Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Troubador: People's History in Song

Dear friends and fellow misfits,

What you're looking at here is the digital version of my new release, Troubador: People's History in Song. The physical version includes a booklet with the notes below plus lyrics for each song along with spiffy graphics, and a remastered CD with the eighteen songs on it. Six of the songs have never appeared on a CD, and the other twelve are from several different recordings I made between 1998-2009. As of October 1st it will be available at my shows and online for purchase via my estore.

For the no-frills digital version you're looking at, you can find the lyrics and high-quality audio for each song by clicking on the song titles below.

These eighteen songs are by no means a survey of world history – that would be a ridiculous thing to attempt in eighteen songs. But they do represent eighteen important stories, eighteen among countless others out there to be found, or not. You can find more songs and stories at www.davidrovics.com along with other things, including my frequently-updated This Month in History and Song section and a "donate" button for anyone who wants to support these efforts.

Hope to see you on the road and in the streets!


Shays' Rebellion (1780's)
Listen to “Berkshire Hills

If you're hiking on the Appalachian Trail in western Massachusetts, at the edge of a corn field you will come upon a small monument to the last battle fought in the rebellion of the farmers of the region known as Shays' Rebellion.

Having spent years fighting against the British in the cause of liberty and democracy, the farmers of western Massachusetts quickly discovered that the same old landlords were still running the show, and were actually charging farmers back rent for the time they were away fighting. They couldn't pay, and the veterans of the revolution were losing their farms to the greedy landlords.

Betrayed and destitute, farmers organized. One of the highest-ranking officers of the Continental Army among them, Daniel Shays, was elected leader of the rebel army, and Shays' rebels commenced a campaign of terror against the landlords and their courts, through which the evictions were taking place.

Although there was widespread sympathy for the rebels, including among the militias the state employed to suppress the rebellion, eventually the government was able to take back control of western Massachusetts. Following the age-old pattern of rule through both concession and repression two very significant developments resulted directly from Shays' Rebellion: on the one hand, the federal government passed the Bill of Rights. On the other, the “Founding Fathers” decided they needed a permanent standing army to defend the privileged classes from the rabble who had just fought and won the great American Revolution for their benefit.

The San Patricios (1846)
Listen to “Saint Patrick Battalion

It is a shocking fact that the population of Ireland has still not come close to reaching the eight million people who called the island home at the time of the British conquest. Still today, the scars of centuries of slavery, torture and deprivation imposed on the people of Ireland by the British conquerors are evident to any astute visitor. Millions of Irish people were killed by the invading armies from across the Irish Sea, and millions more left the island to escape persecution and death. The United States was the destination of choice.

In 1846 the US launched a war of aggression, one of many such wars the would-be rulers of the Americas would initiate over the course of centuries of empire-building, and arguably the most successful among them. By 1849 Mexico had lost most of its territory to their invading neighbor, never to regain it.

The 1840's was a time of upheaval not just in Ireland but across Europe, and the US at that time saw an unprecedented wave of immigration. The new immigrants were put to use right away – they were handed a gun and a uniform and told to prove their loyalty to their newfound home by killing Mexicans.

It is often said that people mainly do things out of self-interest. Yet history demonstrates time and time again that on so many occasions people are willing to suffer terrible hardship and even risk or lose their lives in the defense of people other than themselves. As the US Army killed, raped and burned their way deeper into Mexico thousands of soldiers deserted. The mainly Irish group of soldiers who came to be known as the San Patricios could have done the same, and, as many did, could have lived out their natural lives without being caught. But these 202 deserters took things a significant step further – they joined the Mexican Army.

With their own green flags and uniforms the San Patricios engaged the US Army in five major battles, and most of them died fighting. Most of those who were captured after the last of the five battles were hanged for treason. Those that managed to escape lived out the rest of their lives in Mexico, marrying and having families, and some places in Mexico are said to have a greater number of red-haired residents as a result today. If you visit the beautiful San Jalisco neighborhood of Mexico City you will find a small plaque dedicated to the memory of the San Patricios, on one of the walls of the Catholic Church in which many of these men lived when they made it to the capital city.

