Friday, August 23, 2019

Hustling Himself Out of Baseball—Pete Rose

Charley Hustle making the wrong kind of headlines.
Thirty years ago on August 24, 1989 Pete Rose aka Charlie Hustle was banned from baseball for life for gambling on Cincinnati Reds games when he was manager by an outraged Commissioner of Baseball Bart Giamatti.
Considered a shoe-in for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, Rose probably doomed his chances for ever being included by for years steadfastly denying gambling on baseball despite mounting evidence, before sheepishly admitting guilt in his autobiography My Prison Without Bars.    
Rose's rookie card still a hot commodity for collectors in mint condition.
Rose was a home town product of Cincinnati, born to working class parents in 1941.  The switch hitting right hander’s dream came true when he was called to the Big Show in 1963. In his stellar 23 year career as a player, most of the time with the Reds, Rose hit for a .303 batting average, tallied 4,256 hits including 160 home runs and drove in a total of 1,394 runs.  He was famously aggressive on the base paths despite not being a fast runner and perfected a dangerous head-first slide.  
Among his many honors were Rookie of the Year in the National League in 1963, two Gold Gloves for his sparkling defensive play, three batting titles, 17 All Star Game appearances, and three World Championships with Cincinnati’s legendary Big Red Machine.  After playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos from 1979 to ’84, controversial Reds owner Marge Schott brought Rose back as a player-manager to finish the ’84 season.  

Rose's signature head-first dive into base made him one of the most exciting players in baseball.
He played two more years in the combined role before retiring to concentrate on his bench duties.  He was undoubtedly the most popular player in Reds history and one of the most admired in baseball.  
But he was an inveterate gambler.  He claimed his regular bets with a major bookie did not include baseball, then after proof surfaced, that he did not bet on games he was part of.  When that claim, too, was disproven, he could only say that he bet for his team, not against it. 

Rose as Reds manager.
But gambling is the big no-no in Major League Base which was nearly killed by gambling scandals in the 19th Century and again by the Black Sox scandal of 1919.  Baseball ignored a lot of misbehavior, including the nearly murderous attacks of Ty Cobb on fans, regular alcohol abuse by stars like Babe Ruth, and numerous instances of sexual peccadilloes.  It would not, however, forgive gambling.  
After his banishment Rose cut a pathetic figure.  Banned from even setting foot into a ball park, he made his living signing autographs and selling memorabilia.  Even that got him into trouble.  On April 20, 1990, Rose pleaded guilty to two charges of filing false income tax returns for not reporting income from selling autographs and memorabilia, and from horse racing winnings. He was sentenced to five months in the medium security Prison Camp at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois and fined $50,000. Released on January 7, 1991 after having paid $366,041 in back taxes and interest he was required to perform 1000 hours of community service. 

Rose would sign anything for a buck, including humiliating admissions.

Rose’s 2004 autobiography was an attempt to both bring in much needed income and rehabilitate his reputation, possibly leading to a lifting of the lifelong ban and eligibility for the Hall of Fame.  Despite the vocal support of many players and some sportswriters, the book failed on the later count. 
The steroid scandals of the early 21st Century were used by supporters to argue that Rose, who never used performance enhancing drugs and who played hard his entire career, deserved consideration to be included in the Hall while disgraced players like Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens remain eligible.  

Rose flogging his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars.  The book flopped as a plea for sympathy and as a bid to regain eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
Baseball is officially un-moved by these arguments. After rumors that he was considering lifting the ban surfaced in 2010, Commissioner Bud Selig quickly denied the reports.  Selig’s successor has been no more sympathetic and many of the sportswriters who admired and championed him have retired.  Baseball has moved on.  It is doubtful Pete Rose will ever enter the Hall of Fame. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Jerry Leiber—Half of Late Tin Pan Alley’s R&B, Rock, and Soul Duo

Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber plugging a song.

One half of a songwriting duo that changed American music died on this date in 2011 at the age of 78.  If you think that this is an exaggeration, try erasing the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller from rhythm and blues, formative rock and roll, and blues tinged pop.  You can’t do it.  The hole would be too big.  Whole genres might collapse.

