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Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

Today is January 20, 2017, one of the darkest, blackest, most dangerous days in American History.  The White House is about to be occupied (I use the military sense of the word.) by a self admitted sex offender, career criminal, and likely traitor who was assisted by a dictator to win an illegal election.  He has assembled what the Washington Post has called "The Worst Cabinet In History",  a band of equally unsavory, amoral, and unintelligent criminals and thieves to assist him in his destruction of the American dream.  It will now be up to the average American citizen to stand up just as they did in the late 18th century to prevent and destroy tyranny.  Nearly every good, decent, productive, and honorable program ever created by the federal government since the Great Depression will be under attack.  There is little doubt that the TRAITOR Trump has committed far more than sufficient crimes to qualify as the "high crimes and misdemeanors" which the US Constitution calls for as necessary for removal from office.  Ordinary citizens need to fight to see to that Trump is indicted, convicted, impeached, and imprisoned for his crimes past, present, and future.  The effort to do that needs to begin today and you need to be a part of that effort.  Go to work to help save America, my friend!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Reading List For The Resistance 2017 to 2021

Guidebooks For The Battle Against Trump


As January 20, 2017, approaches rapidly, we, as a country, are about to be faced with the possibility that the White House will be occupied by a person who has committed treason in cooperation with a foreign power.  When I use the word "occupy" in relation to Donald Trump and the White House, I always use it in the military sense.  The White House is likely to be occupied by an agent of a foreign government which everyone in the world agrees is dedicated to the destruction of American style democracy worldwide.  It is beginning to appear less likely that any form of enforcement action will be taken against Donald Trump which will prevent his being sworn into office.  The recent report from the US Intelligence Agencies clearly states the fact that Russia, under the direction of President Putin, assisted Donald Trump's election efforts by hacking numerous US entities including the Democratic Party and several state election systems.  What that report did not do is clearly link Putin's actions to Trump's cooperation and that is the flaw which is likely to allow Trump to occupy the White House.  Yet, I have little doubt that Trump and several others in his organization including Tillerson and Manafort committed treason along with Trump.  Their close ties to the Russians are well known.  We just don't have the audio and video of the conversations which led to the hacking.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of every loyal American citizen to resist Donald Trump, his entire organization, and all their efforts to damage this country.  

Any resistance is best conducted by well read and well informed citizens.  I had put out a short reading list on social media before the election in an attempt to help American voters to understand the dangers which are presented by Donald Trump and his twisted version of reality.  Trump is clearly mentally ill and most mental health professionals who have spoken and written on the subject have said they believe he is an antisocial personality disorder with megalomania.  Megalomania is the uncontrolled and uncontrollable desire for power.  Donald Trump has now achieved every megalomaniac's ultimate dream.  He is about to have tremendous power.  By virtue of his mental illness and power, he is now officially the most dangerous human alive.  I urge every citizen of this country to use all legal means to fight Donald Trump's efforts on a daily basis and to become as well informed as possible about him, President Putin, their aides and assistants, and the people whose work they emulate.  I am creating the following suggested reading list for your consideration.  I will regularly add works to it as I find more.  I will also add appropriate suggestions from readers to this list if you leave them in a comment to this post or if you send me an E-mail at my listed address.

United States Constitution The US Constitution and individual rights will be under attack from the first second the Republicans take control of the US government.  Donald Trump has already, on numerous occasions, stated a desire to restrict freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and all rights of Muslim citizens.  Every citizen should have a solid understanding of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.  Every citizen should also be willing to stand up and speak out in defense of these basic principles of American Democracy at any time Trump or his generally uneducated, ignorant, and unprincipled followers make attacks on these concepts.  The Capitol Net publishes pocket copies of the Constitution and many other important American political documents which are cheap and easily ordered from their web site.   

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay Do not ever listen to and accept the opinion of another about what the Founding Fathers thought, intended, or wanted.  Read what they said for yourself and form your own opinion.  

