March 29, 2011
American text books typically gloss over the underbelly of American history. Our virtual genocide of native American peoples; slavery; our support of dictators, tyrants, and authoritarians to achieve political ends; our role in the overthhrow of democratically elected leaders of foreign nations to advance our interests; this is typical behavior in a political world. We may even find comfort in our banality in torturing truth. For obvious reasons regimes prefer to obliterate an unsavory past and create myths to counter it. But the truth is unbiased. It sheds its light on good and evil with equity; humans meanwhile are not so even-handed and will stoop to any means to substitute a useful lie for a vile truth if it will advance a political postion.
But regimes also gloss over aspects of history and torture truth in less spectacular ways, again to advance ideologies; to slowly, but relentlessly, cut and snip-off the better parts of the fabric of who and what we have been to shape us into what they would have us be. Right now this reshaping is being done by Republican-dominated state governments in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maine, among others. This reshaping is intended to transform us once and for all from a democratic republic into a
plutocratic oligharcy —a government of a wealthy few. In these states Labor is being marginalized to advance the interests of the business and corporate class. The problem is that Labor consists of none other than the sum of average American workers.
This can be seen most clearly in the pettiness of the Republican Governor of Maine, Paul LePage. LePage has had a mural removed from the waiting area in the state’s Department of Labor because it depicts labor in a positive light. He says it is offensive to business. My father probably would have said, “It’s the Department of Labor, for Christ’s sake!”
So a mural that extols labor is a bad thing for this Republican. But, although his move is petty it doesn’t mean it’s insignificant, especially in light of the implacable efforts of the Republican Party to denigrate labor, to undermine its interests, to minimize its power, and to marginalize average Americans in the process for the sake of the wealthy. This shows in almost every aspect of Republican policy from fiscal to social. To solve our fiscal problems (as evidenced by their tax policies) Republicans would rather strip average Americans of of the fruits of our wealth and transfer it to the rich, as if Labor had no part in creating it. Althought Governor LePage’s tactical piggishness may be symbolic by comparison to the GOPs more practical assault on American workers, it clearly falls into the Republican strategy of twisting history in small and huge ways to establish a psychological climate for the acceptance of a political reality at odds with the intent of our Declaration of Independence and our constitution. Not only by revolution, but by constant erosion, through steady streams of lies, political maps are transformed.
Artists Judy Taylor says her mural was never meant to be political, just a historical depiction of Maine’s labor history; but Maine’s governor is up to his ass in a political swamp. From the vantage of that part of his anatomy there’s no such thing as “apolitical”. For modern Republicans anything that elevates the role of American workers —Labor— to the heroic, or to just “valuable”, is out of line and must be dealt with.