Bleeding Kansas (1850's)
Listen to “John Brown

In the decade preceding the American Civil War, things were coming to a head around the critical issue of slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act had been passed in 1850 to appease the plantation aristocracy in the South, and now no escaped slave – or “free” person of African heritage accused of being an escaped slave – was safe, even in the North. The Underground Railroad now had to reorient – assisting slaves to escape the South and come North was now no longer good enough, and Canada became the new destination of choice.

The freshly-stolen state of Kansas was up for statehood and whether it entered the union as a “free” state or a slave state depended on who settled the state and who voted which way or the other (and whether the vote would be counted properly – always a question in our still-dysfunctional democracy). The abolitionist movement was large and full of people who were completely dedicated to the cause. But then as now, progressive forces were divided along different ideological and strategic lines. The principle division in this pre-Civil War era was between those who believed that slavery could only be ended through nonviolent resistance and those who subscribed to the “by any means necessary” philosophy.

John Brown and thousands of others were solidly in the latter camp, and when the tension was building in Kansas they set out from New England and elsewhere in the country to go there to make a stand. After years of conflict between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces in Kansas, victory ultimately went to John Brown and his colleagues. Many of the rifles used by the abolitionists in this conflict were shipped in wooden crates labeled “Bibles.” The rifles got the nickname “Beecher's Bibles” after a popular abolitionist minister of the time.

John Brown continues to be known today mainly for the badly-planned and badly-executed raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia which led to his capture and execution. It's a noteworthy moment in history particularly for what it may have to teach us about the limitations of what might be considered an early version of Che Guevarra's “foci” theory of guerrilla warfare. But John Brown should, in my view, especially be remembered for leading the abolitionist movement to victory in Kansas.

The Eureka Stockade (1854)
Listen to “Song for the Eureka Stockade

In 1851 there was a gold rush in the Australian state of Victoria, two years after the gold rush in California. The city of Melbourne quickly lost many of its working class residents, and many of the upwardly-mobile ones as well. The rumor was that the governor of the state even had to groom his own horse. At the same time, tens of thousands of people of all walks of life descended upon Victoria from around the world. Viewed generally as unwanted riffraff by those in power at the time, this international mob of gold diggers quickly made up an uncomfortably large percentage of the state's small population.

In response to these developments the powers-that-be instituted an outrageously high tax on anyone seeking to dig for gold – meanwhile the wealthy “squatters” were freely being given massive plots of land throughout Australia. The tax on gold diggers was so high that only the most successful diggers could even afford to pay it, or those diggers who came to the gold fields with some savings. Most of the diggers had neither success nor savings. A large local police force was formed for the sole purpose of collecting the tax, and they were paid by commission, so they had an incentive to be brutal, and they were.

These moves by the state, combined with a steadily dwindling supply of gold, set the stage for rebellion. The rebels came from all around the world – there were many veterans of the California gold rush, many Irish emigrants who had no interest in suffering further at the hands of the same British authorities who they had recently left behind, and many from continental Europe who were veterans of the upheavals of 1848. Perhaps most notably, the seeds of rebellion were most well-developed in the Ballarat goldfields, which were some of the hardest fields to work with, and the ones that required the greatest degree of cooperation among the diggers.

The diggers of Ballarat and other nearby goldfields decided en masse to stop paying the license fees, and they built a primitive stockade on a hilltop and waited for the British Army to attack, which it did, in the middle of the night, while many of the defenders of the stockade, particularly the California Riflemen, were elsewhere looking for the Redcoats. The attack against the badly-armed gold diggers was over quickly, with several British soldiers dead and unknown dozens of diggers killed, many executed point-blank after they surrendered.

Undeterred by this massacre, exactly a month after the event 15,000 miners rallied against the license fees, and this time the state's response was to concede. They canceled the hated license fees and also granted the rebel miners the right to vote, land, and much more. Two years later Australia became the first country in the world to pass the eight-hour workday, decades ahead of anywhere else.