"Mein Kampf" by Adolph Hitler Donald Trump's campaign was a carbon copy of the campaign Hitler used to gain power in Germany.  One of Trump's ex-wives has stated that he kept a copy of Hitler's speeches by his bed.  Many of the same techniques Adolph Hitler used to gain and maintain power are the same being used by Donald Trump today and that use is not accidental.  It is deliberate emulation of Adolph Hitler. 

"Night" by Elie Wiesel This is a classic and powerful personal account of the Holocaust by a Jewish survivor who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work to bring about world peace. And, yes, it can happen here.  Trump has uncovered, nurtured, spread, and encouraged a great deal of hatred already in this country.  With great power, he will do worse.  

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak This is a fictional work about the Holocaust written for adolescent audiences.  But it does an excellent job of informing the reader of how the Nazis spread terror during the Holocaust.  It is well worth reading by the adult reader to learn about how terror is spread by unjust governments.  

Black Earth The Holocaust As History And Warning by Timothy Snyder One of the most cogent quotations from history comes from the philosopher George Santayana:  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Donald Trump is backed by a coalition of extremist groups ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the American Nazi Party.  Trump has consistently refused to condemn them, their ideologies, or their actions.  Here is a link to a great story from Mother Jones about those groups.  Most of the followers of these groups are psychologically very similar to the German citizens who became Hitler's Brown Shirts and SS Troopers.  And the most important thing to remember about the Germans who carried out Adolph Hitler's crimes against humanity is that before Adolph Hitler rose to power those people were considered to be ordinary German citizens just as most of Trump's followers would have us believe they are ordinary American citizens.  This book by Timothy Snyder looks at the Holocaust both as a historical event and as an event that could be repeated if the people of today do not heed the warnings provided by the Holocaust.  

Stubborn Twig: Three Generations In The Life Of A Japanese American Family For those of you who do not believe that anything remotely resembling the crimes of the Holocaust could happen in America, this book is a must read as Donald Trump rises to power after having preached disrespect, disregard, and unconstitutional labeling of groups in America such as Muslims and immigrants.  It details the life of a very successful and patriotic Japanese American family which had their land and property seized during World War II and were sent off to interment camps simply because of their ethnicity.  Yes, it can happen in America and it already has under the administration of one of the greatest American Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  

The Cherokee Removal A Brief History With Documents edited by Theda Perdue & Michael Green  For those of you who have read "Stubborn Twig..." and still find yourselves saying it couldn't happen here, it already has...twice, once to the Japanese Americans and once to the Cherokee.  In many ways, the disrespect that Trump shows to Muslims and Immigrants is a lot like the attitude which Andrew Jackson showed the Native Americans.  

The United States Of Appalachia How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture, and Enlightenment To America by Jeff Biggers  This book will teach you a great deal about the birth of American Democracy, especially for those of you who have never heard of the State Of Franklin.  Jeff Biggers will also show you a lot about how a few dedicated citizens can change a country for the better.  

I hope every person who reads this post will go on to read at least one of the listed works, especially the United States Constitution, which will be under attack for the next four years by the Republican Party whether or not Donald Trump is successfully prosecuted for treason.  

 These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Thomas Paine

Friday, January 6, 2017

You Don't Need A Reason In A Bluegrass Song

Today, while we were traveling to and from an appointment in Mount Sterling, KY, my wife Candice and I listened to a couple of Bluegrass CD's which we hadn't listened to in a while including Ralph Stanley's classic "Saturday Night" CD, Larry Sparks' "40" disc, and Dale McCoury's "Del And The Boys" album which contains one of the best Bluegrass songs ever recorded, "Vincent Black Lightning 1952" which was actually written by the great rock and roll guitarist Richard Thompson.  Actually, every one of those discs contains more than one Bluegrass classic recording.  Candice grew up in East Central Wisconsin and never listened to Bluegrass until we were married and she moved to Eastern Kentucky.  At first exposure, she frequently responded "it makes my ears hurt" but she has become a devout Bluegrass aficionado over the last twenty-five years.  But today, as she sometimes does in the middle of a Bluegrass song about death or murder she asked "but why did he kill her". This time she asked that question in response to "Banks Of The Ohio".  My first response, which I still think was a good one, was "you don't need a reason in a Bluegrass song".  But, if you listen to the lyrics, you will hear the words "I killed the girl I love you see because she would not marry me."  As is true with "Banks Of The Ohio", most Bluegrass songs which involve the murder of a loved one or an innocent do contain some stated reason for the murder. 

