On the alternate Earth where some pundits live, the worst thing to ever befall Americans during the Great Depression was the New Deal. To them, federal recovery programs were wasteful extravagances that straight-jacketed men of wealth from creating jobs while inventing a nation of loafers. Some revisionist historians have even suggested that the Depression wasn’t as bad as people say it was – at least not Grapes of Wrath bad. These Depression deniers and the fairy tales they spread on talk radio and in blogs help explain why today’s political wilderness rings with the sound of falling axes as Congress merrily chops down the social programs that protect the poor, unemployed and injured.
Men and women grow old and die, but there are documents, both large and small, that loudly declare these new interpretations of the Depression to be the myths they are. One of the small but forceful records is White Collar,
Last May, at a public meeting the National Park Service held in Oxnard to gather stories about the farmworkers movement, a man in his 50s came up to Martha Crusius. He told her about a rally he’d attended with his parents, migrant workers from Mexico, back in the 1960s.
“He was a little kid back then, and he really didn’t understand it,” Crusius says. “But he remembered that there was this small, soft-spoken Mexican guy leading the rally, and he was someone people really looked up to.” While listening to others testify at the meeting, he realized what he’d witnessed. “That man,” he told Crusius, “was Cesar Chavez.”
Crusius is director of the National Park Service’s Cesar Chavez Special Resource Study, an effort to curate and preserve the legacy of the iconic civil rights leader and United Farm Workers co-founder for future generations. It’s an effort that fits neatly,
“[T]he ruling elite […] have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.” So claimed psychologist Bruce E. Levine in his article “8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back,” which appeared on AlterNet last July.
The author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite cited a 2010 Gallup poll that asked American workers, “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Seventy-six percent of 18 to 34-year-olds responded “No.” These young workers are currently paying Social Security taxes yet expect no return on their money.
For Levine, their evident acquiescence to this shafting is a strong indication that the “ruling elites” have succeeded in breaking the spirit of young Americans.
Burdened with student loans, overmedicated with anti-depressants and battered into consumerist passivity —
[printme]Richard Montoya got a surprise not too long ago. The playwright-performer of L.A.’s satirical comedy troupe, Culture Clash, discovered that a book of plays his company had performed over the years had been swept up in a contemporary American controversy. Namely, the shutting down of the Mexican-American Studies Program at Tucson Magnet High School. The book was part of the program’s curriculum until Arizona’s Attorney General, Tom Horne, found the program to be insufficiently patriotic under a new state law.
Horne will be appearing before the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in a matter of months. Meanwhile, Montoya’s new play, American Night – a picaresque view of American history through the eyes of a Mexican immigrant – has received good reviews at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where it is being performed through September. The Tucson brouhaha re-ignites a debate about the purpose of American political theater with a social justice message.