The Death of Ginger Goodwin (1918)
Listen to “Song for Ginger Goodwin

Starting wars can often be a very effective way to rally everybody around the flag and make people feel unpatriotic if they support the rights of workers to organize. Time for us all to tighten our belts, they'll say – except for the rich, of course.

When Ginger Goodwin left England as a young man the average Yorkshire miner didn't live past his early thirties, due to deplorable safety conditions, lack of ventilation in the mines, terrible conditions in the quarters in which mining families were forced to live, and so on – all conditions caused by the greed of the mine owners. When he got to Canada he saw more of the same in mining operations both east and west.

Ginger became a leader among the miners in organizing for the rights of the workers, and more broadly, he became an avowed socialist, opposed to capitalism as well as empire, in support of the international working class. When what we now call World War I began, Ginger and much of the rest of the labor movement in North America denounced it as a bosses' war and said workers shouldn't kill workers from other countries.

Although Ginger had at first been passed over for conscription for health reasons – along with about half of the rest of the draft-age male Canadian population – he was called up for the draft later for obviously political reasons, along with many other undesirable elements the powers-that-be wanted to get out of their way. Opposed to the war, and also suffering from chronic respiratory problems, like so many miners, and entirely unfit for military service, Ginger hid out in the mountains, with much community support.

The exact circumstances of his death remain a matter of conjecture, as the only “witness” who survived was the cop who shot him. Today on Vancouver Island there is a road that is sometimes called Ginger Goodwin Way, depending on which party is in power in the province at the time, and in the small town of Cumberland you can find the small headstone marking the grave of this Yorkshire miner.

The Battle of Blair Mountain (1921)
Listen to “Battle of Blair Mountain

It was not until the 1930's that the hundreds of thousands of miners then working underground in West Virginia were successfully organized into a union. But heroic efforts were made in the previous decade that were only defeated by the arrival of thousands of federal troops, and which saw the first use of airplanes by the federal government to drop bombs on its own population.

What became known as the Coal Mine Wars were especially vicious in West Virginia partially due to the mountainous nature of the state and the high cost of transporting coal from the mines there, as opposed to other coal-rich regions that were mostly flat, like Illinois. If the mine operators were to successfully compete with the operators in the midwest this depended on labor costs being lower than the competition's.

Miners had been on strike for a year, living through the freezing West Virginia winter in tents, regularly being shot at by the company's hired thugs. A hundred striking miners were being held indefinitely with no trial in jail in the town of Mingo. When a popular pro-union sheriff, Sid Hatfield, was shot by thugs in broad daylight on the courthouse steps this was the last straw. Against the advice of the union leadership 13,000 miners and many more supporters set out to lay siege to the town of Mingo and liberate their comrades.

They looted provisions, guns and ammunition from the usurious company stores as they went, hijacking trains and private cars to get them where they were going. The venerable and beloved labor leader, Mary “Mother” Jones, arrived on the scene, beseeching the miners to reconsider their actions. Many were convinced to turn back, but then word got around that a number of women and children had been massacred in the town of Sharples by company thugs, and the miners turned back around and resumed their march toward Mingo.

In the face of the approaching army of miners the more “well-to-do” elements of West Virginia society mobilized to defend Mingo. All five hundred of West Virginia's police force were there along with thousands more doctors, lawyers, scabs and whoever else they could find who identified with the mine owners as opposed to the miners.

The two sides took up positions on either side of a mountain valley. For three days and nights they shot at each other from across the valley. The foliage was so thick nobody could see what they were aiming at. Most men on both sides of the valley were veterans of World War I, and all knew far too well the terrible bloodbath that would inevitably result from either side storming the lines of the other. Neither side did that, and thus the total number of fatalities was estimated to be around 16 – with many more injured. With no particular leadership structure, women from the mining camps very effectively organized medical care and food to maintain the front.

