Our prejudice against tent-dwellers

Great Depression Okies living in tents
What do home-enabled Coloradans have against disadvantaged people forced to live in tents? The Great Depression saw migrant workers having to subsist under canvas, striking miners have been forced from their homes and into camps in Ludlow and before that Cripple Creek. And of course the first Colorado tent-dwellers to get everyone’s panties in a knot were the Native Americans who held original claim to the territory.

The above photograph is from Dorothea Lange’s historic series which documented the lives of migrant workers as they fled the Dust Bowl for the fertile agricultural plantations of California. The woman at right is the iconic “Migrant Mother” known for a more famous closeup. I chose this shot because it makes clear that she and her seven children were living in a tent.

Colorado was one of the states which the Okies had to cross in search of work in California. As depicted in Grapes of Wrath, Colorado and Arizona only begrudgingly tolerated the vagabonds, making sure they didn’t linger and kept on their way.

Do we fear the poor because they threaten our own sense of prosperity? There but for the grace of God, go ourselves? We shoo them along lest their itinerant ways tax our charity, or they take the righting of economic inequity into their own hands. The Europeans have always shunned the ever-homeless gypsies. Landless people can’t be trusted, they’re in the opposite position of what we look for in businesses, reliable to the extreme of being “bonded.” People unattached to assets don’t have capital to bond them with responsibility.

Depression era photograph by Dorothea LangeBefore Coloradans were chasing off out-of-state migrant workers, yesterday’s illegal immigrants, they were offended by earlier indigent encampments. When miners struck in Colorado’s southern coal fields, the mine owners evicted them from the company-owned houses. The unions were left to build a tent city in Ludlow to put pressure on the industry to accept some labor demands. The standoff was spun as a standoff between the ungrateful miners, most of them recent immigrants, and a nation’s critical source of heating fuel. The Colorado population was roused to man a militia and beat the miners into submission. As much as consumers feared an interrupted coal supply in the record cold of the winter of 1914, imagine the miners enduring in their tents. In the end, we all know the result: the Ludlow Massacre and the unions were defeated.

The gold miners fared slightly better in their 1894 strike to preserve the eight hour day. When they closed down the mines and camped on site to keep them shut, the folks of Colorado Springs were rallied to form a near 2000-strong army to go attack the ingrates. Fortunately the miners escaped a battle, but the common population’s prejudice against the laborers in their tents was the same.

Could these have been related to the sentiments which inflamed Colorado Territory settlers in 1864, enough to go after the few remnants of Native Americans encamped along Sand Creek?

The Pikes Peak region plays an ignoble role in all of these examples. Men from Colorado Springs and Colorado City formed the population from which participants were drawn for Chivington’s raid against the Cheyenne, the private army which marched against the Cripple Creek gold strike, and the militia which Rockefeller mobilized to torment the tent city of Ludlow. Colorado Springs was a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity in the 1930s, epitomizing local xenophobia.

When Colorado Springs city councilman speak of fielding calls from constituents angry about the growing homeless encampments, I cannot help but think of our legacy of intolerance of people deemed lesser than us. Colorado Springs has always been ripe for bigotry and hatred.

Not so long ago our city was the crucible for Amendment Two which sought to deprive homosexuals of protection from discrimination. More recently fear-mongering about immigration from Mexico made Colorado Springs fertile for recruiting gunmen for the Minutemen, to make pilgrimages to the Mexican border with the promise of getting to shoot Mexicans pell-mell. Since the election of President Obama, we’ve seen a phenomenal growth of Tea Party enthusiasts, white bigots determined not to have their taxes spent by a nigger.

What a sorry racist lot we’ve been, anti-labor, anti-progressive and anti-poor. Somewhere in the past there must have been city leaders who defied the simple-minded xenophobia of our historic population, otherwise all our statues of municipal heroes would be wearing clan gowns. Hopefully with the current bloodlust to run off the victims of our current depression, city politicians will lead my setting a higher moral example.

7 thoughts on “Our prejudice against tent-dwellers

  1. It’s because we exist among a vast migrating herd of Prince Siddharthas. Like our real estate lady said, the Fortune 500 people can’t stand the sight of the poverty they cause with their Fiscal Machinations.

    Their toe-rags in City Hall and the Police Department are compelled to move the sight from before the eyes of their Master Class.