Raised in Baltimore in a Jewish family, Jerry Leiber was fascinated with Black music from an early age.  He later said:

I felt black. I was as far as I was concerned. And I wanted to be black for lots of reasons. They were better musicians, they were better athletes, they were not uptight about sex, and they knew how to enjoy life better than most people.

He found himself finishing high school in alien Los Angeles in 1950 when he met Mike Stoller, a freshman at Los Angeles City College who played piano and shared Leiber’s passion for Black music.  The two teamed up and were soon spending hours collaborating on songs.  Stoller mainly wrote the music and Leiber, with his ear for Black street talk, handled the lyrics, but their collaboration was so tight that both dabbled in the other’s area and often could not recall or tell who contributed what to a song.

Their first work was hardcore blues.  Within months of beginning their collaboration blues shouter Johnny Witherspoon became the first to record one of their songs, Real Ugly Woman.  Their first hit was Hard Times which made the R&B Charts in 1952 for Charlie Brown.  The same year they wrote K.C. Lovin’ for Little Willie Littlefield, a song that would later become a rock and roll hit for Wilbert Harrison under a new name—Kansas City.

In 1953 they penned Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton, one of the last of the barrel house blues belters.  Three years latter a relatively unknown Memphis singer named Elvis Presley would cover the song.  It would explode into his first break-out hit and become a cultural phenomenon.  Leiber was resentful that Pressley had tinkered with the lyrics and believed the song meant to be a bitter scold to a lazy gigolo had become a novelty song that people seemed to think was actually about a dog.  None the less, as he observed, “…the fact that it sold more than seven million copies took the sting out of what seemed to be a capricious change of lyrics.”

Despite dismay that Elvis Pressley changed the lyrics to Hound Dog, the duo went on to a successful association with the King of Rock and Roll with big hits from his movies.

The team would go on to work with Presley, who also was rooted in a love of Black Music, on several songs, most notably the ballad Loving You, King Creole, and Jail House Rock, the themes of Presley’s films.
In three short years the team was established enough to form their own label, Sparks Records.  They began to specialize in music for doo wop inspired Black vocal groups like The Robins who recorded Riot in Cell Block #9 and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. They were branching out from song writing to producing.  In doing so they did even more to shape the emerging sound.

At work in the Brill Building, ground zero for late Tin Pan Alley R&B and rock composers.
Atlantic Records bought their label and gave them an unprecedented deal that also gave them the right to produce artists on other labels making them among the first independent producers.  For The Coasters Leiber crafted novelty lyrics that struck home with a growing white audience including Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Along Came Jones, and Poison Ivy.  The last song was not as innocent as it sounded—it was a song about getting the clap.  The song writing duo penned a total of 24 songs on the R&B or rock and roll charts for the group.

With The Coasters.

The Drifters, another top group with a rotating cast of singers also befitted from Leiber and Stoller’s work.  It was also the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Ben E. Nelson, later on known as Ben E. King.  Hits included On the Boardwalk, Spanish Harlem, and Stand By Me on which they collaborated with King.  As producers for The Drifters, they made a breakthrough when they added strings and lush orchestration to There Goes my Baby by King, Lover Patterson and George Treadwell.  The song was an enormous hit and influenced the emerging genre of soul music, a smooth and sophisticated update of R&B.  A young musician named Phil Spector worked with Leiber and Stoller in the recording sessions and was influenced by it in his development of his wall of sound.  Save the Last Dance for Me by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman developed the sound even more

During these years with Atlantic records the songwriting team also worked with Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman’s former vocalist who had carved a niche as a jazzy, blues infused chanteuse. Is That All There Is? with its minor key and shifting, slow rhythm displayed a sophistication that surprised many.  Lee also introduced I am a Woman which was destined to become a feminist anthem.

Leiber and Stoller left Atlantic in the early sixties for a period at United Artists where they wrote and produced Love Potion #9 for The Clovers.  Then they started yet another label, Red Bird Records, where they concentrated on writing for and producing the girl groups who were topping the charts.  Their first effort was Chapel of Love for The Dixie Cups written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.  The Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack also streaked to #1 and introduced a whole new spate of dead teenager songs.  Eleven of the 30 songs they produced on Red Bird reached the charts.

Leiber and Stoller produced Chapeil of Love for the Dixie Chicks.

