting vegetable rinds and other cast offs. You and your friends would follow the honey wagon despite the smell, just to see the operator pull the lever that caused the metal trough to move up the curved back and dump the garbage into the interior, disturbing the millions of buzzing flies from within. Later he would sell the garbage to a local pig farm where it would be used to slop the pigs. Following the garbage man was the Junk Man. He would come in a giant land barge with massive wagon wheels and pulled by two enormous horses. His wagon was filled with junk metal of all kinds -- car bodies and old stoves, stove pipe, bricks or lumber or anything people wanted to get rid off. He would sell the junk to the massive junk yards in South Boston where tall cranes with massive electro magnets would sort it into piles to be taken by train to the Pittsburgh steel mills or even to some small brass and iron smelters in Charlestown and Chelsea. The Junk Man was a massive man in filthy, blackened overalls and bowler hat. He had an unlit stogie in his mouth and he and his helper lifted everything into the wagon by hand using brute strength. There was a constant stream of unemployed men walking in either direction on the road with bulging, broken suitcases tied together with twine. They would stop at any house where there might be a few hours of day labor for a couple of pennies and a meal.If it was Tuesday, the ice man would come by. The Ice House was an easy walking distance, which could mean a mile, since everything was walking distance as no one had a car. The Ice House was a great place to visit in summer. It was always cool inside despite the heat and ice was stacked to the rafters. Huge puddles of water choked with sawdust covered the floor and water was always draining back into the lake next door. In the winter, men bundled up in heavy pea coats would cut ice from the lake with long saws and drag it with horses to a conveyor belt and inside a massive wooden building with no windows. It was freezing, dangerous work and men could easily fall into the freezing lake and die of exposure or drown. Inside the ice was covered with sawdust and stacked in piles. It would last until next winter when it could be resupplied. Throughout the year wagons came from the lumber yards and millworks to add to the sawdust piles or with men who would chip, cut and shape the ice, load it onto trucks and horse drawn wagons and deliver it to homes all across the city. Despite the fact that refrigerators began emerging 20 years earlier, most people still could not afford them or the electricity needed to power them and used an ice box. You had bragging rights if your ice box had a hose that eliminated the melted water for you. If not, you had to empty the drip pan regularly to prevent the musty water from stinking or spilling all over your floor. The ice man would come into your house wearing a leather apron and with the proper size block over his shoulder, carrying it with massive tongs. Your mother would decide how much she could afford in order to keep the milk, cream and butter cool so she and your dad could enjoy their coffee and you could have cornflakes. She put a s diamond-shaped sign in the window every other day telling the ice man how big a chunk you wanted. While he delivered the ice, you and your friends would cool off under the constant stream of ice cold water pouring from every crack in the wagon.At home your mother would be outside doing laundry on Wednesday. That was laundry day throughout the neighborhood and she would be kneeling over a massive galvanized tin bucket scrubbing your clothes against a washboard, probably while singing hymns from church. Often, your sister would be stirring the clothing in another bucket filled with hot soapy water, or rinsing them in yet another bucket and putting them through the ringer to squeeze out the excess water. You would often be called to bring more hot water from the kettle on the stove. If you looked down the backyards of the tract houses you could see laundry hanging from every line in every yard. The housewives could gossip, chatter and practice for church choir while they hung their clothes, calling to each other and spreading the news of the day.The kitchen stove itself was a massive, cast iron monstrosity with a copper cylinder behind it. Even on the most miserably hot summer days you would have to shovel coal into this stove because it was the only way you got hot water or hot food. It was cozy in the winter but during the summer it made it almost impossible to come indoors. Most of your summer "play time" consisted of taking your wagon around town searching for bits of wood you would collect and split and stack in the dirt-floor cellar to use as kindling to start the fire in the morning. You could make a fire only after you removed the cold ash bucket and coal clinkers, which you would have to sift so you could re-burn any left-over coal. The ashes you would pour into the garden where your mother would work them into the soil with a shovel and a pitchfork.Twice a year the dump truck from Brookline Ice and Coal would make the trip to your house, if you could afford it. He would attach a hinged chute to a gate on the back of the truck and then dump the coal through a cellar window into the coal cellar. You would be down there inside the coal bin with a heavy shovel, shifting the coal as fast as possible to make best use of the space. Clouds of coal dust would billow up as the coal