    They put their kids in Hoam Skewlin’ too so they won’t have to be forced to intermingle with the Scions of the Working Class.

    “How DARE those peasants presume to exist in Our Presence?”

    Nice that beep-beep admits that’s her agenda, catering to that virulent Snobbery, while insisting that she’s only in it for the benefit of the Poor.

  2. I think Manitou should get more heat. They have a no camping ordinance,no panhandling and have shown a complete lack of interest in getting involved in any antiwar or social justice actions. Manitou is like disneyland. It is a “theme park”. Come see the hippie village. Don’t worry folks- no one will ask for money,you won’t see any homeless tents,no one will annoy you with street music and no one will have a protest sign of any kind.

  3. Eric wrote: “What a sorry Hopefully… city politicians will lead my setting a higher moral example.”

    Thanks for being such a beacon to us all… you inspire us beyond words… we can only hope to become one tenth of the Capitalist you have shown yourself to be in your businesses and with the t-shirts you sell on your website…

    Oh, and not to worry… none of your sins – racist, anti-labor, anti-progressive and anti-poor… none – are too great for Him to forgive…

  4. Right wing Lunatic Fringe grasping at straws.

    Like you or beep-beep give three quarters of a Fat Rat’s Ass about the poor.

    Is beep-beep selling some of that worthless nobody-buying-it real estate holdings to the city or to the Catholic Church at bargain basement prices, then subsidizing it by charging the difference between the Appraised prices and the price actually gotten… to the Taxpayers. A corporate welfare device that’s long been used.

    A deduction for “business losses”

    Her relatives in the car business do it every september, when the new model year starts. Sell off the cars remaining from the previous model year at a discount, and then charge the difference to Uncle Sugar.

    Or, since it’s the People’s Money to begin with…

    Amazing the way the “anti-tax” Libertarians aren’t averse to taking Welfare… and then denying it to the poor.

    Kind of a reverse of Socialism, Welfare for the Greedy instead of the Needy.
    Oh, and patchsi… that’s a typo, you know.

    People who use the keyboard would notice it for what it is, the index finger of the left hand punches the “V” and “B” while the index of the right punches the “N” and “M”.

    Or, on the Dvorak layout, the Right Index punches both the “B” and the “M”.

    But you’d not want to discuss technical issues unless they favor your cause. Nice try though.

    If you want to read a sentence by context rather than the occasional mistyped letter, the way people who are trained to read very quickly do, and people who actually make money by proofreading other people’s typing, grammar and spelling, it would come out “City Leaders BY setting a Higher Moral Standard”

    You might wonder how I deduced that was the problem you were trying to exploit. Hmmm… could it be that I actually made money from time to time by both typing and by correcting the mistakes of other typists? And that your diatribe launched and sustained itself from the mistyped word, which Somebody seems to believe is a case of perhaps Narcissism. Which is the new mantra of the Far Right…

    Too bad they never picked up or more than cursorily examined a few other words. “Dictionary” for instance. “Thesaurus”. “Diagnostics and Statistics Manual 4” would be a really good one. If one is going to make faux-psychological diagnoses one would do well to open a book on the subject from time to time.

    Nice try though. But, No Sale.

  5. Oh, and how does buying something from Canada, where the garment workers ARE unionized, equate with being against American Unions, who have been violently ripped from any position of representation of Garment Workers here?

    By the good offices of your Establishment. The one you’re cheerleading in the issue of violently suppressing people who are poor yet not imprisoned for their poverty… yet.

    The Mayor’s Plan and chief Meyers’ Plan set up a harsh condition, if you’re not a member of the Propertied Class in Colorado Springs, then you will be forced into “shelters” that sound very much like Work Camps. Where you’ll be forced to work for the owners of the Work Camps in order to offset the costs of your confinement.

    At least twice during this discussion the Pseudo-Patriot chant of “Love it or Leave It” was raised, as though it has any kind of special meaning.

    Something about us emigrating to Cuba, iirc.

    Perhaps the Capitalists would enjoy going to Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, without, you know, taking their money along with them. A lot of the Capitalists are buying land in those countries, it should come as no surprise to friends or comrades of beep-beep, but the land that’s being sold doesn’t actually belong to the persons selling it.
    It’s held in their possession by the good graces of the United Corporate States Army, daring the real owners to try to take it back and risk their homes being bombed and their children shot, AGAIN, if they do.