After a falling out with business partners at Red Bird, they sold their interest to concentrate on independent writing and producing.  But the British Invasion was changing music and Leiber and Stoller’s R&B based sound was harder to sell.  They continued to produce hits with Jay and the Americans, often using R&B songs intended for Ben E. King or other artists.  The pairs last big hit was in 1975 with Smack in the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel, with a sound meant to mirror Bob Dylan’s electric period.
Despite falling off the charts the duo never stopped writing and continued to produce, including an albums for Elkie Brooks that sold well in Europe and album cuts for solo albums by Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald.
A new generation was introduced to the music of Leiber and Stoller in 1995 when Smokey Joe's Café opened on Broadway.  The show featured 39 of the duo’s songs.  It set a record as the longest running revue in Broadway history, closing after 2,036 performances.  Touring countries sold out theaters across the country and the show opened in London 1n 1996. The show was nominated for several Tony Awards and the original cast album not only sold briskly but won a Grammy. 

A new generation was introduced to Leiber and Stoller with Smokey Joe's Café, one of the first Broadway juke box musicals.
As their contributions to American music were recognized, Leiber and Stoller were showered with honors in their later years including induction into both the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and dozens of awards and citations.

In 2009 were credited with writer David Ritz on Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography published by Simon and Schuster.
When Leiber died of heart failure, Peter Stoller, Mike’s son, wrote on the Leiber & Stoller web page, “…[Jerry] would have said, “Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…”

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Pueblo Revolution—Kicking Spanish Butt

A depiction of the Pueblo uprising from a Spanish perspective.

On August 21, 1680 the embattled Spanish at Santa Fe, New Mexico broke a week long siege by members of several Pueblos and fled south to El Paso del Norte abandoning the northern province of New Spain to the native residents.  Despite repeated efforts the Spanish were not able to retake control of the district for twelve years.  It was the first successful expulsion of Europeans by a native people in North America and only one of a handful of instances it was ever accomplished even briefly.

Spanish settlement of New Mexico dated to 1598 when several hundred Europeans established the settlement of San Gabriel across the Rio Grande from San Juan Pueblo. About 1608, they moved their capital 25 miles north to Santa Fe.  Although there were frictions between the peace loving Pueblos and their new neighbors, relations were generally amiable until the Spanish began to treat the people as peonsvirtual property of the Church, state, and those holding royal land grants.

By the mid-17th Century the dual systems of encomienda—a tax on food and other resources to support the Church, military, and civil institutions that was so high it frequently caused great want in the Pueblos—and repartimiento—the compulsion of set numbers of days per year of forced labor in the service of the Church, the state, and as field laborers and domestics on the haciendas caused rising resentment. Still, the Pueblos remained peaceful, grateful at least to the Spanish for protection from raids by their traditional enemies the Apache and the Navaho.  They also adopted some Spanish agricultural practices.

This Pueblo Kachina dance in the early 20th Century was little changed from the practice that drew the wrath of Catholic priests.
When Padre Alonzo de Posada arrived about 1760 to become the chief Priest in New Mexico, he made open war on traditional Pueblo culture, particularly the kachina dances that were at the center of communal life.  He ordered his priests to seize and destroy all of the elaborate kachina masks they could find and forbid the practice.

In 1675, Governor Juan de Trevino arrested 47 Pueblo men and charged them with sorcery. Four were condemned to death, three were hanged and the fourth committed suicide. The rest were publicly whipped in the plaza in Santa Fe and sentenced to slave labor.  When much of Trevino’s garrison left to pursue Apache raiders, members of near-by Pueblos descended on the capital and feed the prisoners including Popé, a shaman of the San Juan Pueblo.

Popé began a slow, methodical organization of the Pueblos to rise against the Spanish.  It took five years of secret meetings at dozens of Pueblos and persuading those with closer ties to the Spanish or who had more deeply adopted Catholicism to join him.  A prolonged drought during this period aided him because the Spanish refused to let up on the demands of encomienda even as crops failed

The drought also affected the more nomadic Apache and Navaho whose game became scarce bringing increasing raids against the Pueblos and Spanish alike.  The small Spanish garrison, far from the capital at Mexico City, received scant reinforcements from the Viceroy and were spread thin over thousands of square miles.  The inability of the Spanish to protect the Pueblos removed one of the few continuing reasons to remain under their yoke and the tattered veneer of military power made even the un-warlike Pueblo believe that they could rise up.

