The Mason Moment, April 25, 2021

I speak of the tendency of formerly ruling elites to learn no good lesson from the rising of formerly oppressed people, and their drive to retain their power.

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Days To Honor Workers

On Friday, April 23, I joined over Zoom with my colleagues on the Board of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and guests to commemorate Workers Memorial Day, to honor those workers who have been killed or injured on the job, working for their paychecks to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Over the years, PHILAPOSH has advocated for injured workers, connecting them with lawyers to help them through the workers’ compensation application process; called for “right to know” laws to help workers know the dangers of whatever chemicals they have to deal with; and trained workers on safety techniques on the job-lately the focus was on Latin-American-descended workers in the home construction industry, with materials in Spanish. During the pandemic, PHILAPOSH has been concerned with COVID-19, since such facilities as meat-processing plants have become hotbeds of transmission.

traditionally, PHILAPOSH has, every Workers Memorial Day, conducted a breakfast where we hear speakers discussing workers’ safety problems and legislative and political solutions; we also honor the memory of the workers killed on the job over the past year, along with their loved ones. After the breakfast, we would hold a funeral procession in their honor down Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing, where we would read the deceased workers’ names and throw roses into the Delaware; may their memory be for a blessing.

(Please check the PHILAPOSH web site, https://philaposh.org/, to lend your support for this great organization I’m proud to be a part of.)

Coming up on May 1 is May Day, the International Workers’ Holiday, recognized as such by workers all around the globe-except the United States, where Cold-War propaganda has treated May Day like a commie-pinko subversive thing. Thanks to the work of the late Director Emeritus of PHILAPOSH Jim Moran (may his memory be a blessing), workers in the Philadelphia region are learning the real story about May Day, such as its origins in this country from the Knights of Labor’s movement for the eight-hour day, the Haymarket incident of 1886 after a workers’ demonstration for the eight-hour day, and the framing and execution of several anarchist Labor leaders afterwards. The history of the eight-hour movement and the Haymarket incident can be found in the great Labor History series, History Of The Labor Movement In The United States by Philip Foner, published by International Publishers, https://www.intpubnyc.com/ .

Workers, let us get together to learn our history-where we came from-so that, armed with  that knowledge, we can unite and build the kind of future we want, for ourselves and our descendants.

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The Mason Moment, April 13, 2021

I speak about the need to still follow safety guidelines during the pandemic; the racism embedded in our society; the historical tendency to attribute internal social protests to some malign foreign influence; and the continuing need for workers to organize after the failure of the Amazon vote.

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The Freedom Seder

Throughout Jewish history, there have been, and continue to be, variations of the traditional Haggadah for the telling of the story of Pesach, aka Passover. We have the traditional ones, Haggadahs centered around the experience of a particular marginalized group, and secular Haggadahs for kibbutzniks in Israel.

I have an original copy, dated from 1969-1970, of the Freedom Seder, developed by Arthur Waskow, rabbi, climate activist, and founder of the Shalom Center, an organization focusing on a Jewish response to social problems. The original edition, like all the other editions of the Haggadah, follows the traditional order f the Seder-the Seder plate, the washing of hands, the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the Four Cups, the Cup for Elijah, the Ten Plagues, the breaking of the Matzah, the Afikomen, etc. It also includes quotes from the great social justice leaders in history, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and AJ Muste, and it directs attention to the social justice issues of that day, such as war, Civil Rights, and pollution, along with quotes from contemporary singers and poets, such as Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.

The beauty of the Freedom Seder is, you can adapt it to discussing the current social issues of this day, such as pollution, Civil Rights, and war-still important today as it was back in the ‘Sixties. The struggle for a just world is ongoing, and the Freedom Seder shows that the we have a tradition to guide us in our struggle, and a community to take part in the struggle.

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The Mason Missile, March 26, 2021

Greetings, Americans!

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has come and gone. Traditionally, it has been a place for conservative activists and politicians to network, and for presidential candidates to present themselves, and display their conservative bona fides. But this year, it has been a moment of trump-worship, including a gilded fiberglass statue of the Donald (made in Mexico) and there are photos of a man bowing to it and worshiping it-the new Golden Calf! (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/02/golden-trump-statue-cpac-mexico.html)

Another controversy was around the design of the stage, which was not at all like a regular stage, but one that resembled the “Odal Rune,” a letter in the ancient Nordic alphabet, which is popular among neo-fascists and white nationalists. How did that design come about? What were they thinking? Of course blatant neo-Nazis and racists have entered the “mainstream” conservative movement.

