Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Don’t Just Call Out: Organize!

No we don't fit in with that white collar crowd
We're a little too rowdy and a little too loud
There's no place that I'd rather be than right here
With my red-necks white socks and blue ribbon beer

-Johnny Russell
No photo description available.The White Working Class is not some single thing seething with macho resentment, racism, and contempt for expertise, but a contradictory conglomeration of mostly decent, hardworking people, exploited, sneered at, and abandoned by a liberal elite, who are sometimes mischaracterized as left. I say this because I am of the white working class and of the left, having humped the line for 31 backbreaking years alongside workers—both white and of color—at Chrysler’s Newark Assembly Plant in Delaware. In the early ‘80s, they voted for me, a professed socialist, to serve them in the Plant Shop Committee for three years. They’d seen the newsletters I’d distributed with my comrades at the plant gates opposing speedup, pushing for safety, and urging affirmative action in our pale and male skilled trades. Later, in the late ‘90s, they voted nearly unanimously at our UAW local 1183 meeting to support my work chairing state-wide efforts to stop denying former felons their right to vote, a disenfranchisement targeting citizens of color. One of my proudest possessions is hanging in my office: a plaque my union gave me recognizing my work.
Like me, a Texas descendant, many of these folks are of southern heritage. One of my shop-mates who wore the Stars and Bars on his back once decided it would be fun to harass me as a “Polack” until I thought we would come to blows. I knew I would come out the worse, but it was a matter of honor, so I decided on a day of reckoning and confronted him, gently. He got it, saying he believed in treating everybody with respect. And then we were friends. He taught me a lesson about honor, himself, when he declared once and for all that he was through drinking after a bad car crash, and he was true to his word, boasting, “I don’t have to go to any of those meetings; I just said it and it was done.”
Some, I am sure, would keep those Confederate statues. I have seen the ones in Montgomery, Alabama in front of the Statehouse—Jefferson Davis and the rest. I have also seen the suspended pillars of weathering steel at the nearby National Memorial for Peace and Justice, each one signifying an American county, including New Castle, where human beings like our shop mates of color and some whites were lynched by the thousands. I am sure my white sisters and brothers would weep as I did as they read the names of the dead embossed on those rust-hued reminders.
Whites, Blacks, Latinx, male, female, gay, straight and trans worked and struggled side-by-side in the United Automobile Workers (UAW) for economic security and common dignity, just like the GM workers on strike are doing now. They did not always abandon their prejudices, but they demonstrated solidarity in ways the “woke” generation could learn from.
Now, I teach college English and have my students write essays from the angle of vision of different roles during the Freedom Rides, the 1960 struggle to integrate interstate bus transportation in the South. One role the class considers is the fictional Gavin Stevens, William Faulkner’s white Mississippi lawyer, who, in Intruder in the Dust, holds off a lynch mob with a shotgun until his African American client is cleared of murder. Stevens imagines lecturing a northerner who wants to civilize the red neck crowd. Says he (with punctuation added for clarity), “’Come down here and look at us before you make up your mind,’ and you reply, ‘No thanks, the smell is bad enough from here,’ and we say, ‘Surely you will at least look at the dog you plan to housebreak.’”
Calling out from a distance may feel like a blow against oppression, but winning someone over to a common struggle is what makes history.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Chelsea and Julian: When Poetry Crosses with Coverup

One of the yet unpublished poems from my novel in verse Jacobo the Turko is called “Wikileaks: JTF-GTMO Detainee Assessment.” It comes early in my story, and it gives me a chance to use the form of a Gitmo detainee assessment to outline the course of Jacobo’s life as well as the absurd fabrication by which his tormentors justify his imprisonment. I can thank Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange for my material. Anyone who peruses the Guantanamo Files will soon see how the truth is more absurd than my somewhat absurdist fable of an Ecuadorian indigenous who is mistaken for a Middle East terrorist. The pursuit of the files’ leakers reveals the lengths the intelligence community will go to to equate anyone who exposes them with the accused terrorists whose human rights they have trampled. Sometimes I wonder if fear of government persecution has deterred publishers from publishing my book. Or maybe it stinks, although half the poems in the book have been published by over a dozen national and international journals and anthologies, just not the prestigious lit rags.
The greatest crime of Chelsea Manning was to reveal to Julian Assange and thence to the world the murderous nature of the U.S. military’s campaign in Iraq (see “Collateral Murder”), the bogus nature of U.S. claims against the vast majority of prisoners at Guantánamo, and the towering arrogance at the U.S. State Department, especially when conflating our national interests with empire. Julian has just been arrested at London's Ecuadorian Embassy, and Chelsea has been returned to prison, where she is tortured with solitary confinement, on the yet to be proved pretext that she and Julian went a step beyond downloading secrets to hacking the password of a secure military server. This last charge, partially spelled out in a March 6, 2018 sealed indictment, gives great comfort to the war criminals who have murdered, tortured, and set the world on fire and wish to reverse the direction of opprobrium back to the smarmy Assange, as well as to Manning (and perhaps to President Obama, who pardoned Manning). It also gives some relief to the New York Times, who published the same documents as did Assange, and lets the mainstream media return to making Assange the scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. It also gives some distress to those of us who see the arrests of Manning and Assange as an attack on freedom of information and the press and a warning to all who challenge imperialist policy and state-sanctioned mayhem.
