When working class Mainers encounter peace demonstrations, hostility often gets expressed in the form of shouts to "Get a job!" Yesterday at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard we heard a lot of that. Being unemployed is just about the worst fate some who are employed building destroyers for the U.S. Navy can think of. Besides, if we're standing around on the pavement at noon on Saturday speaking what's in our hearts we must be in need of something better to do -- right?
"I love war" was another thing we heard amid the jeers and catcalls that greeted one of our speakers in particular. Hee Eun "Silver" Park seemed to anger the BIW workers, or perhaps it was the banner in Korean that her husband, Paco Michelson, held behind her as she spoke. Translated it says NO NAVAL BASE but to many of the BIW men changing shifts at noon it was Chinese, and they didn't like it.
Silver spoke movingly in English saying that the people of Jeju whose coral reefs have been trashed to make a deep water port for U.S. destroyers in South Korea don't hate the workers who make the ships, and don't consider them enemies.
The Chorus of the Unemployed song from my play Canteen Annie at the Bomb Factory expressed what many BIW workers have told protesters there over the years: we need our jobs, but we would love to build windmills or trains instead of weapons of mass destruction. BIW workers are like Brecht's Mother Courage, the basis for the character, Annie, making a living off the war machine out of necessity. Do they, like Annie, try unsuccessfully to save their children from recruiters? Do they go on working for General Dynamics because it's the largest single employer in Maine?
We live in a state where full-time, full benefits jobs are as scarce as daffodils on the first day of spring. Also, some workers shared with us that many have had their hours cut lately and are no longer full-time. So they must feel scared about the prospect of being unable to pay their mortgages and keep food on the table at home.
Annie's dreadful bargain doesn't save her children in the end. Neither will the BIW shipyard workers you can hear shouting at Paco in the video be able to save their children from the effects of a fully militarized economy. Younger generations will also experience coastal flooding and other effects of environmental degradation caused by the Pentagon's massive carbon footprint.
Children everywhere are teetering on the brink of inheriting a planet that won't support life.
I'll be sending a letter to Maine's congressional delegation signed by many in Bath yesterday. It calls for a budget that serves people's needs over those of the Pentagon's many wealthy contractors. It reminds them that Congress is supposed to represent the people, not General Dynamics.