raced down the chute. You would wear a handkerchief over your nose but you would still suck in lots of black coal dust to be hacked up later. When the coal truck left you would have to make sure the removable boards at the coal door were not blocked so you could shovel out coal into the coal hods to be dragged upstairs to the stove. In the winter you would put in a couple of shovels before bedtime, bank the fire by turning off the oxygen, and wait for the heat to waft up the stairs or through the open grates into your bedroom. The fire would burn down during the night and you would often wake up and see frost on your bedspread from your breathing. Then you would have to go downstairs and start the fire, stoking it with wood and coal so that when everyone woke up the house was warm.Of course, on laundry day, all the neighborhood women would rush from their homes when they heard the Express Train coming. This is why Wednesday was laundry day -- there were fewer freight trains on Wednesday which allowed you to hang clothes on the line to dry without the soot floating down from the locomotives and speckling your whites and sheets. When the train whistle blew you would have to rush out and cover your clothes if they were still wet, or take them in as quickly as possible before the rain of soot ash.Every time a train passed, it would rain soot and ash for a while. Every neighborhood had piles of tiny grains of coal soot. When the wind blew, it flew everywhere. It collected in corners and had to be swept every day. It was bad for the garden and piles of collected soot were to be found in the corner of every yard. Since most side roads and back road were still unpaved, much of this coal dust was used to fill the many potholes in the gravel roads. Everyone worked at this, even though the streets were supposed to be maintained by the city. No one waited for the Public Works department and it was often that you and your dad and neighbors could be seen grading potholes on a Saturday afternoon. After bringing your clothes back to the kitchen from the clothesline your mother would iron them with a heavy hand iron heated on the stove. In the kitchen there was a clothes dryer for damp items and dish towels. This consisted of long oaken slats that were pulled from a circular quiver and stuck straight out.Many houses still had hand pumps for the soapstone sink, but this was getting rare by the Depression. Actual plumbing was fast replacing pumps and soapstone sinks, and most houses had a real claw foot tub and a water closet, a toilet with a tank near the ceiling and long pull chain. Toilet paper didn't come in rolls but in packets like we have Kleenex today, where when you pulled one piece, another would follow. On the other hand, it was not unusual to see outhouses in the back yards of many neighbors. Some were abandoned and used to store magazines or other things, but some were still used and on the weekends your dad would help a neighbor dig a new pit and manually push the outhouse over it. The contents of the old cess pit was called "night soil" and after a year was dug up and spread over the garden and worked into the soil as fertilizer. In addition, many houses still had rough wooden horse troughs and hand pumps. You would irrigate the garden from these troughs after filling them with the hand pump, and using a heavy galvanized bucket to haul countless buckets of water. You didn’t mind – if the garden died for lack of water, you didn’t eat.On Thursday the Rag Man would come. He would call out from his horse-drawn wagon for rags and newspapers. Anyone with old rags to sell or bundles of newspapers to sell could give them to him for a penny or two. He also sold sewing needles and other sewing supplies. Rags were important items for industry and there were factories in Boston where women would strip the seams from the fabric and fashion the rags into wipers for factory use all over the city. This was still being done up until the 1980s in some cities in Massachusetts.If your mother had the money, she would tell you to get your wagon and go to the local store to get bread. Sometimes, there would be enough money for meat for Sunday lunch after church. The butcher shop was next door to the market, the butcher always wore a white, blood stained apron and a white hat. He had a giant scale with a magnifying window that seemed like advanced technology. He used a massive butcher knife and sometimes he would give you a bone for your dog. No matter what he was doing he had a cigarette in his mouth and you would sometimes have to wash the cigarette ash off the meat when you un-wrapped it. This was not seen as a problem or even unusual. The bigger complaint was that his scale was "off" or that he put his thumb on it.At the market you could get a loaf of bread for five cents, or if there was stale bread, they would sell it for two cents. If there was still stale bread or day old bread, this is what most people bought. Fresh bread was a luxury. The clerk at the counter was usually the owner of the store. If he knew and trusted you, you could buy on credit. If your dad lost his job, the credit disappeared and he wanted cash. Everyone knew who was a deadbeat. People both looked down on deadbeats and sympathized with them. Times were hard and people had kids who had to eat. The market was also one of the few places with a telephone. You certainly didn't have one at home.Later in the afternoon, if it was late summer, you and your brothers and