During the course of the siege planes were sent in from military bases outside West Virginia. Many of them crashed when attempting to land in this mountainous region. Those that managed to get to Mingo dropped bombs on the lines of the miners, but the only bombs that exploded did so in the absence of any people, so no one was hurt in this attempt to kill the miners using air power. The siege ended when thousands of federal troops arrived who at least made a pretense of acting as a neutral arbiter of the situation, relieving both sides of their positions and essentially telling everyone to go home now.

In the ensuing years laws would be changed and efforts would be made to imprison at least some of those who had taken part in the rebellion, but no jury in the entire state of West Virginia would convict the rebel miners.

The Fifteenth Brigade (1936-1939)
Listen to “The Last Lincoln Veteran

Although the war resulted in a victory for the forces of fascism in Europe, the response of ordinary people and left organizations around the world to the rightwing military coup in Spain in 1936 remains a powerful symbol for the concept of international solidarity. Before and since the Spanish Civil War there have been many examples of people traveling on their own initiative to another country to join the more progressive side of a fight. But the International Brigades in Spain were certainly the instance that involved the broadest spectrum of partisans from around the globe.

Tens of thousands of men and women came to Spain, many organized by their local Communist Party, many coming by other means. The biggest groups of anti-fascist volunteers came from the very nations that were supporting General Franco with large amounts of armor and troops – Italy and Germany. Thousands more came from all over Europe and the Americas.

The only support of any kind coming from governments friendly to the Spanish Republic was from the poor nation of Mexico, and the far-away USSR. France, Britain, the US and most of the rest of the world's governments pled neutrality, effectively meaning the Spanish Republic suffered an international embargo while Franco's forces received constant aid. For its part, aid from Russia was minimal because Moscow was busy trying not to offend France and Britain – hoping as they were to have the aid of these countries in the impending war with Nazi Germany.

Despite the clearly overwhelming forces arrayed against them, despite having access mainly to antique or home-made weaponry, progressive forces in Spain along with a significant contingent of international volunteers fought side by side for three years against most of the Spanish military and tens of thousands of German and Italian troops.

The survivors among the volunteers who came from the US, like their counterparts from many other countries, were dubbed “premature antifascists” upon their return home. Most of them spent the rest of their lives involved in one way or another with the struggle for civil rights, against the war in Vietnam, fighting for the rights of workers to organize, and otherwise involved with efforts to make the world a better place for ordinary people. One of those survivors was my friend and neighbor Bob Steck, who died recently at the age of 95.

The last few lines of the song are borrowed from the Lincoln Brigade anthem, known to most people on the English-speaking left in the years following the Spanish Civil War, called Jarama Valley (which itself is an adaptation of the old song, Red River Valley).

Sugihara's Visas (1939)
Listen to “Sugihara

Hitler's forces were quickly taking over most of Europe, and millions of European Jews were desperately trying to escape. No one wanted them – including Britain and the US, which were both turning away boatloads of Jewish refugees and effectively sentencing them to death.

Poland had been conquered, and thousands of Polish Jews had managed to get as far as Lithuania. The German Army was quickly advancing across eastern Europe and they would soon enter Lithuania. In order to get permission from the Soviet authorities to travel across the USSR and get out of Europe that way – about the only avenue available – the refugees needed a visa showing they were traveling across Siberia in order to transit to another country. Effectively, this meant they needed a visa from the Empire of Japan – Nazi Germany's erstwhile ally in the Pacific.

It has long been popular to stereotype Japanese people as unimaginative and obedient followers of the status quo. A serious reading of Japanese history will provide us with a rich tapestry of rebellion, however -- along with the fanatical emperor-worshippers and corporate drones who we have already heard about far too much.

When Sempo and Yukiko Sugihara looked out from their diplomatic residence in Lithuania at the desperate faces of the Jewish refugees outside their home, begging them for a visa to get out of Europe, the diplomat called Tokyo and received clear orders not to help the Jews. Fully conscious that they had no idea what the consequences might be for their livelihoods or even their lives, Sempo Sugihara and his wife Yukiko decided they must help these people, at whatever cost.

