Few are alive who remember the dust bowl days in Oklahoma, but between the drought and the depression, it was a miserable time to live here - well anywhere. It seems some of the lessons learned then have been forgotten.
Dirt covered everything, crops failed, people couldn’t breathe, there was no money and businesses closed. Some walked or the lucky ones loaded a few belongings onto a car to drive to, “the land of milk and honey.” Except California had thousands of people a day, who had lost everything and were desperate to feed their children, coming to look for work, with most ending up in migrant camps instead.
There was rhetoric back then to organize the migrant workers against the big farm owners who cut wages and made the workers buy from the company store to keep them from getting ahead, and make them dependent on the meager wages. When the government succumbed to pressure from the big money farm owners to stop aid to the cotton pickers, for example, so they were forced to pick, finally the workers organized by people sometimes called Communist, so they didn’t starve to death. Many did starve, or die from disease and exposure from living in tents year round.
Human rights, treating workers with respect and regular hours and set pay, and child labor laws came because a few brave men and women stood up for what was right, not just what was easy.
“The man is keeping us down! He only cares about money, not people! The wealthy should not look down on people willing to work hard! The government is trying to control us!” are just some of the cries of the Okies and other migrants during the depression.
And the exact same words were shouted during the riots of the 1960s. Exact same words.
In the 30s people were bedraggled and hopeless due to poverty. They had nothing left to lose. In the 1960s people wanting to be separate from those wearing black suits and ties every day, wore their hair long, unkempt clothes and angry faces to shout at the government, then called, “the establishment” and “the man” to end the Vietnam War, and deal with other human rights issues. Black Power raised its fist and the Black Panthers rioted. Women’s liberation members burned their bras and demanded the glass ceiling be acknowledged. It was decades before it was broken in places and women earned the same pay for the same job as men, but sometimes women are still victimized today.
The hippies and love children had two different ways to approach the desire for peace, and “make love, not war” was represented by a cartoon with a soldier holding a rifle with a daisy in the top of it like a vase. Some protested for peace, other’s joined the military to maintain peace in the world.
Those hard times did not last for ever but the effects of that experience did. Many grandmothers kept a supply of most things, because it had only been a few decades since they’d survived that time of loss and lack. “I might need that” was their reason for organizing everything into a place. Men gathered tools and supplies that had been hard to get in their shops. Hoarding happened.
That was their security. But many of those generations never found a voice, never were empowered, they just survived as best they could.
Today there are many uninformed, uneducated and unhappy people who never had a voice, and never imagined they would no longer be invisible, until a man who was an unlikely candidate for president, did see them. He was elected, in part, because of giving them a voice. He became their hero and their voice. Everyone deserves a voice. What they do with it is another story.
This former president also represents big business and billionaires, some who seek to control the destiny of others, so it’s a strange bedfellow he has made for the down and out who at last feel heard, when they say, “The man is keeping us down! He only cares about money, not people! The wealthy should not look down on people willing to work hard! The government is trying to control us!”