sisters would go down to the tracks to pick the wild concord grapes, apples and crabapples that seeded themselves from decades of fruit falling from the passing trains. When you brought it home, your mother would boil and can the fruits for the winter. She used the same Ball canning jars we use today, making sure to wash the rubber rings in boiling water before sealing the boiling liquid. If the liquid wasn't boiling when it was poured into the jar, the fruits would not be vacuum packed when she sealed them and the fruit would go bad in a matter of days. If it was boiling and vacuum packed it would last well into the winter when fresh fruit was too expensive to purchase at the market.When dinner was served you ate everything that was put in front of you no matter what it was. You didn't have the luxury of not liking a particular food because you often went to bed hungry, especially towards the end of the month when the mortgage was due. The average mortgage was $43 a month. The average salary was $27 a week. You would secretly sneak some of the food on your plate onto your younger sibling's plate, not because you didn't like it but because you knew they needed it. Your sisters would clean the kitchen while you read a magazine that came in the evening mail. The subscription would have been a gift from a well-off relative because you could never afford one. Maybe it was a white Saturday Evening Post with Norman Rockwell cover, or maybe it was a Time magazine with Adolf Hitler as its Man of the Year. Or if you were really lucky it was National Geographic with a pull out map poster showing things like the Sandwhich Islands, which we now call Hawaii, or showing India as a British colony. Vietnam was called French Indochina, Sri Lanka was called Ceylon, Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia and Israel was called Palestine. In the evenings you would sit around the radio for a serial program like the Lone Ranger or perhaps listen to a night ball game. The radios were made out of walnut and took up to 5 minutes to heat up and work after you turned them on. You could actually see the light from the tubes glowing from the inside. If a tube blew and your dad was handy, he could remove it and take it into town to find a replacement. Tubes did not last very long and this happened alot. There were many stores on Boston that sold nothing but tubes and radio partsDad would have a massive Boston Evening Globe or Herald Traveler or Record American. Papers were about twice the size they are today but not as thick and the Globe published up to 5 different editions per day. The Globe was the low-class rag, started by Jordan Marsh as a vehicle to publish ads for their department store, but the Irish loved its melodramatic, pro-workingman style. The Record American was the patrician paper for snooty intellectuals and the Herald was the workaday paper. In all the papers the writing was miserable and incredibly biased, the hand-set type was tiny and hard to read and the photos were as graphic as possible. Newspapers held an important role in everyday life, as a news tool, educational device and source of entertainment and the paper was used for everything from wrapping fish to wrapping toys. Midwives used the inside sections to wrap newborns because newspaper was considered sterile. It was used as insulation in the walls or even inside the clothes of drunks. It was used to make toys like hats and kites and it was saved as a fire starter for boilers and stoves.While your dad read the paper and listened to the radio, your mom would knit socks. One thing everyone needed was socks and mothers were constantly making new ones. A pair of shoes didn't last long in those days because everyone walked and chances are your shoes had holes in the bottom. At first you could use newspaper as insoles but eventually your dad might pull up some linoleum from a hidden spot in the kitchen floor and cut it to form a new sole. In any case, socks took a beating and had to be darned or replaced frequently. You were often aware that she was knitting the only birthday or Christmas gift you would get that year -- and you were happy to get it. When your dad was done with the paper, he would hand you the comics. If you read the Globe you had Mutt and Jeff and Andy Capp. In the Herald Traveler you had Blondie and the Katzenjammer Kids.On Saturday it was bath night. You had to be clean for church on Sunday so the stove would be stoked and the water heated so hot it raised blisters. At night you might share a bed with your brother in the sweltering but tiny bedroom. It was quiet then, no jets or even prop planes to mar the silence. You could hear pounding from the car shops in the distance and occassionally a night express would scream by on the tracks to Providence but there were no cars, no big trucks. Maybe the odd taxi would come down the street but mostly it was silent. You could hear the ticking alarm clock from your parent's room.If you were lucky, a neighbor had a telephone. The one neighbor with the phone was usually a civil servant who had a "good job" where he could afford the risk of owning a phone in the house. Maybe this neighbor was next door. Maybe he was 4 houses down. Most neighbors of this type were kind enough to take calls for you and the caller would have to wait while he dressed and walked to your house to get you to come take the call. Usually the phone owner would stand right next to you and listen. Getting a call was rare and gossip