For a month, with barely any interruption for food or sleep, Sempo and Yukiko worked day and night filling out thousands of visas. Each visa was good for a family, so it is estimated that they saved the lives of ten thousand Jews, who now represent a population of forty thousand descendents, including my friend Ben Manski of Madison, Wisconsin.

Hugh Thompson and My Lai (1968)
Listen to “Song for Hugh Thompson

The My Lai Massacre, in which several hundred civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, were systematically slaughtered by US troops, was one of many such massacres committed by US troops occupying many different countries, starting with their own. The My Lai Massacre became infamous around the world, but helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson's courageous act of insubordination that led to the final conclusion of this terrible event is largely absent in the histories of what in Vietnam they call the American War.

In 1998, thirty years after this massacre, the government of Vietnam invited Hugh Thompson to come to Vietnam and meet the men and women who were babies and children when he saved them from meeting the same fate as the rest of their village. The US military caught wind of this and they hurried to recognize this soldier's heroism in a hastily-planned award ceremony, several decades late, but before Vietnam beat them to it.

In any accurate history of the US invasion of Vietnam there are certain basic things that must be recognized. The war was a genocidal war waged by the most powerful military of the world against the mostly peasant population of Vietnam, and the US lost. The US defeat came at an unbelievably high cost to the population of Vietnam, with millions killed and millions more maimed, and a nation in ruins. But the US defeat was not only a consequence of the heroism and sacrifice of the Vietnamese resistance – it was also a direct result of the widespread refusal of its imperial soldiers to fight.

Hugh Thompson died far too soon, like so many other veterans, in 2006 at the age of 63. The late Dave Klein, fellow veteran and friend of Hugh Thompson's, called me up after Hugh's funeral to say that they this song had been part of the proceedings.

The Overthrow of Salvador Allende (1973)
Listen to “Santiago

Salvador Allende was a doctor and a socialist who was elected to the Chilean presidency in 1970 on a platform that included the nationalization of the copper mines in order to use Chile's resources to feed Chile's people. Anaconda Copper and the Nixon administration, among other representatives of the corporate elite, didn't like this, and they set about to destabilize Allende's government and Chile's economy.

On September 11th, 1973, a far right junta within the Chilean military led a coup that involved the bombing of the presidential palace, La Moneda, and the death of Allende. Many thousands more would soon be tortured and killed over the course of a long and vicious dictatorship in Chile. Before and since the coup, the CIA and the (now renamed) School of the Americas have played an active role in training and funding the torturers.

Supporters of radical free market ideology such as Milton Friedman and his followers like to say that under the dictatorship Chile's economy thrived, but nothing could be further from the truth. Things may have looked fine if you didn't leave the downtown core of Santiago, but the rest of the country was suffering, and the economic crisis of the 1980's was only eased when the junta stopped following Friedman's free market recipe.

It is also often claimed by those who support the mainstream historical narrative of the high school textbooks that the United States actively supports democracies and opposes dictatorships around the world. If you repeat something often enough people will start believing it, but no matter how many times it is said in however many ways, it's still not true – the hard truth is that the US has for centuries been actively undermining democracies and supporting dictatorships around the world, while claiming to do exactly the opposite. Allende was only another in a list that began long before 1973, including names like Arbenz and Mossadegh.

Francis Hughes and the Hunger Strike (1981)
Listen to “Up the Provos

In the early twentieth century most of Ireland won its freedom from half a millenia of British rule. Six of Ireland's 32 counties remained within the United Kingdom, however, and within the Occupied Six Counties there has been conflict in one form or another around questions of sovereignty ever since.

The simmering conflict took a decidedly violent turn in the decades following Bloody Sunday, when British troops in Derry hunted down and shot 13 supporters of the Irish civil rights movement. British efforts to crush the resistance through draconian measures such as internment without trial only fueled more anger.

Francis Hughes is one of the ten men who died on hunger strike in prison in 1981 in Northern Ireland. He was already a legend before he joined the hunger strike for being an extremely daring and effective guerrilla fighter as well as for being a man of few words.

