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Confronting Exploiters

General Motors' workeres celebrate end of Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1937, which gave 100,000 workers the right to union representation.

As we learn more and more about General Kelly's plan to build privately-operated "internment camps" for immigrants, with or without separating families, I can't help thinking about lunch counters and auto factories.

We have seen protesters outside DHS offices, which then conveniently close. We have seen congressmen and senators standing in front of Trump Cage Camps, being barred from entry by local cops hoping the Donald will gift their departments with more Pentagon crowd control equipment. A lot of this seems redolent of the "free speech" caged off areas that Dick Cheney organized to keep protesters far from G.W. Bush.

The Donald recently said that he would like his military and police forces to 'train' the American people to be obeisant to him in the way North Koreans are to Kim Jong Un. As it is, we have been trained to be docile in public. Servile can't be that much more a stretch.

For most people, docile, even obeisant is better, safer, more comfortable than speaking out, or worse, acting out. After all, look at those who have acted out in our history: Roger Williams, Nathan Hale; Joe Hill, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton. And the Salem witch trials were only an early example of how we would, and still do, treat women who disagree, or "are disagreeable." But docility and obeisance are not what cause change, at least not progressive, forward looking change.

Might it not be time to try economic tactics against the corporations and individuals who profit from a system which today sees record corporate profits along with falling real wages for most workers?

Daily we are told that the inhumane/inhuman treatment of immigrant families is "the law"—something that we can't do anything about, until congress acts to change "the law". That's what people were told as they asked for safe conditions and fair pay in factories in the early 20th century. That's what black Americans were told when they asked for civil rights. It's "the law", we can't change anything until Congress changes "the law". And Congress won't change "the law" until the voters change their congressmen.

And then, as now, the US Supreme Court tells those most affected by "the laws" that need to be change that they aren't entitled to vote, their names can be stricken off voter rolls at the whim (or at the conscious purpose) of Republican Party officials. Be patient, they were/they are told. Don't rock the boat. Let the law evolve, and change at its natural pace.

We have seen this legal "evolution" in our history, too. As calls to end slavery got louder and received more public support, "the law," in the form of "Slave Codes" became harsher. It became a crime for white people even to teach black people to read or do arithmetic.

Those who want actual change have been less inclined to wait. And wait. And wait. Auto workers sat down in their factories and refused to leave at the end of shifts. Instead of marching outside the factories where their labor made managers' profits, they sat at their machines and brought the owners' profit stream to a halt.

And they delivered improved conditions.

When told that "the law" required segregated lunch counters for black and white customers, black college students simply sat down at the white lunch counters, asking for service. And they sat. And sat. And disrupted the owners' profit stream.

Confronting Exploiters

Sit-in, Jackson, Mississippi, 28 May 1963

And they delivered desegregation.

It's important to remember that some of the people working to bring these changes died. Some were terribly injured. And some were imprisoned. But grateful people still remember the names of Joe Hill and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Medgar Evers. No one remembers the names of the "soldiers" who gunned down civilians at Wounded Knee and during numerous mine strikes. Even Bull Connor's name is fading from the footnotes to obscurity.

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It is also important to remember that the auto workers' families supported them. Food and clothing were thrown through factory windows to sustain the sit-down strikers. When the "National Guard" soldiers opened fire against striking miners, they also shot the miners' wives and children with abandon. As we saw in Selma and other cities, just peacefully offering support can put one on the front lines of a battleground.

What the auto workers and the lunch counter sitters did was to identify simple actions that could disrupt the machinery of profit. They did this before the internet. Before Bloomberg and all the financial news aggregators. Before social networks. They shone the spotlight on businesses that were using offensive practices to generate huge profits.

Today we have the internet, and the financial news, and the social news and networks. We can know with much greater specificity who is benefiting from General Kelly's odious, racist plans. Consider Walmart. General Kelly contracted to use closed Walmart stores to warehouse separated children. Walmart makes money. War profiteering suppliers make money. Private prison corporations manage the cage camps and make money. With all the profits guaranteed by we the taxpayers.

Exploring the Cage Camp contracts, which are public records, will show what corporations, and Wall Street investment funds, are raking in profits for selling the cages, the floor mats, the space blankets, the low nutrition—high profit meals. Who's providing the guards who beat the children into submission. And who developed the software that makes it possible for the government to tell parents that they have no idea where their children have been sent.

And the available information will put faces and addresses to the people behind these profiteering corporations. We already know that Kristjen Nielsen is the public face of exploiting separated children. Research shows that she was also behind most of the Trump administration's handling of hurricane "relief" efforts, and that she focused her energies on ensuring maximum profits to corporate contractors, rather than to helping hurricane victims. What we don't know is: Who is she? What does her family do? How do they profit from her execrable racism?

The auto workers targeted those who profited from exploiting their labor. The lunch counter protester targeted those who profited from discrimination. The Montgomery Bus Boycott destroyed the finances of a transportation system built on racism.

Might it not be time to try the same economic tactics against the corporations and individuals who profit from a system which today sees record corporate profits along with falling real wages for most workers?

The auto workers considered their industry and what would most clearly contrast peaceful workers with corporate brutality. The lunch counter protesters used peaceful demonstrations to give worldwide exposure to corporate enforced racism. Rosa Parks and her backers considered and planned before keeping their seats on Montgomery buses. Study and planning create effective strategies that build public support.

General Kelly has anticipated some such responses. He doesn't want demonstrations at his Trump Cage Camps. So his plans include "interning" tens of thousands of immigrants on military bases. There the government can pretend that the internees are "national security" threats, and that demonstrations are not permitted on military bases.

But that doesn't change who is profiteering from the supply contracts. The same corporations and 1%-ers will be raking in the payments to keep this immigrant internment program running profitably. And putting the victims in cages on military bases doesn't make them any less victims, or the cage any less cages.

tom hall

How about shining the sunshine of truth onto the beachfront summer parties of the 1%-ers who use "illegal" immigrants to carry trays at those parties? How about mass, peaceful, sit-down demonstrations in Walmart stores during busy sales days? How about finding the less visible profiteers and demonstrating on their golf courses and restaurants, and yacht clubs?

How about studying and figuring out what new approaches will shine the light of truth on the greed-driven profiteers behind General Kelly's Cage Camp program?

We can talk about this endlessly. We talked about slavery for at least two centuries (the slaves decried it longer). It was wrong when the talk started. Caging people fleeing violent societies created by OUR colonial rule was wrong from the start, no matter how long we talk about it.

Tom Hall

When we reach the level of moral outrage that is appropriate to any society that wants to see itself modeling "christian" behavior, or wants to be a "shining city on a hill," talk will be joined by action. Action considered, thought out, designed to cause introspection and change, designed to disrupt profiteers' profits, anonymity and profit streams, not merely more violence in the street.

Tom Hall