The knotted ropes that were sent to the Pueblos to coordinate the time of the insurrection.

After a final meeting at Tesuque on August 8, 1680 Popé, dispatched two messengers carrying knotted ropes showing the number of days before the revolt would begin to the Pueblos.  The chief of each Pueblo was to untie a knot each day and when the last knots were untied rise up against the local priests and haciendas making a coordinated attack across the province.  It was a brilliant plan, but the Spanish got wind of it and Governor Antonio de Otermin had the messengers arrested. 

When the people of Tesuque found out, they rose up and attacked the local church, expelling the priest and killing one Spaniard.  Padre Cristobal de Herrera returned the next day with one soldier to find the pueblo deserted.  He tracked the people into the hills where they found and murdered him.  The soldier fled to Santa Fe with news of an uprising. 

The rebels prepare to burn the body of a priest hung from a rafter of his destroyed church.

Within days the Rio Arriba area north of White Rock Canyon was devastated and depopulated.  Churches and haciendas were burned, any Spaniards who could be found—Priests (23 of who were put to death as their churches burned), men, women, and children were—were killed.  Survivors fled to El Paso del Norte or to the fortified governor’s palace at Santa Fe. 

The Santa Fe Pueblo and others near-by invaded the capital on August 13.  The Spanish—heavily armed with harquebuses (an early heavy matchlock musket), soldiers sheathed in armor plate and armed with steel swords—were able to hold off the lightly armed Pueblo who had only bows and arrows, clubs, knives, and stones.  The Pueblo, who were mainly used to defensive fighting around their towns against Apache raiders, were not used to being on the offensive, fighting in large groups or laying a siege

The Taos Pueblo, one of the largest in the uprising, as it appeared in a 1930's era post card and much the same as during the Revolt.
They persisted, but after a few days members of some Pueblos began to melt away.  But they were reinforced by others from Cochiti and Santo Domingo, led by Alonzo Catiti of Santo Domingo.  The Spanish reported later to being besieged by as many as 2,500 warriors, surely a wild exaggeration

The attackers damned the stream that brought water into Casa Reales, the governor’s palace.  Within a few days the Spanish began losing their horses and pack animals.  Gov. Otermin decided that they would have to make a run for it while the still could.  After executing 47 warriors who had been captured in fighting that morning, he led the break-out on the night of August 21.  

Over the next 12 years, Governor Otermin and his successor, Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate, struck periodically at Pueblo country and once Santa Fe was briefly re-occupied.  But they could not regain control. 

Over time internal dissention wracked Pueblo unity.  Exactly what happened is unclear.  There are conflicting oral traditions and no Europeans were left alive to record the events.  We know that pressure from the Apache and Navaho, as well as from the Spanish continued.  

Some accounts claim that Popé became a brutal dictator, inflamed to uproot any vestige of Spanish religion or culture.  These stories say that not only did he order all crosses, Bibles, and other Christian artifacts burned, but he ordered that men who had been married by the Padres to abandon their wives and take new ones by Pueblo custom.  He also supposedly banned cultivation of European crops, adding to starvation.  These stories were, of course, circulated by the Spanish and by the few Pueblo who remained loyal to the Church. 

Other accounts have Popé retiring to his San Juan Pueblo to live in obscurity.  A third story has him disappearing into the mists of time but ready to return when his people need him, a variation of many hero legends

The Spanish--and some modern New Mexicans--honored Governor Diego de Vargas as a hero for his re-conquest of Santa Fe.
By 1692 the Pueblo were as dispirited as they were disunited.  A new governor, Diego de Vargas with only six Spanish soldiers, one cannon and a number of native allies from the Piro tribes of the lower Rio Grande and some loyal Catholic Pueblo were able to bloodlessly retake Santa Fe.  

There were more battles, some furious and bloody, followed by a general persecution.  New Mexico was firmly back under Spanish rule within a year. 

But the Pueblo did, in the long run, win a lot.  The Spanish never again tried to impose encomienda or repartimiento.  Priests allowed traditional cultural practices and tried to find ways to adapt them to Catholic worship instead of crushing them.  The Spanish recognized the land claims of the Pueblo and their local self-government.  

