About John Oliver Mason

I am a freelance writer, having worked for newspapers, magazines and blogs for over twenty-five years, covering neighborhood and working people making their communities and their lives better. I believe in the power of the written word to bring about change, and I put that into practice. I believe that when we become aware of the effect our small actions in the community have in improving lives, we can truly make a difference. I am also one of the leading poets in the Philadelphia area, and I also write fiction. I also act, performing on the public access channel PhillyCAM.

Traveling Wares At Dirty Frank’s

I’m joining other craftspeople tomorrow, Sunday, December 5, for the Traveling Wares show at Dirty Frank’s, 347 S. 13th Street, where craftspeople display their handcrafted products for sale. Come in to purchase fine handmade products for the holidays, and have fun doing it.

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Damnacio Memoriae

recently I took a tour with other military veterans through the Penn Museum, just across from Franklin Field on South Street. (https://www.penn.museum/) We toured through exhibits of the various ancient civilizations-Egyptian,  Babylonia, and Sumerian- ending up a the Ancient Rome exhibit, where the guide introduced us to the Roman custom of damnacio memoriae, “damnation of memory-”  the cursing of the name of someone who brought same, terror, or disgrace to the nation, such as the maniacal emperors Nero and Caligula; or others, like Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who, as commander of the Praetorian Guard, tried to usurp the throne from the Emperor Tiberias in 31 CE. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lucius-Aelius-Sejanus)  In that custom, all of the statues of that person would be torn down, and their names would be chipped off of public monuments, Thereby erasing his name from public memory, as if they never existed. It was a sort of final insult to someone who brought pain and suffering to the community.

That is what I see happening to the buildings bearing donald whatshisface’s name-the various hotels, casinos, and apartment complexes he didn’t build but he leased them their name. Supposedly, his name was a guarantee of quality and luxury. Now, it’s the name of a traitor who tried to destroy our democracy, with a minority of violent maniacs, in the January 6 rampage that tried to overturn the results of a free and fair election; and his name has been torn down from many of the buildings that had it (https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2019/10/23/heres-every-trump-property-thats-dropped-his-name/?sh=5c8926b03571) ; and I enjoyed seeing the implosion of the trump Plaza in Atlantic City.(https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2021/11/25/smash-and-grab-robberies-retail-store-newday-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/stories-worth-watching/) 

We must never forget the real story of the events of January 6, no matter how the republicans try to revise it; but the parallels to what’s happening to the trump brand, and the Roman practice of damnacio memoriae, are just TOO close to ignore.

(Fun fact: the Penn Museum is free to veterans who show their veteran’s card, it’s their “thank you” for our service.)

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Remember January 6

The riot that pro-trump terrorists-yes, call them that-was one of the most horrible events in this nation’s history; it showed how a hate-filled, ignorant, violent minority, guided by a self-serving charlatan, rampaging in the halls of Congress trying to overturn, by force, the results of a free-and fair election, thus showing how fragile is that which passes for “democracy” in this country.

It also shows how the Republicans, trying to attain the votes of such people-it’s their real constituency anymore-are glassing over the riot, saying that it was more like a nice group of tourists having fun, or trying to distract from the riot-“but BLM!” in that riot, they tried to find and kill members of Congress and vandalized federal property ,and police officers were injured-one of them gouged out the eyes of a DC cop, others were beaten, and one of them was killed. And this is the faction screaming “back the blue” and “blue lives matter”-as alone as the cops attack non-white people protesting for their rights.

Forget about it? No way! We have commemorations for the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the 9/11 attacks, and rightly so-human lives were lost that should not have been, just like in January 6. I propose there be annual commemorations of January 6,  where we rededicate ourselves to preserving our democracy and expanding on it, to make sure more people have access to the ballot box. we can do this with a voter registration drive; discussions in our local libraries, houses of worship, unions, and neighborhoods, etc., about the issues affecting our communities; discussions about the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and violent extremism in our communities and over the internet; food and clothing drives and other volunteer activities; and voting when ANY election day comes, and NEVER allowing ANYONE to prevent us, either by voter-restricting laws, gerrymandering of legislative districts, or brute physical force.

Never allow the terrible events of January 6 be forgotten, and may our enemies remember they WILL NOT intimidate us.

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The Mason Missile, November 24, 2021

 

Greetings, Americans!

My novel, Soldier Of The Cross, is still on the market, on Amazon.com. (https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Cross-John-Oliver-Mason/dp/0578988402/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=john+oliver+mason+soldier+of+the+cross&qid=1637014919&qsid=144-5381896-0671915&rnid=2941120011&s=books&sr=1-3&sres=0578988402%2CB01NBBUMIH&srpt=ABIS_BOOK) But I urge you to check first with your local neighborhood bookstore, which is where grassroots literary talent is fostered and is connected to the community.

