This is today's freebie, prompted by paka and janetmiles. You can read about the Columbine Mine Massacre, the Siege of Blair Mountain and recent attacks on the historic battleground, and Occupy Oakland. The first italicized quote comes from the Bill of Rights, which is more typically treated as a list of temporary privileges.
I picked this as the free poem for the day because I got involved in my first strike as a wee little moppet. My parents were striking to make the public school system cough up enough money for us to be able to eat and keep the lights on. What a radical notion. I still believe that if you're working full-time and have not got enough to live on, somebody is cheating you of your fair pay. Then as I got older, I learned more about the history of labor rights and how many people have fought and died for things like fair pay and safe working conditions. Since I'm a wordsmith, I do my part by passing along the bits of history that other people would desperately like to obliterate.
The Columbine Mine in Colorado
was the keystone of a strike by coal miners
sparked by explosions and exploitations.
The mine owners who worked in the clear air
were unmoved by demands for safe working conditions.
The militiamen and police opened fire on the miners,
not caring that there were also women and children in town.
In West Virginia's richest coal field lay the town of Matewan,
where a strike built into small skirmishes
that turned into a minor war,
complete with air raids and bombs,
broken only when the federal government
sent military support for the mine owners.
Now the coal companies want to strip-mine the old battleground,
erasing a piece of labor history, of American history.
Would they dig up Valley Forge or level Bunker Hill?
The Siege of Blair Mountain was no less a fight for freedom.
Occupy Oakland arose as a general strike
of the 99% against the 1%.
Once again, guns and armor and gas
came to tear apart what the workers had put together,
because those in power cannot permit
the working class to protest.
So much for the ideal of
the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Yet they forget, as tyrants and despots always do,
that history is written as much in blood as in ink.
From the blue flame of gaslight and the black cloud of coal dust
came an industry that still lives today, strange giant
built from the bones of mountains and ancient sunlight.
Those who gave their lives for civilization are not silent;
they whisper still to their descendants when times grow hard.
Remember that today's workers came from yesterday's rebels.
It is said that history repeats itself,
and this is what it says to the overlords:
Speak all the lies you like,
but the very air in your lungs
was bought with the blood of ghosts
and they own a piece of it still.
The bones and the mountains know the truth,
and it will seep through your dreams like oil
until you run screaming into the sun.