A statue of Pope in the New Mexico state museum.
As a result to this day of all of the tribes in what is now the United States, only the Pueblo have been able to retain most of their own land while maintaining their rich culture and much of their religious identity

There were two other long lasting side effects of the uprising and its aftermath.  The agricultural Pueblo traded the many Spanish horses that came into their possession to the north enabling the flourishing of the Plains Indian culture that developed in the 18th Century.  Secondly, many Pueblo forced to flee the Spanish and the raiding Apache eventually went to join another ancient enemy the Navaho, whose culture was greatly affected by the infusion.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Proud Boys, White Nationalists and Antifa—One of These Things is Not Like the Other—With Murfin Verse

Proud Boys and Neo-Nazi allies marching in Portland.
The Proud Boys, allegedly White Nationalist litewestern chauvinists” descended on Portland, Oregon over the weekend for what was billed as a “End Domestic Terrorism” march and the largest such demonstration yet of the neo-fascist right.  The frat boys of the so-called alt-right were joined by the harder edged Three Percenters, a patriot movement militia, the American Guard, and assorted officially unaffiliated loners and losers scraped up in neo-Nazi chat rooms on the dark web.  The Domestic Terrorism that they were protesting was not that which has left scores dead in multiple recent mass murder shootings, but the Antifa who have done such despicable things as throwing a milk shake at rabid right Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, punching alt-right spokesman Richard Spencer, and demonstrating at speaking events.
Portland, a city that The Guardian described as having “a liberal laid-back hippy vibe” was the target of the march for two reasons.  First, it is the home of the largest groupings of the amorphous Antifa which sprang up from a robust local anarchist scene and the Black Block street fighters that first came to prominence in the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests up the coast in Seattle.  Secondly, it is convenient the compounds, bunkers, and training camps of the Patriot Militias, White supremacists, and anti-government radicals that dot eastern Oregon and Washington, Idaho, and Montana
The two sides have faced off in Portland before.  As the city prepared for what was expected to be the largest confrontation ever, Donald Trump stirred the pot.  Of course he did.  The Resident Tweeted, “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.  Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”
Not only did the Cheeto-in-Charge not mention or condemn the White Nationalist with a proven history of violence—the Proud Boys were prominent in in the Charlottesville clashes two years ago that left anti-Nazi protestor Heather Heyer dead—but he explicitly endorsed their stated cause much to the delight of organizers Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio of the planned non-permitted march.

Proud Boy spokes bigot Enrique Tarrio was the most visible leader to actually make the march.
Predictably much of the American mass media, trained like Pavlov’s dog to spout on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand equivalency in the name of journalistic neutrality, treated the Proud Boys and the Antifa equally “dangerous extremists of the far right and far left.”
In the end Portland Police kept the two sides mostly separated preventing violent clashes.  But the march leaders mostly failed to show up to their own event fearing arrest and left their followers with no plans or support.  They were forced to march back and forth across the long Morrison Bridge over the Willamette and then were steered to a riverfront industrial area where cement barricades police in full riot gear kept them separated from the Antifa who were also largely neutralized except for shouting back and forth.

In one of many street theater performances counter protestors proclaimed "White Flour," "Wife Power," and dressed as hot dogs to mock the white nationalist marchers.
But that doesn’t mean that the marchers were unopposed.  Large numbers of creative and non-violent Portlandians got ahead of both the police and marchers preemptively occupying most of the squares and public places in the downtown area where the marchers could gather with dancing unicorns, clowns, jugglers, puppets and derisive signs.  The counter protests also featured Buddhist and Jewish prayers, speeches, a poop emoji costume parade organized by the PopMob group, and music.  Their mood was joyful and triumphant. Meanwhile the leaderless marchers were steered through hostile minority neighborhoods where they were frequently given wrong directions and where local businesses refused to sell them water or food or allow them to use restrooms.  When they finally found a place to gather the planned three hour rally was cut to half an hour as speakers were drowned out by counter protestors’ jeers, chants, and songs.
The exhausted marchers had to retrace their steps under humiliating police protection and were left where they had to walk additional miles to return to the busses and cars that brought them.  Over the entire day a handful on each side had been arrested, mostly in isolated incidents after the main march broke up.

