Guest poem sent in by Jade
(Poem #1485) Untitled
What scares them most is That NOTHING HAPPENS! They are ready For DISTURBANCES. They have machine guns And soldiers, But this SMILING SILENCE Is uncanny. The business men Don't understand That sort of weapon . . . It is your SMILE That is UPSETTING Their reliance On Artillery, brother! It is the garbage wagons That go along the street Marked "EXEMPT by STRIKE COMMITTEE." It is the milk stations That are getting better daily, and the three hundred WAR Veterans of Labor Handling the crowds WITHOUT GUNS, For these things speak Of a NEW POWER and a NEW WORLD That they do not feel At HOME in.
Note: "Printed in the Seattle Union Record (a daily newspaper put out by labor people)" -- Howard Zinn I found this poem in one of my AP History text books at school ("A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn.) On February 6, 1919 (shortly after World War I) Seattle, Washington started a city-wide strike. The only people that stayed on the job were laundry workers who did only hospital laudry, firemen and authorized vehicles that had signs saying "Exempted by the General Strike Committee." Meals were prepared in thirty-five milk stations and transported all over the city. Strikers payed twenty-five cents and the general public thirty five for as much beef stew, spaghetti, bread and coffee. "A Labor War Veteran's Guard was organized to keep the peace. On the blackboard at one of its headquarteres was written: 'The purpose of this organization is to preserve law and order without the use of force. No volunteer will have any police power or be allowed to carry weapons of any sort, but to use persuasion only.' During the strike, crime in the city decreased. The commander of the U.S. army detachment sent into the area told the strikers' committee that in forty years of military experience he hadn't seen so quiet and orderly a city" (Zinn 378) Many people believe that, without force, peace and civilization cannot be maintained. But this poem and passage speak contrary to that. The strike stopped after five days. Jade [Links] An extensive set of excerpts from Zinn's text, giving the historical background to the poem: [broken link] http://colfa.utsa.edu/users/jreynolds/Textbooks/WWI/ZinnIWW.html