The Blockade of Prince William Sound (1993)
Listen to “Cordova

When Exxon spilled tens of millions of gallons of oil in Prince William Sound in 1989, lots of promises were made, all of them broken. Promises of a cleanup, promises of ecological recovery, promises of compensation for the massive losses to the economy of the communities completely reliant on fishing.

It took a few years for those involved with the fishing industry to realize that the Herring were not going to recover from this disaster, and that a huge part of the once-burgeoning fishing industry in Alaska was gone for the foreseeable future. Upon the collapse of another Herring run, every seaworthy vessel in Cordova, filled with the people of the town, pushed through a storm and formed a blockade in the harbor.

President Clinton sent in the FBI to see what was up, but there was not a single boat they could use to get out to the blockade to talk to folks. Upon hearing the news that Coast Guard gunships were on their way from Seattle, the community waited until close to the time they'd be arriving and then went home, but not before winning demands that resulted in important research being done on the previously unknown degree of the toxicity of oil.

Global Day of Protest -- February 15th, 2003
Listen to “Trafalgar Square

There have been many international days of protest over the course of the past century, but February 15th, 2003 was the date of the largest, broadest-based day of protest in global history, with an estimated 13 million people in thousands of towns and cities around the world participating. There were particularly massive crowds in some of the predictable places – Rome, Berlin, Paris, London, New York City, and elsewhere – but what was especially notable was the smaller protests that were happening in towns and small cities throughout the US that had never had a protest in their history as far as anyone could recall, and suddenly there were thousands of people crowding into the little town center.

I was singing at the rally for an estimated half million people in New York City on that freezing afternoon, but friends reported from London about the massive rally there. Mocking the rhetorical efforts of the Bush administration to publicly topple the big statue of Saddam Hussein, folks in London constructed a large statue of George Bush for the occasion, which they toppled at the rally (and it fell far more gracefully than the statue in Baghdad, I might add).

This date probably represents the peak of what we could arguably call a short-lived mass movement, which began in its 21st-century form with the invasion of Afghanistan. It has often been observed that mass movements are rarely sustained unless the participants believe they might accomplish something. Bush, Blair and company did their best to pretend they were unaffected by this outpouring of dissent amongst their supposed constituencies, the latest invasion of Iraq commenced the following month, and the antiwar movement began a slow decline, increasingly settling back to its core, the “usual suspects,” those who are dancing in the dark no matter what. But who knows what tomorrow may bring. Something good, I hope.

The Miami Model (2003)
Listen to “Miami

For a brief period beginning at the end of the twentieth century there was a growing, youth-based anti-capitalist movement in the USA. It was consciously part of a global movement – many of the participants were very consciously inspired by Latin American developments such as the Zapatistas and the election of Hugo Chavez. In turn, the existence of a growing anti-capitalist movement within the great belly of the beast was a shot in the arm for the radical left around the world.

The mass civil disobedience in Seattle surrounding the WTO meetings there at the end of November, 1999 was the event that put the US anti-capitalist movement on the map and inspired others throughout the country and the world to do that again. Which they did -- in Australia, Europe, the Americas and Asia, shutting down or seriously impacting meetings of the global ruling elite wherever they happened.

In many countries these sorts of actions – and many others – are still taking place. At the G8 in Rostock in 2007 the only way delegates could go anywhere was by helicopter or boat (all roads had been successfully blockaded). In the US there were various factors that took the wind out of the sails of this movement. Chiefly four things: 9/11 and it's various repercussions with regard to any kind of protest now being equated in one way or another with Al-Qaeda; widespread police brutality against protesters of all kinds in Seattle and at all future such protests; a corporate media blackout on progressive voices and anything progressives do; and an inability of the radical left to decide on tactics.

The last time any group of people seriously considered attempting to disrupt a meeting of the global corporate elite through civil disobedience was outside the meetings of the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Miami, Florida in November, 2003. Under the leadership of the hyper-militaristic police chief Timoney, the police rioted once again, clearing the streets of Miami of the undesirable elements with tear gas, clubs and tasers. The national media was far too busy obsessing about Michael Jackson that week to pay any attention to the bloodbath happening in Miami.