Alas! Kyle Rittenhouse, the little boy whose mommy drove him from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, carrying an AR-15 assault rifle like he was acting out a Rambo fantasy,  and killed two unarmed men and wounded another, was found “not guilty” in his murder trial. I had a sense Rittenhouse would walk, since the “judge,” Bruce Schroeder, told the jury to call Rittenhouse’s victims “rioters” and “looters.” (The prosecution did a sloppy job of preparing as well; did the state deliberately try to undermine the case against Rittenhouse?)

Now Rittenhouse is a hero for the neo-fascist elements who will be emboldened to start shooting at progressives, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color, sensing they could get away with it. Rittenhouse himself has been offered congressional internships by Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina), Paul Gosar (Arizona) and Matt Gaetz (Florida). Cawthorn went so far as to say in a Twitter message, “Be armed, be dangerous, and be moral.” (https://www.complex.com/life/republican-lawmakers-are-giving-internship-offers-to-kyle-rittenhouse) Truly, the Republican Party is in a sunken place, and sinking deeper and deeper.

The results of the 2021 election were pretty disappointing. The Democratic candidates constantly warned of the danger of trump-and he remains a danger-instead of concentrating on issues related to people and their communities. The republicans, however, talked the same trump themes, such as the evil Critical Race Theory (Do the even know what that is?), mask mandates, etc. That seems to be the new formula the Republicans are using, which I call “trumpism without trump,”  hitting on the fears that trump evokes among his followers, without mentioning his name-but the Republicans have played on racial fears for decades, and now the mainstream republicans see that trump’s influence is a danger to the party, but they’ll take the votes of his followers.

Now, Fox “News” and the other right-wing propaganda sites are talking about how they’ll win the House back in 2022 (while it’s still 2021) eleven months away, and they’ll use that to attack the Biden administration: and some of the mainstream news media are hinting at that idea. Excuse me, but the election is NEXT year, plenty of time for us progressives and pro-worker activists to analyze what went right and wrong this year, and to organize our grassroots campaigning to educate our neighbors and co-workers about the issues we’re facing-abuse of LGBTQ+ people and people of color, homelessness, the terrorizing of school board members and election officials this year, organizing unorganized workers, etc. t-p is not on the ballot so we don’t have to bring him up; rather, we discuss our opponent for whatever office, and provide a more viable alternative.

We decide NOW how the election turns out. IT happens all the time in our elections; the media hints that our guy will lose, and the republican has it in the bag already-all the way through to the election. It’s like psychological warfare, to try to bring down the morale of progressives, trying to depress us and ready to give up before the poll are open. We must change our thinking on this-the Republicans DON”T have the elections in the bag, we CAN and WILL organize and educate our neighbors for the election, and we WILL increase our numbers in the House. (Doesn’t that sound better?)

Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! America will be free! Bye!

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CLUW Coat Drive

The Philadelphia AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) is holding a coat and blanket drive, where you can donate your new or lightly-used coats and blankets for those in need during winter. You can drop them off at the AFL-CIO building, 22 South 22nd Street, until December 3rd. The phone number of the AFL-CIO is 215-665-9800.

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The Mason Moment, November 15, 2021

I speak about the need for voting, the need for organizing at the grass roots, The Kyle Rittenhouse case, and Steve Bannon.

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Giving Thanks and Giving Help

 

I will be joining my union sisters of the Temple University Hospital Allied Health Professional and Nurses (TUHNA), and the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), in a Community Friendsgiving Partnership event, to be held at Zion Baptist church, 3600 North Broad Street in Philadelphia, where, with other community partners, we’ll feed a number of families, in the spirit of the holidays. This is what the holidays of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas are really about-people coming together, looking out for each other, and sharing a meal in community-definitely NOT about standing in line at the Walmart for 48 hours, to buy junk you can’t afford, supposedly for Christmas.

I urge you to look for some volunteer opportunity in your community over the holidays, to lift the spirits of people, like just about all of us in this country, who have been impacted by the pandemic and the results of it, like loss of a loved one, losing a job or a home, or inability to see family members. What better present is there?

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The Praxis With John Mason, November 3, 2021

people doing group hand cheer

Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro on Pexels.com

I speak about the recent election, and of the need to keep the fight up.

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The Mason Moment, November 1, 2021

photo of person dropping a vote

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

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The Mason Missile, October 29, 2021

Greetings, Americans!

I’m continuing to promote my novel, Soldier Of  The Cross; it’s available through Amazon. (https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Cross-John-Oliver-Mason/dp/0578988402/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3VQ9PDCKAUKLK&dchild=1&keywords=soldier+of+the+cross+john+oliver+mason&qid=1635266248&rnid=2941120011&s=books&sprefix=soldier+of+the%2Caps%2C111&sr=1-1)

But I encourage you to first order it through your local independent bookstore; there you find writing workshops, meet-the-author events, and poetry readings. It’s at the grassroots level, in these small indy bookstores, where new literary talent flourishes. And, please support all you other small businesses, like the small grocer and local diner; they’ve been particularly hit hard by the pandemic, and the billion-dollar mega-corporations don’t need the money as much as these small family businesses do.