Bluegrass Banjo

The next best example of this type of song that pops into my head is "Pretty Polly".  Late in the song, the reason for the murder is clearly given: "Willie, Little Willie, I'm afraid of your ways The way you've been rambling you'll lead me astray".  The young Polly is clearly afraid that her lover, Little Willie  will lead her astray.  We don't clearly hear exactly how Polly is afraid this will happen but we learn almost immediately that Willie has planned this murder in advance and has "dug on your grave the biggest part of last night". 

Photo Of An Appalachian Graveyard

The Bill Monroe classic "The Little Girl And The Dreadful Snake" actually falls clearly into this category of songs without a clear reason for the death, not by murder but by snake bite, and also falls clearly into another of the most unique categories of Bluegrass which I have written about previously, Dead Baby Music.  The child dies due to a snake bite without any clear reason being given in the lyrics for her death.  It is also interesting that this song is included on a very unique compilation CD called "American Gothic: Bluegrass Songs Of Death And Sorrow".  That CD also contains a Mac Wiseman version of an old song called the "Ballad Of The Lawson Family" in which the father kills his wife and six children and commits suicide.  It is a classic Bluegrass song without a reason for the violence and the lyrics clearly state that "we'll never know what caused him to take his family's life". Of course, since the song is about the death of six little children, it also falls clearly within the subgenre of Dead Baby Music. 

I could go on at great length about all the Bluegrass songs which contain tragic circumstances without a reason for the tragedy but I think you get the point.  Some of the best songs in Bluegrass are tragic and have no clearly stated reason for that tragedy.  Let's all hope Bluegrass song writer's keep going for the next hundred years writing without a reason. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Seeing An Eagle On New Year's Eve!

Bald Eagle Photo by Wikepedia

Yesterday, December 31, 2016, New Year's Eve, I took a ride across the hill from my house to the local country store to pick up some ice cream to eat while I watched Alabama do what they do best, destroy lesser but ambitious competition.  As I was returning home, about a mile and a half from my house on a two lane road up a hollow, I looked ahead and saw a large bird in the middle of the highway eating on a road killed opossum.  As I approached, the bird began to rise and when I saw the wide spread tail beating to gain lift, I realized it looked like a Bald Eagle.  As I got closer, the bird lifted and turned and I got a clear look at the beautiful, white head.  It was an eagle.  I have seen a few eagles in my life before including one at Cave Run Lake in Rowan County Kentucky about thirty miles from my home.  But I had never seen one in Morgan County or anywhere near my home.  As I drove slowly on past, the eagle appeared to be turning toward a small group of trees in the edge of the creek bottom near the highway so I drove about a hundred yards farther, found a place to turn around and drove slowly back where I saw the eagle perched in the top of tree about fifty feet high beside the highway obviously waiting for the coast to clear so it could return to the opossum in the highway.  

I turned around and drove the short distance to my house and told my wife, Candice, about seeing an eagle almost within sight of our house.  Then I got on the phone to call my cousin, more like a brother, Jack Terry, to tell him about seeing the eagle.   He and I had a telephone conversation earlier in the week about eagles and other things and he had said that he has never seen an eagle in spite of having traveled over a great deal of the world with the US Army and US Army Corps of Engineers.  In that conversation, I had told him that the first eagle I ever saw was attempting to take off from the shoulder of US 441 a bit north of Yeehaw Junction, Florida, with half of a road killed armadillo.  Therefore, I already knew that eagles commonly eat road kill.  But after I ended this second conversation with Jack about the eagle sighting, I realized that this eagle is, as always, but now much more so, a metaphore for the United States Of America.   

