UPDATE NOTE [1/26/03] HG
FLAGS 2 [10/31/01] HG
FLAGS [9/17/01] HG
KEEP FIGHTING [9/18/01] -- HG
UPDATE NOTE [1/26/03] HG
The American Flag Thing still lingers pluckily here
and there on some
vehicles in this general Idaho setting. But this afternoon, down in
Pocatello, I saw a big ole pickup flying a huge, flapping Jolly Roger -- the
traditional tribal Skull & Crossbones of the outlaws of the sea. As it
sailed along the rocky street, it personally warmed my heart since I was
president of our Pirate Club at age eight or so [though the nearest ocean
was regrettably 'way beyond our reach and ken.] But far more than that I
knew I was today seeing Honesty Incarnate -- someone with something candidly
and very intricately reflecting the current national policies of the
reincarnation of certain notorious water rovers of yore.
This is a couple of things: a repost of my Flags
piece of many weeks ago
[we have a great many new people on this list], preceded by this brief
up-dating. There have been a number of very positive comments on the piece.
But we've heard nothing further from the vitriolically angry shirt-tail ["in
law"] kin -- not an American Indian, by the way, who -- because of that and
related things -- had angrily e-mailed me:
"I can hardly stand your spews on America, on Bush, etc. . .Give me Bush,
Ashcroft, Powell and all the other men and women of the present
administration any time. I thank God each and every day for them. . . You
and I are related through marriage, but in no way can I see eye to eye with
your hatred for U.S.A. Yes, I can understand how you feel about the
treatment of the American Indians, the blacks, etc. but U.S.A. is still the
best place. Why not go and live elsewhere, in some other country. . ."
I'm sure many of us have heard this sort of thing [and we've had a few of
the usual crank calls.] For my part, I have plenty of blood relatives --
and many consistently friendly in-law ones as well. I can always lose a
relation or two.
The small flag that was placed in our yard in this 'way far-up "frontier"
area -- one of a multitude carried and implanted by well-meaning folk --
slipped very early on, as I noted, into the weeds, and disappeared long
ago. Locally -- in this small city Idaho setting -- many and perhaps most
of the flags have now faded from the scene. The not-always-friendly daily
newspaper gives front page coverage to "War" events and the latest "Official
Warnings" -- but the spread is no longer garish. My Jeep did encounter the
pickup, two days ago, of a still frightened acquaintance who ages in the
past -- long, long before September 11th -- cut off all contact with me and
flees whenever he sees me anywhere in the vicinity. Neither I nor the
other family members riding with me were especially surprised to note that a
large and obviously just dry-cleaned Flag was hanging in his vehicle's cab.
Much more importantly, our monitoring/rights network involving many
individuals and the communities of color [Native, Chicano, Black, Asian, a
relatively small number of North Africans and Mid-Easterners] has detected
no physical violence [although there has been ugly verbal stuff.] The local
cops and state police [ who are certainly among the most negative we've
encountered anywhere outside of the Deep South], have been essentially
restrained -- so far.
And again locally, fear and hysteria have subsided -- somewhat. There
isn't even -- although planes have been told not to fly over it -- much
apparent unusual concern about the nearby [an hour or so away] Idaho National Energy and Environmental Laboratories -- a Federal facility which processes nuclear waste for "disposal" in various Western locations.
There is a great deal of very justifiable concern about the quite recent,
abrupt closure of Astaris -- a locally-based phosphorus mining and refining
operation. Almost 450 workers are out -- unemployed --and an estimated 500
others will probably be so pronto as a result of their employers' now failed
contracts with Astaris. This follows other dismal economic news on various
local and regional -- and, of course -- national and global fronts.
And now, as super high winds [50 to 60 mph] sweep across our region, and
heavy, welcome rain falls from the sky to our still drought-stricken forests
and range lands, increasingly gargantuan bombs are thrown [ostensibly from
under "our auspices"] on a tortured and long lethally-disastered land, far
far away -- in a blood-drenched sacrificial ritual which, by comparison,
reduces to a very small hill one of that general region's Great Monsters:
Tamerlane [ca. 1300s] and his huge pyramids of skulls.
I should add that Halloween is alive and well.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] October 31, 2001
Personally, I don't see Flags generally as being a
heavy issue deep or
high -- but they can be -- and the matter has arisen on other lists. It's
all worth some comment.
I've never been a Flag Man. Perhaps most Indians never really can be -- I
like a feather or two and I have a bear-claw choker that I wear on special
occasions. [In addition and from another dimensional perspective, I have
many Canadian roots.] The American flag has always tended to make me wary:
George Custer to the John Birch Society come immediately to mind. I can
live with the American Flag [I did as an Army trooper ] and it often showed
up in the front of even very Left unions.
But, even in settings where the American flag was, at a particular place and
point in history, anathema -- e.g., Mississippi in the early '60s -- I
could never really find comfort in it. [ And I should, say, too that the
Flag of the Southern Confederacy makes me very, very wary indeed!]