    Might Makes Right. No wonder you guys like the Police so much.

    But go there as a worker. Live in the slums where the people who earn YOUR money for you live. See if your Capitalist superiority will bring you out of that slum existence the way you say the same kind of Compliance with YOUR system would do for the Tent City residents.

    Communist doctrine doesn’t make Bolsheviks and Maoists…

    Capitalist doctrine and Capitalist practice, however, DOES.

    Oh, and while you’re there in a tin hut with 2 rooms and 18 relatives, waiting for the “opportunity” to work for the coffee American plantation or the banana American plantation “owners” feel free to pass around literature praising the wonderful “opportunities” the American Masters provide there.

    Did you know, patchsi, than in the Costa Rican American Ex-Pat Gated Community Fortresses, the “servants” are required to speak English?

    Sounds like a paradise for you and Beep-beep… you get to treat the natives as though they’re inferior, and the cops backed by the U.S. Military are there to make sure they never express any resentment of that treatment…

    Just Like Colorado Springs…

  6. BJ wrote: “Oh, and how does buying something from Canada, where the garment workers ARE unionized, equate with being against American Unions”

    Sorry to have touched what appears to be such a raw nerve…

    If you want to support out-sourcing American jobs to Canada at the expense of American workers, that is your business – literally.

    It’s brilliant to use Capitalism… sort of like “it’s OK to sleep with my enemy if I’m tired”… or need to pay the bills… just hope your sponsors like the Socialist Party – you know “workers of the world unite” – don’t hear about this… might diminish your “street cred”…

  7. The American garment jobs have largely been outsourced to Mexico, China, Honduras and Malaysia.

    Where there aren’t unions. Mexico used to have Unions until a consortium of Capitalists who feel they’re entitled to the ownership of the entire world put the PAN party in power, complete with the “reforms” like giving their once very good medical system over to private ownership. Giving PEMEX, that bad ol’ Socialist nationalized oil company to (let’s put it in REAL terms) Standard Oil. I know, they’ve supposedly been broken up as a corporation for a century now.

    So the only Union jobs for garment workers aren’t here in the U.S. anymore. Since YOU chose the tee-shirts as a potential weak spot, live with it.

    I suppose I should warn you, when you go to brotherjonah.biz, all you’ll get is advertising. Didn’t have the Ready Necessary (money) to keep the hosting or the domain name. godaddy.com has the domain name parked. Meaning they made an ad site out of my blog.

    Such as it was. I just have a feeling that you’d try something like that to demonstrate that I’m some Wealthy Dilettant who does social engineering for an amusing hobby.

    In the issue of homelessness, I’m never very far from that condition. You’d not want to read a story about that so I shan’t provide one.

    Explain, please do, about the link between selling tee-shirts and being a Corporate Slave, such as the Mid-Level Slave to whom we now refer as Beep-beep obviously is and you appear to be?

    Have you organized for any Unions, participated in any, offered web-site space to Union activists to announce and promote their petitions for redress of grievances?

    Do you own a set of scars from confrontations with those who exploit the Workers? Have you been the victim of anti-Homeless Person violence or destruction and theft of your belongings due to your homeless state?

    And if we “look for the Union Label” and can’t find any from the United States, which way should we choose? Buy the sweatshop stuff, in order to give the “opportunity” of being exploited at as poor a wage and as poor working conditions as the Sweatshop owners can get away with providing, to give THAT “opportunity” to the Workers?

    And, it still distracts from the real issue, the planned Violent Actions of the Police against the homeless CITIZENS.

    Effectively declaring anybody without property to be non-citizens, or more importantly, Non Human.

    Capital, by the way, provides exactly NONE of any product. The WORKERS provide that, everything from planting and cultivating and harvesting and milling and transporting and eventual weaving into tee-shirts and then transporting again, Capital does not one lick of that work. The WORKERS do.

    All that Capital produces is Debt. Like the massive debt visited on the nation of Haiti, the devastation wasn’t caused by the earthquake. It was unmasked by it.

    Now there’s a frenzy of activity throughout the Capitalist network to try to put that mask back on, Right Wing Nuts praying for a worse catastrophe to draw attention away from it.

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