Ever since Thomas Jefferson lost his argument in favor of the wild turkey, the Bald Eagle has been the most common symbol of the United States Of America.   We generally use strong, brave, free, and self sufficient words and phrases to describe the Bald Eagle.  We speak of the eagle in flight, soaring, gliding, and striking prey swiftly and silently from the skies.  Rarely, if ever, would an American speak of the Bald Eagle, this symbol of American Democracy sitting in the middle of the road eating road kill of any kind.  We would certainly never speak of the Bald Eagle as eating opossum.  Then the completion of the logical route I was on led me to my metaphorical destination.  The Bald Eagle sitting in the middle of a run down, two lane road in Eastern Kentucky eating a road killed animal which only about one in a million Americans would touch is an apt metaphore for the state we are now in as a nation.  

Unless President Obama, the United States Congress, the United States Supreme Court, and perhaps even the United States military step up and take some very courageous actions, this country will fall into the hands of man who is highly likely to be the greatest traitor this country has ever seen.  Steadily mounting evidence points to the highly likely possibility that Donald Trump colluded with the President of Russia to hack the United States election system computers and steal the presidential election from one of the most qualified candidates who ever ran.  President Obama has taken strong, public actions against the Russians by seizing two properties which have been suspected of being spying operations for many years.  He also ordered thirty-five or so Russian "diplomats" out of the country.  In response, Donald Trump has defended Putin and the Russians as he has done on several other occasions.  Putin responded by doing nothing and stating he is waiting for Trump to assume the White House.  Earlier, all fifteen US Intelligence agencies stated collectively and jointly that the Russians were behind the elections hacks.  In response to those announcements, Trump has consistently refused to admit or accept the validity of American intelligence.  It is a sorry kettle of fish in every way.  Trump, who was already unfit to hold any public office based on his history of self admitted sexual crimes, lack of intelligence and governmental experience, and multiple refusals to pay just debts, would have placed this country in great danger without the shadow of treason hanging over his head.  Now, it is likely that he is a greater traitor than Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Aldrich Ames, or Tokyo Rose.   

It seems likely that a wide ranging investigation is ongoing by the US intelligence community, the US State Department, and the White House.  But can this investigation be completed and necessary enforcment and legal actions be taken in three weeks in time to prevent the White House from falling into the hands of a likely Russian spy?  As I understand some of the processes involved, it would require the investigation to be complete, a case from the Justice Department and State Department to be filed before the US Supreme Court, a special hearing to be held by the Supreme Court to vacate the election results, and some process put in place to choose a President.  It is highly complicated.  The risk is immeasurable if the wrong actions are taken or no actions are taken.  The time available to do the necessary investigative and legal work is far too short.  And there is only one other option available.  If the US Joint Chiefs Of Staff, the generals and admirals who are the supreme commanders of the military have evidence that requires it, they could stage a military coup in the wee hours of the morning of January 20, 2017, install an interim President, schedule another election in a year or so, and save the country.  I hope it does not require such actions.  But if those actions are warrented, I sincerely hope the Joint Chiefs have the courage to do the correct thing.  

Of course, I also sincerely hope that America does not simply sink to become an eagle eating a road killed opossum in the middle of a metaphorical highway.     