I was not surprised when, a few days ago, young people from a local realtor
firm, trooped up to this far far corner of this Idaho town, with a heavy
supply of small American flags which they dutifully planted in or near each
yard -- including ours. They do this just before every Fourth of July --
small flags in every lawn or what passes for a lawn -- and, when the smoke
of the firecrackers fades, the flags disappear. This time, the flags have
stayed around in most cases.
I don't feel threatened by this -- I just feel primarily oblivious to this
particular ritual and these particular flags. [But I am greatly troubled
in another way -- and more on that in a moment.] Our neighbors are -- in
almost every case -- very friendly and pleasant people [there are a couple
of other Native families right near us, and several Chicano families and
two Black families not all that far away.] I know the man who heads the
flag-distributing real estate firm to be a gentle person and, like many in
this region, a Mormon [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.]
I should add that I've always been a bit surprised by Mormon patriotism. I
grew up in a Northern Arizona setting where, in addition to many Catholics,
there were also many LDS people. The great grandfather of a good Mormon high
school buddy had been shot by a US Army firing squad. As a rule, I tend to
get along well with grassroots Mormons. And I'm aware that there was once a
time when their leaders were lynched and their churches burned and when they
finally found a place in the Salt Lake Valley, built their Zion and
established their Land of Deseret, the Gentile forces [land and mineral
hungry capitalists backed by the US government and US Army] attempted to use
the polygamy issue to smash the Mormon Commonwealth and seize all of its
resources. Those were the days, 'way 'way back in the 19th Century, when
the Mormon Battalion was formed to resist, in the high mountain passes, the
forces of the United States; and when the great Mormon gunman, Porter
Rockwell, guarded Brigham Young [the prophet was himself personally armed
also] against possible assassination via Washington, DC. [In his
fascinating autobiography -- Bill Haywood's Book: The Autobiography of
William D. Haywood, 1929 and many subsequent editions, must reading for
radicals -- Big Bill, born in Salt Lake City in 1869 [an Episcopalian by
birth], opens with the chapter, "Boyhood Among The Mormons" and has kind
words for the Saints and a very good word for then rather old, and kindly,
Porter Rockwell the gunman. [And, BTW, how many people are aware that Butch
Cassidy [George LeRoy Parker] was a Mormon boy -- as was much of his Wild
But, anyway. In time, part of the Mormon world grew rather conservative,
patriotic -- even as the theology has slowly liberalized to some extent [but
the West abounds with Mormons who are very good and militant, and sometimes
very radical, union labor activists. ]
So I didn't find these flags of the other day -- coming 'way up here to
us -- unusual. I don't find them directly threatening. There are, of
course, plenty of instances where flags do signal reactionary violence --
but most Americans flags don't.
So why am I troubled by this Flag Situation?
Because to many people -- especially in this moment of high crisis for all
of humanity -- flags are a pallative, a mind-soother. If, on the one hand,
flags -- like prayer -- can somehow make this hideous tragedy a little
easier to live with, flags can also block cognizance of the massively grim
and lethal storm clouds that are now coming in upon us and much of the world
from the very Four Directions: War, hideous war; the gutting of our
democratic civil rights and civil liberties; a rising racism against
And flags, and all of the other pallatives, and rationalizations and
transferences, certainly help bury, again and again, the crying and
compelling need for social justice -- a very full measure of social
justice -- for everyone, everywhere in this world. They help bury it deep.
But it does not stay buried and it never will.
Our little flag fell over yesterday, into some grass and weeds. It still
lies there, fallen.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
KEEP FIGHTING [9/18/01]
An e-mail came last night from the names of a man and woman unknown to me.
The subject line was STOP STOP STOP -- and the message was short and
WILL YOU FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP. who cares. You are a sick person
Good taste rules out any response -- facetious or otherwise -- seeking more
specific info. Clearly, someone's coming apart and I see no point in
contributing to the process.
Although this expression of desperation carries contradictory
implications, it's not hard at all to see sensitivity under all of this --
but a sensitivity caught up in the maelstrom of high, strong winds and
blinding fog coming in from all sides. The result here is obvious
It may sound supercilious but this is simply another victim -- no more, no
less. Other victims, at least for the moment, are some of the civil
liberties and environmental and mainline labor groups that are currently
stopped in their tracks, or pulling back -- silent. Or, some [not all!]
social justice groups whose statements are devoted in the main to the
self-evident hideous nature of the September 11 tragedy, with the rest
spent on a call to apprehend and punish the guilty -- and maybe, maybe a
faint and carefully tangled sentence or two on the threats to domestic civil
liberty and to persons of Mid-Eastern background.
For the rest of us, and we are many indeed, the high mountains of challenge
lie directly ahead -- as they always do. And no matter how many we transcend
, there's always another high range beyond.
Everyone of us reading this, no matter one's age, has been through
challenging crucibles with hard lessons -- emerging ever more sensibly
I remember an old friend, the late Juan Chacon of Grant County, New Mexico,
in the southwestern part of the state [Silver City and environs.] A veteran
metal miner, he was one of a number of militantly committed and effective
radical activists in that well-known Mine-Mill local -- Amalgamated Bayard
District Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers: Local 890 of the
hard-fighting and very Left International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter
Workers. [ IUMMSW was formerly the Western Federation of Miners and, in
1905, the prime founder of the Industrial Workers of the World.]