After walking past the gangs of police (in and out of uniform) in the otherwise abandoned and tear gas-soaked streets of downtown Miami I wrote this lyric. The tour I did up the east coast after the protests was like a moving gallery of injuries. I'd ask who got attacked by the police in Miami and the welts would be out and visible for all to see. American democracy in action.

Hurricane Katrina (2005)
Listen to “New Orleans

As with so many other such disasters there were many warnings prior to Hurricane Katrina which were ignored by the authorities, who were too busy pursuing profits and oil wars to worry about the dying wetlands of Louisiana or the state of the levees on the Mississippi River and other bodies of water around the city of New Orleans. The Bush administration was also too busy gutting government services to respond to the disaster with anything approaching competence.

If the boarded-up neighborhoods along the levee were a testament to the decline of urban America before the flood, the city became an even more poignant testimony to the growing class and race divide in the country after the flood. The lack of reconstruction reminds many of the Reconstruction with a capital “R” that never happened, after the Civil War. Now what was once a majority-Black city is now majority-white, ethnically cleansed, its refugees scattered throughout the US and the world.

Despite the many good people within its borders, America remains steeped in institutional racism, with so many condemned to death, with so many survivors having no access to the funds needed to rebuild and no reparations for generations of the most unspeakable injustice. It is an eloquent, horrific statement that despite the intervening twentieth century, in the nineteenth century there was a huge slave plantation called Angola, on which five thousand Black men picked cotton by hand for no pay. Today, the Angola plantation is now the Angola federal prison. In view of a golf course overlooking the cotton field today, five thousand Black men pick cotton by hand for no pay.

The Murder of Dr. George Tiller (2009)
Listen to “In the Name of God

While the federal authorities regularly pass legislation to increase penalties for so-called “eco-terrorists,” locking people up for decades for destruction of logging equipment, a much more widespread movement involving thousands of acts of property destruction as well as violence against other human beings has been moving forward throughout the country. Since abortion was legalized in 1973 there have been nine doctors targeted and killed by anti-abortion activists. Dr. George Tiller was shot in the head in church on May 31st, 2009.

The Great Upheaval (2010)
Listen to “Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler

In the mid-eighteenth century Acadian people fled eastern Canada after the French defeat in what became known as the French and Indian Wars or the Seven Years' War. Many eventually ended up settling in Louisiana. Although geographically isolated in a part of the world that is not without its challenges, the people who became known as Cajun thrived in Louisiana, farming and especially fishing the rich Mississippi Delta region, and developing forms of music that have spread throughout the world.

The Cajun people survived the original Grand Derangement, the relocation from Canada to Louisiana, and they have collectively survived many other challenges to their existence – the Battle of Baton Rouge in the Revolutionary War, discrimination and assimilationist pressures since the early twentieth century, the rise of the oil industry and the threat this has represented to fishing and to the physical health of the region and its people, Hurricane Katrina and the destruction it brought to so many homes, boats and lives. In what form the Cajun people will survive this new Great Upheaval, the oil leak off the coast and its aftermath, is unknown.

Massacre on the High Seas (2010)
Listen to “Song for the Mavi Marmara

On May 31st, 2010 Israeli soldiers boarded seven boats full of humanitarian activists trying to end the siege of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. On the biggest of the seven ships, the Mavi Marmara, some crew members attempted to stand in the way of this act of piracy on the part of the Israeli military, and they were massacred. By the time the shooting was over there were nine confirmed dead, with many more seriously injured, and an unknown number overboard.

This atrocity on the part of the Israelis was only a more recent chapter in a long history of atrocities committed against the Palestinian population and their supporters. In trying to protect the home of a doctor from having his home bulldozed, Rachel Corrie lost her life. One of the ships boarded after the Mavi Marmara was named after her.

The resistance of the Palestinian people is one of stones against tanks, the resistance of an occupied people against their occupiers. It is a particular tragedy that those doing the occupying are themselves often descendants of refugees from European fascism, but the fact that it is refugees killing refugees doesn't make the killing any more acceptable.