was good. It was not unusual to see the Western Union man in his blue uniform and hat on his bicycle riding around town dropping off telegrams. Even if you could not afford to ride on a train, you could go to the train depot to send a telegram or watch to see who did. The depot was a great place to be for all the activity that took place there. You could walk there on the way to the street car because the street car was the fastest, easiest way to get into downtown Boston unless you didn't have the fare. Then you walked.In those days, skanky bars were everywhere and you had to be careful. Many people were poor and miserable and they blew whatever money they had on booze and rotgut in gin mills where loose women who used to be schoolgirls drank and slept their lives away with grimy, down on their luck men who chain smoked cigarettes and dreamed of better days or got into bloody fights over nothing. At night, even the best street lights were weak and if you ventured outdoors at night it was common to come across a flasher or pervert exposing himself or to a drunk passed out in the gutter while other drunks went through his pockets. When the cops were needed for any reason, everyone scattered. Police were feared and respected and a beating from a cop was a daily occurrence. No one blinked, it was normal. It was expected and most people thought it was deserved. Things people call corruption today were considered normal -- free meals, gifts, petty thievery, drinking on the job and so on -- by the cops. On the positive side, the cops really protected you and hurt the bad guys and kept them moving so the grifters and muggers and perverts and other bad types did not hang around long. The cops knew everyone by name, who was good and who was bad and you kept your nose clean out of fear as well as good upbringing.If you fished or hunted, you always did so with the intention of eating your catch, not just you but your entire family. Nothing was wasted. For 12 box tops from the cornflakes box, Kellogs would send anyone a scoped, bolt action .22 rifle. You were on your own for the ammunition. It was not a toy and if you couldn't shoot you gave up -- you just couldn't waste a nickel on fifty rounds.You pretty much knew who you were going to marry by the sixth grade...you had been going to school with the same people your entire life and you knew everything about them, their character, their moods, their family situation, their prospects. That's why those marriages lasted. Even without dating you already knew everything about each other. By the time the dating started, all you had to figure out was the kissing. Everything else was known.Then the war came and everything changed so fast people couldn't believe it until here we are now, not even recognizing that it was not so long ago that horses were regular sights on the streets of Boston and that everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone else and everything about them.
What do you think of President Trump’s supporters storming the U.S. Capitol during Biden’s Electoral College certification on January 6, 2021?
(Disclaimer: This answer will be long as this topic is complicated and multifaceted.)I’m being honest here.When I first heard of the Capitol Hill riot, I thought it was a joke. Then, I read the headline once more, realized it WASN’T from a satirical source, and I was dumbfounded.What the heck? The first thoughts that passed my mind were basically, “oh my god, this is actually happening? Is it 1812 all over again? Oh frick, I knew they had some strong opinions about those election results, but they literally stormed the Capitol, planted bombs, trashed Nancy Pelosi’s desk, and hung a noose outside for the world to see???”After looking into this issue a little more, here are some of my thoughts on it:Remember when after the 2016 election, many (although not all) Republicans on social media started making fun of Democrats being upset after Trump won?I can just remember those days when there was this major upsurge in “SJW cringe” videos on YouTube. We can’t forget that one meme with the Hillary Clinton supporter screaming in despair after the 2016 election, which went viral among conservative memers.Looking back, those Republicans were definitely wrong when they said that they would be accepting unlike those “special snowflakes” if they didn’t get their candidate.Now look what happened.Even though I no longer support either of the two parties, I just can’t help but point out this sheer irony.What I think of the incident’s handlingIf these were, say, Black Lives Matter protesters, they would have been barred from even getting near federal buildings — even if that hypothetical protest was peaceful. No denying that. We would’ve had a situation similar to what happened at the beginning of the confrontations at Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It really wasn’t baffling to me, considering not only the history of our police institutions in general, but also how well the far-right has infiltrated military and police organizations over the years. And this isn’t simply a mistake, as many people have claimed. Some of the factors that led to the minimal police response were intentional — and this goes beyond Trump’s “we will never concede” speech, and his lukewarm “go home, but we love you” address afterwards.The city authorities and the U.S. Capitol Police, consisting of 2,600 officers, had actually been aware of the then-upcoming rally for