A lone Black Antifa marched alongside the massive police presence that separated the two sides.
The local press depicted the day as a humiliating defeat for the White Nationalists.  But Proud Boy leaders declared victory anyway and vowed to return to the city with new marches every month with the stated aim of bankrupting the city until the Mayor and Council “cracked down and eliminated the Antifa.”  Blackmail by attrition if you will.
With calls for suppression not of White Nationalists or Neo-Nazis on the rise including legislation in Congress to declare the Antifa as terrorists, comes the difficult question of defining just who Antifa are and who are other opponents of the Right.  Are the Black Block and the Antifa on the streets of Charlottesville, Portland, New York, Boston, the Bay Area, and other places really identical?  Clearly there is some overlap and the cosmetics are similar—the use of black clothing, banners, and sometimes masks.  But the Antifa are clearly much broader and focused more directly on community self-defense and direct confrontation with racist thugs than on mindless rampage.  The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), my old radical labor union and its General Defense Committee (GDC) which have been among the most cohesive and visible elements of the Antifa movement has clearly made that distinction.  Many of those now joining the Antifa movement have no ties at all to the Black Block. 

A typical red and black Antifa flag carried in many actions.
Two years ago in Charlottesville the Antifa were a very visible presence in the protests organized to protest the planned removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee.  They were pointedly not included in Trumps famous declaration that there were “good people on both sides.”  But the Antifa famously came to the defense of religious leaders including Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and several other UUs who linked arms around the perimeter of the block where the Lee statue stood to prevent the Neo-Nazis from rallying there.  The ministers came under attack and feared for their lives.  They were rescued and protected with masked Antifa including IWW members.  One participant, famed Black scholar Cornel West said frankly.  “The antifascists, and then, crucially, the anarchists…saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed, and I’ll never forget that.”

Antifa including members of the IWW--note flag to the right--to the rescue shielding besieged ministers and religious leaders in Charlottesville two years ago.
A few days later we held a vigil on the grounds of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, Illinois.  A couple of hundred folks showed up on short notice.  As the crowd formed a solemn circle before moving to line Bull Valley Road with lighted candles I spoke.
After remembering the blood sacrifice of 32 year old anti-fascist hero Heather Heyer and the needless deaths of Virginia State Police Lt. H. Jay Cullon and Trooper Pilot Berk M.M. Bates in a helicopter crash responding to the violent chaos unleashed by the organized forces of bigotry, I said that it fell to me to be the voice of anger and outrage.  I was not there to lead a chorus of Kumbaya.  I noted West’s appreciation of the Antifa--the same anti-fascists that Trump and far too much of the media held to be equally guilty for the violence.  And I was moved to recall others who had confronted Nazism.  The poem I wrote and read at the time may have made some gathered that evening uncomfortable.  But it had to be said.

Communists and Brown Shirts brawling in a Munich beer hall in 1932.  No one else physically stood up against growing Nazi power.
Munich and Charlottesville
August 13, 2017

So is this how it felt on the streets of Munich
            when the strutting Brown Shirts 
            in their polished jackboots,
            Sam Browne belts, and scarlet arm bands
            faced the scruffy Commies 
            in their cloth caps
            and shirtsleeves rolled up 
            and battled in the beerhalls,
            parks and streets.

All of the good people, the nice people
            cowered behind closed doors
            and wished it would go away—
                        all of the liberals, the Catholics,
                        the new-bred pacifists of the Great War,
                        the professors and doctors,
                        editors and intellectuals,
                        the Social Democrats,
                        even—my God!—Jews 
                        who had not gone Red—
            a pox on both your houses they solemnly intoned.

Hey, buddy, in retrospect those damn Bolshies
            look pretty good,
            like heroes even.

Things look a little different in Charlottesville,
            in brilliant color not grainy black and white
            and the Fascists can’t agree on a
            Boy Scout uniform and array themselves
            golf shirts and khakis, rainbow Klan hoods,
            biker black and studs and strutting camo.

But the smell, you know, that stench,
            is just the same.

The question is—do you dare be a Red today
            or will you close your doors
            and go back to your game consoles
            and cat videos.

Which will it be, buddy?

—Patrick Murfin