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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Saturday, January 02, 2010

    Liberalism in the Blood: My son singing "Sticking to the Union"

    My family's union support go back some time. Not sure if it began with my grandmother, an original FDR Democrat, or before. But a defining event was probably my great-grandfather, who lost fingers and an eye in an industrial accident. He had been a craftsman in the old country, making furniture. In the US he worked in a factory, with the usual results that happened in pre-union days.

    I never knew him so I don't know if this incident led him to support unionization, but I do know my grandmother was a solid union supporter and Democrat until the day she died and she passed this on to my mother and through her to my brother and me. In her wilder days my grandmother even had a brief marriage to a communist. My mother focused her radicalism on feminism in the days of the ERA.

    My son seems to be picking up the same radical tendencies of my grandmother, brother and mother. By comparison I am a moderate.

    It started with Woodie Guthrie. My son fell in love with "This Land is my Land," particularly the Woodie Guthrie version, though I think the first version he heard was the Bruce Springsteen version sung at a rally for Barack Obama. As I was, at his request, looking for other Woodie Guthrie songs we came across Billy Bragg and others singing "I'm Sticking to the Union" at the 90th birthday of Pete Seeger. My son is now playing it over and over and singing the first several lines (the ones sung by Billy Bragg). Here it is:

    There considerable resonance in this to me. My mother used to sing union songs (in a bad voice, but what the hell). She introduced me to the songs of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, a blacklisted group from the good days of Folk Music when Woodie Guthrie's working class music wasn't yet replaced by the later, more self-important and strident versions I can't stand even when sung by a voice as wonderful as Joan Baez'. And Billy Bragg is someone I was largely unaware of until hearing him on the IFC program my distant cousin, Henry Rollins, hosted. Here is Billy Bragg on Henry Rollins' show and my introduction to his music:

    Somehow it feels right hearing my son belt out: "There once was a union maid, who never was afraid, Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid..." along with Billy Bragg.

    Just goes to show, my family's liberal to the core. And damned proud of it.

    My wife, from a similar old-Jewish radical background of course, had a role as well. After all, she's the one who taught him that Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger were "supervillians."


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