Amazon, in particular, is wealthy enough that Jeff Bezos can afford to have his own space program, Blue Origin. But the latest is that Amazon is in negotiations to purchase MGM Studios. Amazon is about to pay $8.45 billion for MGM, as they paid $13.7 billion for Whole Foods. (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/26/amazon-to-buy-mgm-studios-for-8point45-billion.html) This has been possible through the series of tax breaks that corporations over the past 40 decades have attained from Congress, with the help of their lobbying firms; I’m thinking particularly about the 2017 tax cut, which created the federal deficit, and the Republicans have no problem with it. (But, to the Republicans, spending money on such socially beneficial things as infrastructure, schools, medical assistance, nursing mothers, and unemployment would be an economic catastrophe.)

Workers have never benefitted from these corporate tax breaks; it’s only more money for more luxury items-such as Bezos’ brand-new, $500 million dollar yacht. ((https://www.geekwire.com/2021/see-worthy-first-look-jeff-bezos-reported-500m-superyacht-netherlands-shipyard/) (https://www.autoevolution.com/news/first-look-at-jeff-bezos-new-toy-record-breaking-oceanco-sailing-yacht-y721-launched-172333.html) Bezos’ acquisition of MGM, Whole Foods, and The Washington Post, shows the need for the mega-billionaire class-along with Elon Musk and Jeff Zuckerberg-have to be taxed at the appropriate rate.

Elon Musk has been particularly vehement about his class being taxed, (https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-democrats-billionaires-tax-arguments-tesla-stock-net-worth-2021-10) proclaiming on Twitter, “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.” All of the plutocrats in history try to make the lower classes identify with them, like they have the same thing in common; whereas the in reality, all of the tax cuts from Reagan to today have benefited billionaires and corporations, with no benefit to workers or consumers.

Fortunately, workers are flexing their power; the pandemic has shown the importance of “essential workers,” works who had to work throughout the COVID crisis-store works, medical professionals, sanitation workers, etc.  Another set of essential workers are the bus, trolley, and subway workers of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), who were prepared to go on strike on November 1, but they, through their union,  Transport Workers Union Local 234 (TWU) settled it just before deadline. (https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/septa-strike-update-2021-contract-agreement-20211029.html?utm_source=browser_notification&utm_campaign=browser_notification&utm_medium=notification&utm_content=No-strike-SEPTA-and-its-largest-union-reach-a-contract-agreement-)

The strike by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (https://bctgm.org/) is continuing its strike against Kellogg, the cereal and food company. The issues for the workers have been of moving production to Mexico (leaving the workers stranded without a job), the taking away of health-care and retirement benefits, cost-of-living wage increases, holiday and vacation pay, and that the union label be on each box of Kellogg’s products. There are picket lines around all Kellogg facilities, including in Lancaster, PA; I hope soon to be able to get there, and celebrate the workers’ victory.

The strike of John Deere by the United Auto Workers (https://uaw.org/) goes on. With the skilled assembly-line workers out on strike, the Deere company has resorted to bringing in scabs-in this care, salaried office workers for the company. This has resulted in accidents by the salary workers and orders from the company not to talk about what goes on in the plant. (https://theintercept.com/2021/10/26/john-deere-strike-accident/)

I’m currently reading Philip Foner’s History of The Labor Movement In The United States. It’s a great history of the terrible conditions that working people endured as the nation developed into the capitalist powerhouse it is now: poor or no housing, meager pay a family couldn’t live on, dangerous working conditions for long hours; and any attempt to organize workers to resist this, so workers could live and work as full human beings, were put down by all the ruling corporate elite had at its disposal-courts, legislatures, company goons, police, sheriff’s deputies, militia, the regular army, the era’s news media, vigilantes (composed of some of the most respectable men in the community), and the clergy.

But in the face of all that, workers persisted in their organizing, so that they can be the basis of the American middle class-which has been eroded for the past four decades by tax breaks for billion-dollar corporations, the transfer of manufacturing overseas (leaving American workers jobless), the weakening of unions and protections for workers, and the weakening of laws controlling the amount of money donated to political campaigns (I’m thinking now the Citizens United case).

We have a history of Labor organizing and struggle in this country. Our ancestors fought and died so that workers live a decent life. We must NOT disappoint them, and allow the corporate elite to take away our rights. We must support our fellow workers, at John Deere, Kellogg, Nabisco, Frito-Lay, IATSE, and in our own shops and neighborhoods as they fight our fight, and fight alongside of them. The ballot is the mightiest weapon in the freedom-fighting arsenal, and on November 2, I want you all to use it, for your friends, your coworkers, your families, and your neighbors.

Stay safe, stay strong, and Stay together! America will be free! Bye!  

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