I am trying to understand today’s hate and vitriol and I am having a great deal of difficulty. If I labeled the cause as “fear,” I probably oversimplify. Some random thoughts as I go through this exercise.

A hundred years ago America was still recovering from our civil war (we still are) as well as the Spanish-American War.   Industrialization was roaring. The workforce was changing and America was becoming much less agrarian and more industrial…and some would say that there was an imbalance. My dad and I would go round and round about Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” an early 20th century expose of the meat packing industry and a catalyst for unionization for the sake of safety, both food and personal safety. My experience growing up was in the meatpacking industry.

In the 1960s, my dad would say that the unions were rapidly crafting their own doom by increasing wages and benefits without increasing productivity and quality. In our very small midwestern home town when the minimum wage was $1 an hour, Armour & Co meatpacking paid $3.49/hr for unskilled labor. Armour was the largest employer in town taking that honor from the railroad sometime in the early 1960s. Armour was a large complex for our town, at one time processing cattle, sheep, and hogs. It was six stories high, with dozens & dozens of acres, stockyards, huge smokestacks, railroad spurs, 600 employees…quite a place. Then poof. Armour & Co was gone. A victim of labor strikes in other plants.

Nationwide, most meatpackers couldn’t afford the high wages…because, well, no one wanted to pay huge $$ for meat at the grocery store.  And so the unions began to lose their hold on the industry and wages went down even while the demand for meat increased. The existing national meatpacker workforce melted away, unwilling to take on the ever increasing and crushing workload for fewer dollars. Then migrant workers arrived. My impression is that now the workforce in larger meatpacking plants comes mostly from south of the US border. Those workers are, in theory, “legal” since the employers have to certify their legality. I’m guessing many are not. I’m also guessing that they exist in an economic and social infrastructure that is culture based and not necessarily legal but absolutely necessary for them to survive.

Hypothetically, if all the migrant workers leave America’s meatpacking industry, will “legal” Americans take their place for $10-15/hr? I don’t know. If the wages were increased to “union scale,” then in theory, the cost of meat and other stuff at the grocery store would increase, perhaps a great deal. I don’t know.

I guess that’s my bottom line, so far. I don’t know. My inclination is that this is all about race. I don’t think it’s about health care, the press, the party, the whatever…I think it’s all about race. But, I don’t know for sure.

Bull Run Battlefield Cannon

Bull Run Battlefield Cannon

 

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I did a walkabout at the National Cathedral yesterday. I found it sort of an other worldly experience as I went through the church with dozens of other photographers who were setting up tripods, crawling into places they weren’t supposed to go, and looking for that “different” shot that no one else has ever gotten. I was okay with just staying on the beaten path, watching them, and looking for something to notice. I admit that I wasn’t too inspired and that despite the stained glass, towering spires, and beautiful architecture. Bah! Humbug!

National Cathedral

National Cathedral – this shot reminds me of Hogwarts. At least I think so, I’ve never actually been to Hogwarts.

 

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I would love to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand and stay that way while waiting for things to get better. Or get on an airplane and fly away and come back when all is well. But none of that’s going to happen so I will stay here and work at changing things, one little bit at a time.

But, oh…the flying away part has a great attraction to me and not just because I was a military pilot. Does anyone remember when commercial flying was fun? The nervous excitement and happiness you always encountered in the airport, the wonder of quickly moving to another part of the world for adventure, family, and, well the…fantasy of it all. And the airline people seemed to be a fun part of the adventure; they wanted your trip to be successful, they seemed to lean forward with hospitality. But most of those days were back in the time of “regulation” by the government, pre-1978. Things began to change then and within 15 years or so we had smaller seats, extra charges, jammed airplanes, only a handful of mega-carriers, abysmal customer service, and more of a manufacturing style industry than a transportation service for real people. Some say that deregulation got us cheaper airfares. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe not.

Reagan National Airport

Reagan National AirportOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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I did a walkabout today to Union Market in D.C. The highpoint of the adventure was meeting an artist “in residence” at the West Elm pop-up just a half block from the market. She makes beautiful and intricate pieces of art with small copper tubes and sometimes other objects; her art is a fusion of structural and elemental strength that she combines with delicate and vulnerable components…like seedlings. I scooped up her card so I could give her a shout out on this site and then I promptly lost it, probably in the very strong wind. Sad face. If you read this, Kaitlyn (my memory is as faulty as my ability to keep track of biz cards so if I’ve gotten the name wrong…second sad face) put a comment in and I will link to your site.

We were booted from the actual Union Market because they had a misplaced, nay wrong, legal interpretation of when photos can be taken. Now admittedly, I was in a photography class of several folks that would have been circling the market like vultures (or papparazzi) looking for the perfect shot. However, people who are in a public place, even though it might be privately owned, have no reasonable expectation of privacy and so me taking pictures…legally it’s okay. But the security guard and the “manager” made it clear that artists and other denizens of the marketplace may not want their pictures taken. Wow. The place must be presidential. Oops. Capital P on presidential lest I get hate tweets from the POTUS.

I did take shots in the market itself and in the blocks around the market. Things have changed a lot here. I used to drive through this neighborhood when I worked in Maryland. I remember the burned out cars and the sounds of gunshots. It’s gentrified now. Hmmmm.

Artist

Artist

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Yesterday, when the outside air temperature was 25F, I went to the Longwood Gardens at 9:00 a.m. when they opened their doors.  I’d never been before and was in a Barbara Southworth workshop. It was really quite amazing. Actually, quite a lot more than quite…perhaps absolutely. The grounds went on and on but I was there for the conservatory which was like a “Huge” indoor park. The “conservatory” is large, large like a football field. Orchids, and daisies and…well, lots. And then it was noon and the people came. Fascinating place.

Orchid at Longwood

Orchid at Longwood

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