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Appalachian DNA

For several years, my wife and I talked intermittently about having our DNA analyzed but never seemed to get around to it.  Finally, last summer, we both sent off DNA kits to Ancestry DNA.  After about six weeks, we got the results back and much like everyone else who has DNA analysis done, we found a couple of surprises.  I had heard a far too common Eastern Kentucky rumor, prevarication, and old wives' tale that my paternal third great-grandfather, Aulse Hicks, had been the son of a man named Charles Renatus Hicks, who had been the first mixed blood chief of the Eastern Band Of Cherokee.  There had always been two schools of thought about this purported connection.  Most of us who had done much in depth genealogical research leaned strongly toward the opinion that there was far too insufficient proof to justify the common belief and there was too much geographical distance between the well known homes of Charles Renatus Hicks in Spring Place, Georgia, and the area of Western Virginia from which Aulse Hicks emigrated to Prestonsburg, KY, about 1790 to 1810.  In the misguided attempt to connect Aulse Hicks to Chief Charles Renatus Hicks, various people had tried to change Aulse's first name from Aulse to Austin or Augustus despite the fact that every piece of paper he ever signed in Floyd County Kentucky as a minister and well known man had been signed Aulse.  There has also never been found a list of the names of the children of Chief Charles Renatus Hicks which listed either an Aulse, Austin, or Augustus.  In my own mind, I was clearly convinced that the connection between the two was purely the work of too many overly active imaginations which wanted to fulfill the oft repeated Appalachian fantasy of "being descended from a full blooded Cherokee Indian".  I freely admit that as I learned more about Chief Charles Renatus Hicks I grew to respect him highly as a successful man in a difficult world.  I would have loved to learn that I was descended from a man who was the first mixed blood Chief of The Eastern Band of Cherokee, who was bilingual and wrote and spoke both English and Cherokee, acted as a primary interpreter for the tribe and the US military, served as a primary sub-chief for many years, owned one of the largest private libraries in the country as an Indian, and died as the Primary Chief of the tribe.  But I knew better and my DNA analysis proved me correct.  

My Father, Ballard Hicks, Photo By Roger D. Hicks

At this point, I will burst bubbles of fantasy for many descendants of Aulse Hicks and other Hicks' in Eastern Kentucky that they are "descended from a full blood Cherokee Indian".  My genealogy is Hicks on both sides.  My father was Ballard Hicks, a second great grandson of Aulse Hicks with the documentation to prove it.  My mother was Mellie Hicks, the granddaughter of Hence Hicks, whose name I have also seen misspelled and misconstrued in various ways in order to support the Chief Charles Renatus Hicks fantasy.  I have seen Hence Hicks mistakenly identified as being named Henderson or Hensley when I knew numerous people in my childhood who knew him well. He was a well known ambush murder victim in 1935 and every public record about him calls him only one name, Hence Hicks.  Both sides of my family were in Knott County in the late 1700's to early 1800's.  I have always said that I am lucky I wasn't born with a square head and that I suspect that if the truth can ever be proven it is highly likely that "grandpa" came through the Cumberland Gap alone.  By that I mean that I suspect that our original ancestor to emigrate to Kentucky came into the region very early in the settlement process, had a large family which dispersed widely, and eventually converged again to intermarry a few generations later after all family memory and the nearly non-existent record keeping of the time had completely forgotten about any family connections three or four generations in the past.  

Now let's get to the results of the DNA Analysis and burst some of those bubbles.  The first, and most painful bubble to be burst involves Native American DNA.  I, Roger D. Hicks, well-documented third great grandson of Aulse Hicks and a Hicks on both sides,  have absolutely no Native American DNA.  The major aspect of the analysis that was not a surprise also confirmed what most Eastern Kentucky genealogists have believed for years.  Ninety-eight percent of my DNA came from Europe and seventy-seven percent of it came from Great Britain and Ireland.  That was no surprise whatsoever.  But there were a couple of other minor surprises and two fairly major surprises left in the DNA. I have seven percent DNA from Scandinavia.  I also have two percent DNA from the Iberian Peninsula and less than one percent each from Finland/Northwest Russia and Eastern Europe.  But the bigger surprise was that I have less than one percent DNA from each of Southern Asia and Nigeria.  Since I have learned of the connections to Southern Asia and Nigeria, I have tried to imagine just how that interaction took place at a time which must have been at least eight or ten generations in the past, roughly two hundred years or more.  With most of my DNA coming from Europe and Great Britain in particular, someone in my far distant bloodlines had to be a bit of a world traveler.  Was an ancient grandfather a sailor who followed the canvas to points in Africa and Asia?  Was an ancient grandmother a slave who was raped by a slave trader?  Or did a pair of my distant ancestors both find themselves stranded in isolation somewhere in a place and time where the most logical response for their own good was to assume an interracial marriage?  I doubt that I will ever find the answers unless the religion of some group of my ancestors or another is correct and we all end up in a common hereafter either sitting around a cooking fire in the darkness, sailing a common vessel on seas yet unknown, or sharing iced tea on a shady porch and telling the stories in whichever place of exactly how we all came to be.  Sorry about all those bubbles!  

