I decided to have lunch the other day, in one of my favorite working-class bars. I sat at the circular bar in the dimly lit room. On the other side of the bar sat four rather inebriated men. They were a dozen seats away from me and talking loudly. From their conversations I noted they were retired working-class men. Having worked in a steel plant for 28 years, I recognized much of their frustrations with living in a system that doesn’t listen to their views. I decided to just sit and listen to their conversation.
A man wearing a Steelers ball cap said, “Screw that Meryl Streep, no one wants to hear her opinion.” A man in a plaid flannel shirt added, “It wasn’t even her opinion, she read it off a cue card. Some Hollywood liberal producer probably wrote it.” Steelers ball cap shot back, “Why is her opinion any more important than mine?” I concluded that maybe they are right and their opinion should be heard. I took out the pen; I always have in my shirt pocket and took notes on a few napkins. I decided I would do a blog about the thoughts of my fellow workers. This whole conversation about Meryl Streep started because the TV in the corner of the bar had on the news. The newsman mentioned her criticism of Trump at the Global Awards.
A third man had both his hands so tightly wrapped around his bottle of Yuengling I thought it was a life raft. I note that Yuengling broke its Teamster Union, so I wonder why a working-class bar is serving such a beer. Yuengling drinker said, “Trump needs to kick Streep’s behind like he did that liberal judge bitch. He canned her ass for trying to override his orders. God dammit Trump’s right we need to send these “Ahabs” back to their own countries. I’m tired of foreigners from wherever arriving and not being vetted. The man is just trying to keep our asses safe.” All four heads nod in agreement.” They all then stated how glad they were that they had voted for Trump.
The judge fired was actually, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She had refused to defend his executive order imposing a temporary ban on refugees and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries. The thoughts by many that immigrants arrive without spending a long time being vetted just isn’t true. Immigration experts said the process for refugee visas typically takes between 18 months and three years, during which applicants undergo screenings by counter terrorism agents, medical exams and other checks.
An elderly man and woman arrived and sat next to the four retired Trump voters. The woman knew the men and offered to buy them beers. Three accepted but flannel shirt said, “I have to go soon I’ve been sitting here drinking since, 11:00 AM.” As he stumbled out I noted it was now 1:45 PM. I glanced over at the TV across the room for vital info. That is because that is a video of the parking lot, and I was hoping he was not parked near me. Once the danger in the parking lot was solved, I picked up a new conversation, joined by the two newcomers.
They were now focused on local issues. They were attacking the Youngstown School Board for having too many “coloreds on it.” They were convinced the new white guy CEO was going to straighten everything out. They like the new school CEO Krish Mohip because he talks tough and acts as dictatorial as Trump. I will admit I think some of the school board members need to go as they have been there too long. Next the bar gang blasted a “colored” man who was talking about running for mayor of Youngstown. They said that the current white mayor needs to stay until they drag him out. They love Mayor John McNally, despite him being indicted in May 2014 on charges including racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and perjury.
The next conversation turned to how unions were obsolete. I wondered how many of this crew was able to retire because they were in a union or benefitted by the struggles of the union movement. How many of them had pensions and healthcare because of a union. Yuengling drinker said, “The only strong union left is those UAW unions in Michigan and elsewhere. At those UAW plants the boss has to ask the workers if he can go to the bathroom.” I laugh as the UAW has so little power that they voted in a second tier that pays new workers half of what the older workers make. I think unions are actually needed now as much as they have ever been. When I hear people talking about how strong unions are I find myself wishing they had just 5% of the power that union-bashers think they have.
I reflected on guys I worked with in the mill and realized things haven’t changed much. I worked with racists, homophobes, misogynists, Christian hypocrites, Reagan Democrats, NRA pawns and in general guys who voted against their own self interests. It has now been 18 years since my plant closed. I realized the working-class are still voting against their own interests. The only thing that has changed is that the Reagan Democrats are now Trump Democrats and watching way more FOX News. I have long said that the biggest enemy of the working-class is the working-class. The working-class will continue to be downtrodden, as long as they sit in bars bashing people and organizations that benefit them and raising glasses of union-busting beer and toasting the Reagans and Trumps who seek their demise.
Gil Scott Heron: “Message to Messengers”
“We are our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.” ~ Tom Robbins