I invite you to peruse Andy Worthington’s 2017 characterization of what the Guantanamo Files reveal. The cult of secrecy, so often defended with cant about methods and means, is there exposed as a cover for incompetence and crime.
We who have been around a while have seen this before. For decades, everyone to the left of Richard Nixon was tarred as an ally or dupe of Russia. Communists were branded as traitors, not dissidents, and anyone whose opinions could be tied to the soviets, from the liberal Helen Gahagen Douglas to the red Dalton Trumbo, was smeared, blacklisted, or jailed.
Make no mistake, Russia today is ruled by a criminal clique of former apparatchiks who seized the property of the Russian people after the apparatchiks had run the socialist system into the ground. However, attempts to paint Trump or Assange as Russian assets is an opportunistic case of historical acid reflux disease. I remember how Khrushchev and his gang got rid of Stalin’s vile henchman Lavrentiy Beria without accusing themselves: they charged him with being a British spy. Similarly, American media accuses Trump, without admitting their own predilection for talking heads trumpery and establishment talking points over substantive news. One can hardly blame Americans for seeking news from alternative sources.
For example, there’s RT America, funded by the Russian Government. While often inserting Russian propaganda, it also broadcasts several distinguished Americans such as the commentators Chris Hedges and Larry King and the comic Lee Camp. Of course, Liz Wahl famously broke with RT when RT blipped out her question to Ron Paul about the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. On the other hand, RT’s Breaking the Set host Abby Martin condemned the Ukrainian invasion on-air, but stated RT backed her. You can accuse those remaining of being opportunistic or can doubt their ethos, but that’s too easy a way to dismiss their views. Personally, I prefer Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan González. At least there you may learn that if Trump pulls out of the START treaty with Russia, it will be the first time since 1972 that nuclear weapons are totally unregulated. Slim Pickens rides again!
If we let our dismay over our national disaster get highjacked by corporate media’s reductionism we may soon find ourselves swept up in the narrative of those, liberal to conservative, who backed the Iraqi war crimes Wikileaks exposed.
We love Chelsea Manning. Will we let her be tortured and destroyed? We hate Julian Assange. Is that a sufficient reason to accept DOJ claims about an incomplete password Assange might have sussed? Remember that the greater crime, the crime of the century, is the invasion of Iraq and the dismantling of human rights by the nation that proselytized human rights. Will we, poets or politicos, collude in the coverup?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Eulogy for Vic Sadot
Presented at his Celebration of Life
Ashland Nature Center
Hockessin, Delaware
January 13, 2019
by Phillip Bannowsky
Vic Sadot
July 21, 1947-October 6, 2018

Vic Sadot’s musical career is charted beautifully by his brother Rob in his remarks and obituary, from Vic’s founding of the Americana and folk-rock Crazy Planet Band to its re-incarnation as the Cajun-Zydeco Planete Folle, and we learn how Vic so often performed at events in the struggle for peace and social justice. I’d like to fill in a little with what I know about the political activism integral to his musical career. When I’m done, we’d like anyone else who has something to share about any aspect or incident in Vic’s life to come forward.
Victor Rene Sadot. “Vic,” was a musician, writer, publisher, social worker, disc-jockey, autoworker, and above all a revolutionary patriot. A son of an autoworker who had come to America after his French home had been force to quarter Nazi soldiers, Vic shared his father’s love for his adopted home, in spite of the economic insecurities of working class life. It is rumored (and now verified by his brother Rob) that he even led the Young Republicans at the University of Delaware. However, like so many of us from of that era, he was badly disillusioned as the truth about America’s aggression in Viet Nam came to light and as peace and black liberation struggles met with repression, but he was inspired by the protest, folk, and rock music of the era and by the first principles of America’s founding mothers and fathers. A 1968 article in The Review, official student newspaper at the university, lists Vic Sadot as a speaker at a rally opposing the firing of Professors Rob Bresler and Al Myers. A year later, Vic was named “Outstanding Senior” at a Student Government Association banquet where then Governor Russell Peterson castigated students who disrupted classes. Inside scoop: Peterson’s son was a conscientious objector and member of Students for a Democratic Society.
I remember really getting to know Vic in Washington DC at a peace demonstration in the early seventies. Around that time Vic and his brothers Joe and Rob had been arrested at the Fort Belvoir Army base in Virginia for leafleting the troops during an Armed Forces “Open to the Public Day.” He was the public, an American citizen, and whether they liked it or not he was going to act in the spirit of the nation’s founders. Joe, by the way, used to publish a satirical newsletter called The Crazy Planet, hence the name of Vic’s band.