An Appalachian Graveyard

Monday, December 26, 2016

Right To Work: The Perpetual Lie

Now that the Republican party has managed to gain control of both houses of the Kentucky Legislature, they are foaming at the mouth with the desire to pass right to work legislation in Kentucky.  Until the recent statewide election, the Kentucky State House was the last Democratically controlled legislative branch in the south.  It had been held by Democrats for ninety five years.  Now, just as will happen in the US Congress, the Kentucky Legislature will attempt to take as much action as possible which will favor the wealthy and large corporations.  Right To Work legislation is a key cornerstone of that effort.  It is now, always has been, and always will be a weapon which corporations and the wealthy use to control and restrain the working class.   

A very pablum definition of Right To Work, which must have been written by a corporate lawyer states: Right-to-work laws govern the relationship between unions, employees, and employers prohibiting employers or unions from requiring existing employees to join a union or pay union dues. Employers are also not allowed to exclude non-union workers from the hiring process. Many Southern states have long had right-to-work laws, with Kentucky being a notable pro-union holdout. 

When the definition above states that "employers are also not allowed to exclude non-union workers from the hiring process", this definition hides the real intent of Right To Work which is exactly opposite to what is stated.  The only intent of Right To Work is to allow employers to avoid hiring union workers and to hire as closely as possible to zero union workers.  The further, long term intent of Right To Work is to destroy unions, weaken the ability of workers to collectively protect their constitutional rights, and to deprive those workers of those constitutional rights.  Right To Work prevents unions from collecting union dues or requiring union membership in a particular place of employment.  In the long run, Right To Work kills unions by attrition.  On November 18, 2016, a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit of the US Court Of Appeals issued a decision which reverses a lower court ruling that overturned a local Right To Work ordinance in Hardin County. The labor unions who sued to block the law say they will ask the full appeals court to reconsider the decision. If that fails, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan said they would likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  With the lengthy process of appeal to US Supreme Court decision, it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will have a new member, appointed by Donald Trump, after the US Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to seat the duly appointed Judge Merrick Garland because he was the appointee of President Barack Obama.  It is also highly likely that any justice appointed by Donald Trump would vote to uphold Right To Work.  It is also likely that Trump might actually make Right To Work an element of a litmus test by which he would choose a justice.  The entire refusal to seat Merrick Garland, one of the most qualified judges ever chosen by a sitting president,  was an egregious miscarriage of justice.  Literally ever blue collar worker in America for the next quarter to a half century is likely to suffer the loss of various and sundry labor related constitutional rights because of that refusal by the US Senate to do their constitutional duty.  Workers in Kentucky are highly likely to be among the first in the nation to suffer the loss of those rights.  Today there are about twenty five states which have Right To Work laws.  Nearly two years ago, Wisconsin became one of the latest states to deprive workers of their rights.  

Right To Work weakens unions and removes all immediate incentives for newly hired workers to join a union.  Without exception, employers in Right To Work states actively avoid hiring any worker known to support unions and after hiring they discourage employees in all ways possible to prevent their joining any union.  Workers in Right To Work states gradually, and sometimes rapidly, lose safety standards, lose paid or unpaid leave days, see further hurdles placed in the process of utilizing sick time, vacation time, and other benefits.  Under Right To Work, employees always lose benefits and protections which have always, heretofore, been guaranteed by the US Constitution.  Union labor built American industry and gained many important benefits for workers.  Those benefits include overtime pay, vacation pay, sick pay, maternity leave, bereavement leave, provision of uniforms by employers, medical insurance, burial insurance, worker's compensation and numerous other benefits. In every Right To Work state, employers continue to push back against labor under the guise of "how tough it is to turn a profit" and work constantly in cohort to take back benefits which may have been a given for decades.  The Internet page at this link does an excellent job of exposing and explaining all the lies of Right To Work. 