weeks.Intelligence agencies barely investigated the planning of this event circulating social media (and many of the posts overtly hinted at unrest) and the Capitol Police Chief even released a statement on the day after the attempted coup that officers did, in fact, have a “robust plan” to deal with expected agitation. The Pentagon even issued orders disarming the Washington DC’s National Guard for several hours before the rally. What ensued was an unprepared response.We’ve had reports of collaborationist police flashing their badges before entering the Capitol and even taking selfies with some of the rioters. We’ve also had evidence of police literally removing some of the barriers to let protesters in.the police opened the fucking gates. pic.twitter.com/HyDURXfoaB— katie (@cevansavenger) January 6, 2021But there’s nuance. Sooner or later, there was some sort of response and condemnation. There’s no denying that, either. For instance, the D.C. National Guard was activated and collaborated with guard personnel from Virginia and Maryland to assist the Capitol police in removing the mob.  There will probably be even more national guard personnel assisting with security during Biden’s inauguration day.We shouldn’t undermine the seriousness of this incident, despite how absurd it lookedWhatever happened at Capitol Hill might have been a clumsy and disorganized coup attempt if you look at it from a short-term point of view. But what should be noticed is how strong of an influence fascist/alt-right/hate groups had in getting the ball rolling.   (Yes, I know not all of the protesters were fascists, but they did have a major influence).Since the Charlottesville protests in 2017, as you already may know, the far-right has experienced a recovering, moving beyond openly fascist organizations and finding its way from apolitical white young adults to the realm of public office holders. Trump even repeatedly praised such groups in the recent past, using phrases like “very fine people” and “stand back and stand by”.The man on the left is wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt. The slogan on the bottom says “work brings freedom” (a.k.a. Arbeit macht frei, the slogan at the entrance of many Nazi concentration camps)And social media bans just won’t cut it. You’ve recently heard that Parler was banned because of the multitude of posts inciting violence days before the attempted coup, right? Well guess what, they’re moving to Telegram in droves.  There was a channel dedicated to the Proud Boys which attracted almost 6,000 new users in about 4 hours. Worse yet, the FBI is actually warning about nationwide attacks on all state capitols by those very groups.This threat is not new at all even though there’s been a resurgence lately, but we need to be on the lookout.Remember the Beer Hall Putsch in Germany in 1923? It obviously didn’t occur under the same circumstances as the Capitol Hill attack, but it does share some similarities — it was also a badly organized, directionless riot on a major federal building by participants whose affiliations weren’t far away from most of those who took part on January 6th, 2021. Hitler, who largely led the insurrection, was given a prison sentence of 5 years (ended up imprisoned for 9 months) and then released. And eventually, when he got into power…well, you know what he did.But we need to be careful in HOW we fight this threat. Recently, Biden announced an anti-domestic terrorism bill that would closely monitor proto-fascist groups. I greatly fear that it will just basically become another Patriot Act and eventually relegate even greater powers to security/law enforcement agencies, making the bill used for surveillance to target everyday working people.This is not an independent event.The phenomenon that led to this coup attempt shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. We can’t just look at these people and say, “they just like Trump ‘cause they’re all a bunch of racist/sexist/uneducated deplorables!”, or “oh, about 50% of Republicans just woke up one day and decided to believe the voter fraud theory”. It’s counterproductive. We should at least try to understand where they’re coming from.Some of the participants were part of the employing class — of course, the primary beneficiaries of the administration’s trickle-down style economic policies which, as especially evidenced during the pandemic, have given unprecedented bailouts for the rich.There was an FBI investigation conducted after the riot upon request, and part of what we’ve found out is that among the attendees were a CEO of a Chicago tech company,  both serving and retired Republican officials,  attorneys and lawyers,  the son of a judge in the Brooklyn Supreme Court, and real estate brokers.Jenny Ryan, aka “dotJenna”, a real estate broker who reportedly flew a private jet with her friends to participate in the Capitol Hill attacksBut we also have the pro-Trump working class. Their unyielding admiration for him is somewhat justifiable as many of them have legitimate economic concerns.During the 1950’s (a.k.a. the period Trump most often refers to when talking about “making America great again”), they would have had greater social mobility and a better chance to live the so-called American dream. Then came the union-busting efforts, deregulation, and tax cuts/bailouts for the 1% in the late 1970′s and 80’s, along with globalization, offshored production to save on labor costs (further exacerbated by NAFTA and is, in