Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Memory: Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire

Today is Thursday, 25 March 2010.

On this date in 1911 occurred the fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company sweatshop in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The owners had locked the doors to the stairs, the better to control their female employees, and 146 died, since the fire department had no ladders which would reach to the ninth and tenth floors. (The male owners fled, and lived.) This tragedy was a significant contributor to laws and regulations enforcing workplace safety.

Each year on this date, unionists gather to honour the victims, and, at the exact moment the fire broke out, a fire truck ladder is raised, and stopped just short of the ninth floor. I can’t begin to describe how moving it is to participate in this ceremony.

The Musuem of the Bourgois memorializes and honours all victims of workplace oppression.

An effort is underway to harass and drive from business the operators (mostly of Hispanic descent) of trailer-based taco stands in Tulsa, using senseless fees. Jim Mautino, well-known reactionary city council member, said yesterday: "This is Third World stuff. When people come here we assimilate them (new residents of the country) into our lifestyle and our politics; it's not the other way around. And it seems to me like what's happening is we're being assimilated."

Mr. Mautino seems to believe that, since the first European invaders squatted at Jamestown in 1607, all foodstuffs were sold from permanent buildings, thus seriously calling into question his competency to vote, let alone hold political office.

I’m reminded of a gentleman of Hispanic descent I would see in downtown Tulsa in the late 1950s, selling tamales from a pushcart. Only years later did I learn that he’d been driven from business by a racist whispering campaign claiming he employed meat from stray cats. The gentleman was notable for a missing leg, lost while fighting for America in World War Two.

State Senator Randy Brogdon, running for the Republican nomination for governor, said, in relation to mandates in the landmark healthcare legislation: “Are we going to have to purchase fried chicken for dinner tomorrow?” (And what about watermelon? Don’t forget the watermelon!)

Brogdon is a nationally-accredited speaker for the John Birch Society, the anti-Semitic cult which once famously denounced Dwight Eisenhower as a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”.

Speaking of randy, there’s Oklahoma’s sex-crazed junior senator, Republican Tom Coburn, an obstetrician. While running for office in 2004, Coburn claimed that, in public schools in southeastern Oklahoma, female students were allowed to go to the bathrooms only one at a time, in an attempt to stamp out “rampant lesbianism”. Anyone who knows southeastern Oklahoma, the prototypical “Buckle on the Bible Belt”, fears for Coburn’s sanity.

Once elected, Coburn proclaimed that homosexuality was a greater threat to America than terrorism.

Coburn’s new crusade is to enshrine in law a provision prohibiting use of taxpayer funds to purchase Viagra, etc. for registered sex offenders.

Bela Bartok, the great Hungarian composer, was born on this date in 1881.

Flannery O’Connor, great American writer, was born on this date in 1925.

On this date in 1931, the “Scottsboro Boys”, four young Black males, were arrested and falsely accused of rape in Alabama.

Anita Bryant, mediocre American singer, who attempted to re-start her career in the 1970s through homophobic ranting, and instead lost her orange juice endorsement position, was born on this date in 1940.

On this date in 1948, the first successful tornado forecast predicted that a twister would strike Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

On this date in 1965, civil rights activists completed a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

It’s Independence Day in Greece, marking the beginning of the revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Until 1752, this was New Year’s Day in the United Kingdom.


Post a Comment

<< Home