The same website also does an excellent job on another page of discussing the facts about who's behind Right To Work.  They list several extreme Right Wing Radical organizations, most of which are funded and controlled by big business, whose sole mission is to promote Right To Work, to spread misinformation and outright lies about Right To Work.  The bottom line is that any blue collar worker should always oppose Right To Work.  Right To Work is a lie perpetrated by millionaires and corporations in order to deprive workers of the constitutional rights.  

Florence And Sam Reece, Appalachian Heroes

Florence Reece

In November 1974, I was lucky enough to meet Florence and Sam Reece at a conference at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN.  That weekend conference would be the only time I would ever be lucky enough to be in their company.  Sam Reece was already seriously ill with a plethora of health problems, most of which were related to his life in the coal mines and perhaps to physical abuse which he suffered at the hands of coal company gun thugs during the Harlan County Strike of the late 1920's.  At that time, Florence Reece was still in very good health for her advanced age.  She regaled the group at the conference with numerous stories of the years she and her husband had spent fighting for union recognition for the coal miners of Harlan County Kentucky.  She also spoke at length about her song writing and especially about writing "Which Side Are You On?", one of the best known union organizing songs in American labor history.  They also spoke at length of the harassment they had both suffered from Senator Joseph McCarthy and The United States Senate Subcommittee On Investigations during the communist witch hunts of the summer of 1954.  At that time, Senator Joseph McCarthy was running rampant harassing union members, union organizers, liberal thinkers, writers, actors, and any other public or semi-public figure who spoke out on behalf of the working class.  

Sam Reece was working as a union organizer in Harlan County in the late 1920's and early 1930's.  At the time, Florence was simply a miner's wife and mother to her children.  As Florence Reece told the story, one night in 1931 anti-union gun thugs employed by Sheriff John Henry Blair and the coal companies raided their home in an attempt to jail, or perhaps even kill, Sam Reece for his union activity.  The gun thugs raided the house, terrorized Florence and her children, and ransacked nearly the entire house searching for any kind of union literature.  Sam had managed to escape into the mountains just before the gun thugs arrived.  Florence always said that after the company thugs left she was so angry at having her home violated that she ripped a sheet off a wall calendar and immediately wrote the lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?"   The song instantly began to grow into the world famous union anthem it still is today.  It has been translated into dozens of languages and sung at labor, peace, and other rallies for the underprivileged all over the world.  It made both Florence and Sam Reece famous.  For the rest of their lives they stood up for the rights of the working class, endured harassment and hatred, and never flinched to their dying day in the fight for the rights of the downtrodden.  

The story of Florence and Sam Reece  has  been told many times in many ways.  It has become at least one book, "Which Side Are You On?  The Story Of A Song" by George Ella Lyon.  The story has also been told as a play, "Which Side Are You On? The Florence Reece Story"  written by Edward Francisco and produced at Pellissippi State University.  The story of Florence and Sam Reece is a story of courage in the face of danger, resolution in the face of fear, and suffering in support of a cause for the good of humanity.  By the time Florence Reece died in 1986, more than fifty years after the song was written, she was famous enough that her obituary was carried in the NY Times.  Here is a link to Florence Reece's memorial on Find A Grave.  Here is a link to Sam Reece's memorial on Find A Grave. 

Here is a link to the You Tube Florence Reece version of "Which Side Are You On?"

Here is a link to the You Tube Pete Seeger version of "Which Side Are You On?"

Here is a link to the printed lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?" in both English and French. 

I will always be proud that I was able to spend time in the company of Florence and Sam Reece.  They were two of four people I have known who were pilloried by Senator Joseph McCarthy for their works for the good of humanity.  I learned a great deal from spending time in the company of such people.  I learned that good people must always stand up and speak out in the defense of good, just causes.  I learned that good, just causes do not always win out.  Constant effort is required from good people to support such causes.  Men and women such as Florence and Sam Reece, George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Mahatma Ghandi, and you my friend must stand up, speak out, and sometimes suffer if just causes are to win.  Sadly, America is entering such a period today.  A self confessed sex offender, career criminal and Fascist is likely to occupy the White House in the near future.  America could use several million people like Florence and Sam Reece today.