part, largely responsible for the immigration crisis today), the transition of the economy from a production-based one to a financialized one. This resulted in a deepening of economic inequality, resulting in stagnant wages, increasing student loan debt, and the erosion of manufacturing jobs, such as coal mining, that provided them a living wage.There has also been no complete economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, and these leftovers of economic mismanagement and systemic glitches will be very difficult to reverse. It doesn’t look like the America they once grew up in. They’re angry, frustrated, and depressed. Healthcare costs are also astronomical, and some have to work maybe two or three jobs simultaneously.Then in steps Trump. He’s a (supposedly) successful businessman, using easy-to-understand vocabulary to appeal to the little guy, stating he will help them and make the country as great as it once was again. He blames the immigrants themselves for the job offshoring problem, and just the Democrats for the degradation of employment in the coal industry. Now we have Trump blaming China for COVID-19, and low-income people for “ruining” the suburbs.He takes advantage of that very economic distress to win the elections and consolidate power. He identifies the problems well, but scapegoats the wrong culprits. So these people are essentially manipulated into blaming anyone, even their fellow workers, for problems that in fact have more complicated origins.This is not the only factor — but it’s also part of the reason why some people are more easily attracted to the far-right or turn to elaborate conspiracy theories. Jake Angeli, the “QAnon Shaman”, a famed conspiracy theorist and far-right activist who practically became the face of the unrest on Capitol HillWhat I think of post-coup unitySo Biden recently had a press conference in Delaware after the Capitol Hill incident, and at some point he talked about his concern to uphold the stability of the Republican Party itself:“We need a Republican Party. We need an opposition that is principled and strong…I think you’re going to see them go through this idea of what constitutes a Republican Party.”Then there was clamoring for working together from across the isle. Here’s House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Jan. 11th calling for unity and a peaceful transition of power:“Impeaching the President with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more. I have reached out to President-elect [Joe] Biden today and plan to speak to him about how we must work together to lower the temperature and unite the country to solve America’s challenges….The coronavirus is still coursing through our communities, businesses and workers are facing unprecedented stress, and children are falling behind. Threats from adversaries such as Russia, China, and Iran are increasing. As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people. United we can deliver the peace, strength, and prosperity our country needs. Divided, we will fail.”From people behind the establishment, I really do understand the calls for peace and unity. It seems that this country has been through such a long period of chaos that it would feel so much more relieving if we just got along.That, unfortunately, is not the reality today. We are more polarized than ever, and in ways that are impossible to compromise on. Like for example, as I said before, this was a largely fascist coup attempt. Many of those participants literally think that Jews, black people, LGBTQ+ and other minorities are subhuman. We literally have elected officials stating that “democracy is mob rule”.  Furthermore, the Republican Party has dragged the political system so far to the right that it’s playing with ideas that should alarm every American, not just Democrats. We cannot concede. As I said before, Trump voters are our fellow human beings — many have real economic concerns that should be addressed. But we cannot defend inhumane ideas under the veneer of socioeconomic distress.I think that after this incident, we should fight for change rather than just normalcy. I think that Biden, for the most part, is not the radical game-changer we were told he was. What he means when he says “build back better”, he means something not as different from before Trump entered the White House.    Biden literally told his donors shortly before he was elected that he wasn’t going to “demonize the rich” and that “nothing would fundamentally change”. And this is in the wake of extreme economic inequality that pushed millions into poverty since the pandemic, and in a period where systemic racism is being exposed left and right.However, this incident does NOT mean that all uprisings are bad.I’ve noticed while reading some other peoples’ opinions about the insurrection that, in their view, “engaging in action against the government is bad”.I say no to that. Resisting the government isn’t inherently bad. It’s what built this country in the first place. I think the reason the Capitol Hill uprising was awful was not necessarily because of its nature, but because the reasons made absolutely no sense. What’s the point of overturning the election results, if you’re just going to keep an incompetent president who barely fulfilled any of his promises in power?You know what a valid uprising looks like? Look at what happened recently in India, with the 200-million strike against Prime Minister Modi’s privatization-based policies that