Back to what the founders had to say, their words inspired Vic to become an organizer for the Delaware People’s Bicentennial Commission, a group founded by Jeremy Rifkin that crashed various official parties put on in 1975 and 1976 and applied what founding patriots like Thomas Paine said about King George to the corporate kings who had taken over. Vic recruited me and about a dozen others to shake thinks up in the Company State. Once, the city of Newark held a public bicentennial-slash-renaissance fair celebration, and of course Vic and the rest of us showed up to exercise our free-speech rights, but they tried to kick us out, trying to claim it was actually private. The brouhaha revealed that one of the City Council members had a financial interest in the event, even though she hoped that news would not be made public, but that’s your corporate Queens for you. We had a lot of fun in PBC, a somewhat gonzo operation in Delaware, where Vic set the tone.
Ovelapping somewhat with these activities, Vic began working for Chrysler in Newark and was one of the founding members of what we called the Progressive Movement, a rank-and-file faction of the United Automobile Workers Local 1183 that agitated for civil rights, women’s rights, safety, union democracy, and a return to the union’s first principles.  In fact, Vic inspired one of our first campaigns, the distribution of Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais. Vic wrote a review in the Progressive Movement’s newsletter, and we managed to sell maybe a dozen copies. These stories of radical agitators who built the labor movement had a positive influence on the political environment at Newark Assembly where several of us eventually won union office, although after Vic left.
One day while we were passing out our newsletter at the front gate, a couple of guys from the leading faction showed up, clearly looking for trouble, but we can’t completely blame them for what happened. We had been on a short strike a couple weeks before and Lyndon Larouche’s phony U.S. labor party showed up claiming that the strike was a plot by the C.I.A., that they were members of the University’s SDS chapterthey were not—that they had many of their members in the plantthey did notand they were taking over. Long story short, these two union guys tried to tear the flyers out of Vic’s hands and throw him over the rail, where most certainly he would have broken some bones. Vic pulled away, fortunately, and started explaining to the guy rationally how we were union brothers simply expressing our opinions blah blah, but these guys had got themselves good and drunk to elevate their courage and suppress their rational thinking. In 1979, Vic expanded into publishing. Carrying on the tradition begun by the late 60s Heterodoxical Voice and the early 70s Purgatory Swamp Press, in 1979 Vic founded the Delaware Free Press, changed to Delaware Alternative Press after the first issue was hit with a cease and desist. Somebody had already trademarked the name.
Soon after that, Vic joined the editorial board for the historic BroadsideSing Out Magazine, the famous mimeographed music mag from New York that printed words and music by topical singers from Woody Guthrie to Steve Forbert to Phil Ochs. In 1982, Vic republished in Broadside an article he wrote for the Delaware Alternative Press called “Phil Ochs’ FBI File.”
Vic was the ideal musicologist to host the “Freewheeling Roots Show” on the University of Delaware’s radio station in the early nineties. He brought the spirit of Phil Ochs to Delaware’s airwaves, the spirit of “The Broadside Balladeer,” to quote the title of Vic’s tribute song to Phil.
Over the years Vic contributed his music, analysis, and activism to numerous environmental and social justice issues, from the campaign to “Save White Clay CreekDon’t Dam it” to the struggle against the suppression of Dupont: Behinnd the Nylon Curtain, by Gerald Colby Zilg, to intervening to help fellow workers at the Newark Food Coop, to the struggle for Democracy and Independence in Haiti, to Save the Whales and to the dangers of Fukushima.
Vic saw countless deceptions and outrages emanating from the national security state that ruled the country he loved, from the assassination of JFK to Gulf of Tonkin incident to the Saddam’s missing weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, Vic took on the mantle of “the Truth Troubadour” on behalf of the 9-11 truth movement, which holds that the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was a false flag operation. He composed and recorded dozens of songs on the topic such as “The Ballad of Pat Tillman,” “Cheney’s in the Bunker,” and “Trouble in the Rubble.” These songs can all be found under Vic Sadot on YouTube.
We lost touch somewhat after he moved to California in 2008, but his name was always coming up in reports from the barricades. Vic had always kept up the struggle, even when he was struggling with his own troubles. Who knew he’d find peace in Berzerkely?
I recently learned that Vic had joined the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, where he of course became chair of their social justice committee. I had always known him as a non-believer in religious mythology. We had been business partners painting houses in one period and roommates in another, and we had many discussions about science, politics, and free-thinking. Still, I think how Vic felt can be described in the words he applied to his brother Joe Sadot, who died in 1978 at the age of 26. In Vic’s introduction to Green Leaves, the collected literary and sketch work of Joe’s, Vic wrote:  “He rejected supernatural spiritualism, but he embraced the natural spiritualism of awe and reverence for the mysteries of life and the intimacies of love and comradery.”
Before I call on friends and family to share their memories, I’d like us all to remember Vic and those of his family who have passed on in the tradition practiced by South American revolutionaries who would call roll for their fallen comrades. After each name, all assembled would call out “presente,” meaning the fallen are still present in their works and in our hearts. Let’s try it first with Phil Ochs. I say his name and you say “Presente! loud.”
Phil Ochs: Presente!
We’ll begin with Vic’s father, then his mother, his brother, and himself.
Jean Sadot: Presente!
Eleanor Sadot: Presente!
Joe Sadot: Presente!
Vic Sadot: Presente!