Juan Chacon had gone through no end of social justice fights from the moment
he was hatched. Among his many battle stripes was that of the male lead in
the extraordinarily fine film, Salt of the Earth, ostensibly in a fictional
mode but based closely on the long and bitter Mine-Mill strike of
predominately Mexican-American miners and their families against Empire Zinc
at Hanover, NM -- which lasted from October 1950 to January, 1952. In this
hard-fought campaign, following a court injunction prohibiting miners from
picketing, their wives took over the picket line and played a key role in
carrying the struggle to victory.
"Salt," this great human rights film -- worker rights, racial equality,
women's rights --filmed on location and with most of the acting done by
local people, was made in the face of extreme Red-baiting and other attacks
from the mining bosses, House Un-American Activities Committee, Joe
McCarthy, and a gaggle of local New Mexico politicos -- and by open
violence from local racist and right-wing "vigilantes" -- thugs.
But the film was made and completed and won rave reviews even from mortal
enemies. TIME -- however grudgingly: " . . .the film within the
propagandistic limits it sets is a work of vigorous art. It is crowded with
grindingly effective scenes, through which the passion of social anger
hisses in a hot wind; and truth and lies are driven before it like sand. .
.The passion carries the actors along too in its gale. The workers, actual
miners of the New Mexico local, carry conviction in their savage setting as
trained actors could never do. The best of the worker-players is Juan
Chacon, real-life president of the local union. Ugly and cold as an Aztec
amulet, his heavy face comes slowly to life and warmth as the picture
advances and in the end seems almost radiant."
Salt also took major international film awards -- even as it was
systematically black-listed in every commercial movie house in the United
States. Very recently, it was picked by the Library of Congress as one of
the 100 most important films ever made in this country. Long before that,
several years after his death a decade and a half ago, New Mexico Western
University named a building in honor of Juan Chacon. [And Salt is now widely
available on the Net -- if you haven't seen this great homegrown radical
work of art, Do!]
But let's jump back to the bitter fall of 1959. Copper workers were out on
a massive industry-wide strike from Butte, Montana to the Mexican border --
and in some other settings as well -- led by Mine-Mill. At the same time,
in a cruel, calculated, and extremely revealing move, long-dormant
indictments were activated by the United States government against key
Mine-Mill leaders -- who were then, concurrently with the strike, brought to
trial in Denver on the trumped-up phony charges of "conspiring to defraud"
the Government vis-a-vis non-Communist affidavits required by the viciously
anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act. Thus, Mine-Mill was not only embroiled in a
huge fight against the powerful copper bosses -- Anaconda, Phelps-Dodge,
Kennecott, Magma, and American Smelting and Refining -- but had much of the
top International leadership tied up in Federal court in Denver in a
Kafkaesque proceeding involving a variety of seamy, paid FBI informers and
various mining company sycophants,
I was a grad student, then, at ASU -- but, much more importantly, was
coordinating a large-scale effort in central Arizona focused on raising
miners' relief [food and money] and labor defense funds with respect to the
"conspiracy" trial. In our setting, as in comparable ones elsewhere in this
great multi-faceted struggle, we were met by constant Red-Baiting [I was
tagged on the front page of the leading newspaper, Arizona Republic, as
"young Mr. S., the head of the Arizona state Communist Party." [Note No
CPUSA organization existed anywhere in Arizona by that time.] The Goldwater
atmosphere was almost strangling, the Birchers were growing rapidly, and
Phoenix alone had 100 "Anti-Communist Leagues." As part of our intensive
miners relief / labor defense effort, we were showing Salt of the Earth --
in union halls, community centers, some Catholic parish halls, university
settings etc -- and the FBI was working in an increasingly open fashion to
try, generally without success, to get these places closed to us. We were
attacked by thugs and our homes and cars were broken into.
We kept going. At one point in the middle of all of this, Juan Chacon sent
me a warm, personal Western Union telegram from New Mexico which concluded
with, "Success will be ours in the long run." I've always remembered those
words -- and I've carried them with me wherever I've gone: off to
Mississippi and far, far beyond. Right to the present moment.
The copper workers -- led by Mine-Mill -- won the Great Strike early in 1960.
Eventually, even though the Mine-Mill leaders were convicted at Denver in an
atmosphere of extreme fear and hysteria, those cases -- and all the other
anti-Mine-Mill Federal witch-hunting cases -- were eventually won in the
higher courts. [But the financial cost to the Union was very heavy.] If
interested, see this page from a long 1960 article of mine,"IUMM&SW: The
Good, Tough Fight" [under my former name of John R. Salter, Jr] which I've
reproduced on our website and which has also some up-dating notes on the
Mine-Mill legal cases and related matters.
So, when I get something like
WILL YOU FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP. who cares. You are a sick person
I shrug, remember Juan and his fighting words -- and all of the other good
things I've heard and learned along the trail we're all continuing to blaze.
Keep fighting. Keep moving ahead. Keep fighting.
And -- any reactions from anyone reading this?
In Solidarity -
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]