I was doing some reading for work the other day, and saw an original handbill for the 1963 March on Washington event. And it had some details in it that sparked my curiosity, so I went googling for a higher resolution (i.e. more readable) version of the document, and found this website with a longer and more detailed version, described as the event’s program.
First, I had no idea it was originally called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” … Jobs and Freedom? Jobs? I had no idea at all that jobs were even part of the March on Washington? I mean, I was never a huge fan of American history class as a youngster, so I can’t completely blame the school system, but I think I would have remembered something that significantly different than all the focus on the “I have a Dream” part of the March? When do you think the “Jobs” part of the March disappeared from the discussion?
Anyway, there’s a “WHAT WE DEMAND” section, with a numbered list of “DEMANDS”. And I was struck by #7 in the list: “A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – Negro and white – on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.”
Wow. Lets set aside for a second, the whole concept of people wanting their government to train all of it’s workers, (What a crazy concept huh? We’ve got private trade schools and private colleges to fund with our private money for that! Why would we expect our government to fund that for us? That would be communism to make job training publicly paid, you pinko fascist socialist commi! :-) but look at how it’s phrased, right at the beginning: “A massive federal program”! Right there in black-and-white! Can you imagine any public officials rallying around demands phrased like that now-a-days?
More importantly, I often wonder how far to the Right this country has moved in the last 50-60 years… and then I see something like this and it comes into clear contrast for me. I’m not saying that all of our country’s problems should be solved with “massive federal program”s, but it’s such a contrast to today’s environment of slash-and-burn everything but “3rd rail” issues… and even those “you won’t get re-elected” issues are becoming vulnerable to attack because of their “socialistic” implications. Just look at the Presidents bi-partisan debt panel. (nothing in that name about the fact that it was stacked with pro-big-business types… not a labor representative or academic-type looking out for small business or social concerns in the house) They’ve come back recommending, among other things, raising the retirement age and having “less generous” annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security! My grandmother, were she still with us, would be quite unhappy with these prospects, that’s for sure… and she was no socialist.
It just makes me sad that so many people believe things that are, and vote directly, against their own interests. Government isn’t good for everything, but it sure works in that gap between individual self-interest and Corporate self-interest. People need to remember that they are not indistinguishable from Corporate interest. It’s good to have a healthy economy, but it’s also good to have a reasonable level of protection as individuals, against being trampled by Corporate interests. We need to remember that we, as American citizens, can ask for our government to do a wee bit more for us than just “getting out of the way” of Corporations and Industry. We as Americans, deserve more than being left to fall with nothing to catch us but a safety net shredded by Corporate interests to make more and more, by giving out less and less. I would have hoped we’d be past begging simply for Jobs and Freedom over 45 years later, but I guess that was just a dream after all.