Then there was the standup routine of Ted Cruz, Senator supposedly of Texas-but during the huge snowstorm, which wrecked the state’s antiquated electric-power system (leaving people without power, without water, without heat, and some literally freezing to death)-ol’ Teddy thought it would be a great time to vacation in Cancun.

Later, when his copping out on his constituents made the news, Cruz headed back, and in his explanations, he said he was escorting his daughters to Cancun, making his OWN DAUGHTERS the scapegoat for his failure in leadership. You can’t’ expect anything else from a “man” who bootlicks the person who slandered his father and insulted his wife.  To top it off, Cruz went to CPAC and made a big joke about it. (https://www.businessinsider.com/watch-ted-cruz-cpac-speech-cancun-trump-2021-2)

This is the state of the conservative movement in America—treating the problems of marginalized people as a joke, and appealing to the worst racist elements. It has been a long ride for the Republican party, and the conservative movement, into the racist gutter, from the Goldwater campaign in 1964 which was hostile to Civil Rights legislation; to Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the “tough on crime” rhetoric; to the Reagan campaign beginning at the site where three Civil Rights workers were killed in Mississippi; to the Willie Horton propaganda campaign of George Bush I; to the mockery and slander of Barrack Obama, at Tea Party rallies, for being of African descent; and now we have Donald trump’s campaign vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapist and murderers. How much further can they sink?

Helping the Republican Party along this road to nowhere has recently passed-Rush Limbaugh. For over thirty years as a national radio personality, Limbaugh has played into the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia among the American people, and using them as a basis for his idea of entertainment, making racist and sexist wisecracks about “feminazis” and “Barack the Magic Negro”, just like a school bully mocking the suffering of the child he terrorizes; and there are people in the country who applauded his act-people who are having difficult times with their finances and their lives, and Limbaugh gave them a target for them to aim their hate deflecting from the corporate elite, and their subservient politicians rewriting laws for their benefit.

For this act, Limbaugh was well paid; in 2008, Limbaugh signed a contract with Clear Channel Communications to have his show broadcast over their Premier Radio Network, for $400 million (https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121504302144124805). Limbaugh was paid millions to tell working and low-income people, who happen to be white, that their problems stem from THOSE people, who happen to be of color, taking their jobs and their college admissions as they leach off the welfare system. The corporate rulers will pay ANY one ANY amount of money to turn the public against someone else, a soft target, a traditionally marginalized racial or cultural group.

Contradictory, I know-living off welfare AND taking jobs?-but racism and other prejudices aren’t logical, and Limbaugh made jokes about racial problems in this country, so when he ever got called out on it, he could say, “Hey, I’m an entertainer, I’m making a joke!”

In Georgia, Republicans ruling the state legislature have unleashed an old weapon on communities of color—drawing up new and more restrictive voting laws that would make it difficult for them to vote, with such items as fewer drop-off boxes, tighter identification requirements, the state taking over county election boards, and penalties for anyone giving food or water to people standing in line to vote. (https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/25/politics/georgia-state-house-voting-bill-passage/index.html) When Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill-with no witnesses-Park Cannon, an African-American woman State Representative, tried to get into the room to witness the signing, but was arrested, put in handcuffs, and was jailed. (https://www.rawstory.com/outraged-voters-blast-georgia-law-enforcement-following-park-cannons-arrest/?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&ts=1616766462&fbclid=IwAR0NN6ARZa9Ycf9iAE0paWGBpu5OnuSdN0NNx4eCBkBaDIBQwgKMk0Tk98o) The Republicans must thin African-American people, and descent people throughout the state and the nation, are going to just put up with it passively, we can’t do anything about it.

No way! We have a long and honorable history in this of fighting for freedom, for African-Americans, women, workers, LGBTQs, and other minorities. We know the struggle they went through-are we going to let them down? Are we going to let them take away all our predecessors worked for?  Died for?

I know we won’t. We’ll take to the streets, to our online chat rooms, to our news media, and to the polls. We defeated them once we can and will defeat them again.

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

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I have just self-published my manifesto, Under The Workers Cap, printed by Minuteman Press (https://www.minutemanpress.com/), where I articulate my social and political beliefs, based on my study of American History and my activism in the Labor movement and the community. It’s on sale for $10.00 plus postage.

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