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John Cory begins by recalling the words of Steinbeck: "When he began the book, he wrote: 'I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this.'"

From Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' (Florence Owens Thompson) series, Nipomo, California, early spring 1936. (photo: Dorothea Lange)
From Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' (Florence Owens Thompson) series, Nipomo, California, early spring 1936. (photo: Dorothea Lange)

Beautiful Wisconsin

By John Cory, Reader Supported News

28 February 11

Reader Supported News | Perspective

RSN Special Coverage: GOP's War on American Labor

hen he began the book, he wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this."

It started three years earlier as a series of articles for the San Francisco News. He investigated camp life, and even drove Route 66 so he would know the terrain. He walked and talked with the people, capturing language and lives, and then put ink to paper.

The book was an immediate bestseller - revered and reviled - banned and bought. The corporate world denounced the author; the FBI compiled a file to track him, and radio and political pundits pummeled him. He was called a socialist, a communist, a propagandist, and for good measure, a socialistic communist propagandist agitator. One slur is never enough.

The book spent a year on the bestseller list and won a Pulitzer Prize. A year later it was turned into a movie. Twenty years after its publication, the author won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

John Steinbeck wrote "The Grapes of Wrath" to tell the story of the Great Depression. Of farmers turned into migrants, of every-day citizens turned into beggars, while the corporate owners grew fat and fierce and greedy for more. He wrote to give hope amidst the vicious and divisive tactics of corporations and to remind them and us: "... the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed."

At the end of the film version of "The Grapes of Wrath," Tom Joad lays it out: "... A fella ain't got a soul of his own - just a little piece of a big soul. The one big soul that belongs to everybody ..."

And there is the beauty of Wisconsin.

The big soul gathered together, just like the motto says, "From the many - one."

And that is the fear of the corporate sponsors of Gov. Walker and the would-be owners of America. The people. We, the people - coming together.

The facile mantra of "what's good for business is good for America" is nothing more than the promotion of indentured servitude. And if we accept it then we are truly lost.

The Wisconsin issue is not about politics, economics, or good governance. It is about stopping "we the people" from gathering together. It is about stirring envy and crisis in order to corporatize, consumerize, and conformitize the masses for the profit of the few, the rich - the privileged owners of America.

This is all about the separation of we, the people - divide and conquer - about turning neighbor against neighbor, scrabbling for crumbs while the corporation steals the loaf.

Where once we cheered 'united we stand, divided we fall,' we are now sold on 'looking out for #1.'

Steinbeck learned that those greedy bastards couldn't be shamed. They could be blocked if we banded together and supported one another in the battle for rights and equality and dignity.

What does it say about America when unions are more regulated, more controlled, and have more oversight than Wall Street, or corporations that profit from pollution and poison? What does it say about America that our Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are persons and money is free speech and therefore persons with lots of money have more free speech than persons without money?

The people of Wisconsin say different.

Wisconsin says that people matter, that we, the people matter, and that we, the people belong to one another and not the corporate states of America.

The banks and Wall Street profit from selling us a house and they profit from our mortgage debt by slicing it up in multiple slivers for investors to profit off our payments, and when our jobs go away, the banks and investors profit off foreclosure. Heads, they win. Tails, they win. And when we have nothing, they tell us we must sacrifice more in order to save The American Dream, Inc.

Tom Joad said: "They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat ... The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it."

Too big to fail. Too big to be managed. Too big to be held accountable.

The beauty of Wisconsin is that the people have no fear. The fear comes from the political puppets of corporate sponsorship. The people do not fear the power of the wealthy; the corporate lackeys fear the loss of power over we, the people.

Maybe it is true that the wealthy manipulators of the Tea Party and corporate conservatism of the modern GOP are taking America backwards, back to the Gilded Age of 1890. But we can only go backwards, even a single step, if we allow ourselves to be pushed without pushing back. And that is the beauty of Wisconsin.

"The great owner ignored the three cries of history. The land fell into fewer hands, the number of dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression ... For a man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, and emerges ahead of his accomplishments ... he may slip back, but only half a step, never a full step back ..."

That is what the barons of business fear most, and why they grab as much as they can, as fast as they can. They may not acknowledge that "little screaming fact" of history, but deep inside their soulless hearts and minds, they know it is coming. That is their fear - the fear of we, the people.

And that is the beauty of Wisconsin. Even in the snow, 70,000 - 100,000 people showed up this weekend. Thousands of people across the country did the same in their own communities in support of Wisconsin, regardless of whether the corporate media covered any of it.

The people know.

The people understand.

"... in the eyes of the people there is the failure: and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

Beautiful Wisconsin.

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