have hurt Indian workers, especially during the pandemic. It has been called by 10 trade unions and over 250 farmers’ organizations, considered by analysts to be “the largest workers’ strike in history”.Here’s their list of demands:Direct cash transfer of Rs 7,500 (US $101) to all families who earn less than the income tax threshold10kg free ration per person every month to all in need.Expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to provide employment from the current 100 days to 200 days work in rural areas with enhanced wages, and extension of this programme to urban areasWithdrawal of all anti worker labour code changes and anti-farmer lawsStop privatization of public sector corporations, including those in the finance sector. Stop the corporatization of government-run manufacturing and services entities in railways, ordinance manufacturing, ports and similar areas.Withdraw the draconian circular of forced premature retirement of government and public sector employees.Provide a pension to all, restore earlier pension scheme and improve EPS 95.Or even just look at some of the other movements here in America, i.e. for universal healthcare, for fair pay/treatment of essential workers (especially during the pandemic), against police brutality, etc.Look at that, and then compare the protests here against “election fraud”.To sum up…I think the Capitol Hill incident was an absurd display of some of the most frightening tendencies of American politics.As the Rage Against the Machine song goes, “some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses”. The police’s kid-glove treatment of the rioters, many of them white supremacists/fascists, proved that.Second of all, Trump is a symptom of a much bigger disease. Many Americans have become economically disadvantaged, and the pandemic has shone yet a brighter light on the fragility of the system. Yet so many of us were offered simple solutions to far more complicated problems by manipulators like Trump.Footnotes When the Far Right Penetrates Law Enforcement The FBI could fight the far-right if they wanted to – but they don't | Mike German “No One Took Us Seriously”: Black Cops Warned About Racist Capitol Police Officers for Years Washington Braces for Chaos as Trump Supporters Descend FBI, Homeland Security Intelligence Unit Didn’t Issue a Risk Assessment for Pro-Trump Protests - WSJ.com Statement of Steven Sund, Chief of Police, Regarding the Events of January 6, 2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trump-protests-washington-guard-military/2021/01/07/c5299b56-510e-11eb-b2e8-3339e73d9da2_story.html Justice Department warns of national security fallout from Capitol Hill insurrection D.C., Virginia, Maryland Guard Personnel Responding to Chaos in Capitol - Air Force Magazine Members of Several Well-Known Hate Groups Identified at Capitol Riot Years of white supremacy threats culminated in Capitol riots How Telegram became a safe haven for pro-terror Nazis On Telegram, the Paramilitary Far Right Looks to Radicalize New Recruits Ahead of Inauguration Day FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week Biden Administration Urged to Take Fresh Look at Domestic Terrorism https://www.ineteconomics.org/uploads/papers/WP_83-Ferguson-et-al.pdf MR Online | Billionaires’ net worth grows to $10.2 trillion during pandemic A Chicago tech CEO was arrested and charged with unlawful entry at the US Capitol riots and placed on a leave of absence from his company Sen. Chase attends D.C. rally, refuses to denounce attack on U.S. Capitol | Chesterfield Observer Nevada Republican Annie Black describes experience at Capitol DLCC Calls For Rep. Maddock To Resign Over Pro-Trump Riot, But Will Any Lawmakers Face Consequences? Three Men Charged in Connection with Events at U.S. Capitol Rick Saccone resigns from Saint Vincent faculty in wake of Capitol trip Americus attorney, McCall Calhoun is facing charges for his actions on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021 - Americus Times-Recorder https://www.washingtonpost.com/ Brooklyn Judge's Son Arrested for Participating in Capitol Riot Pro-Trump Texas real estate agent posed with broken window at US Capitol during riot Labor unions’ decline since the 1980s has given corporate management a free hand to make massive, permanent layoffs. NAFTA’s Impact on U.S. Workers https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/programs/globalization/financialization/chapter1.pdf The Productivity–Pay Gap https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/09_Effects_Income_Tax_Changes_Summary.pdf Table B-1. Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail [In thousands] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14747731.2017.1316542 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDK5-7slPVE Republicans warn Democrats against impeaching Trump again ‘We’re not a democracy,’ says Mike Lee, a Republican senator. That’s a good thing, he adds. The Last Thing We Need Is To “Go Back To Normal” ‘Muscular’ Foreign Policy: Media Codeword for Violence Abroad Biden: 'We're not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time' 'Genocidal Negligence': New Democratic Climate Action Plan Criticized as Woefully Inadequate Biden Tells Elite Donors He Doesn’t Want to ‘Demonize’ the Rich Trump-O-Meter: Tracking Trump's Campaign Promises Over 250 million workers join national strike in India 2020 Indian general strike - Wikipedia
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