[personal profile] llbbooks
(Originally posted at Facebook on August 2nd, 2010.)

Twitter informs me that today is Mary Harris Jones' birthday. Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones, is a big inspiration, and I thought I'd take a smidge of time to talk about her.

I believe I've spoken before about how I mostly support labor unions, at least in theory. In practice, well, they aren't perfect, but what is? Mother Jones was a labor agitator, and eventually formed the IWW. Even though I became aware of all the inequity and systemic fuckery in this world through socioeconomics and labor relations, that isn't primarily the spirit this is intended. Mostly, I mean the woman herself.

Mother Jones had a long life, much of it plagued by considerable hardship. I'm not going to write you a novel about it, you can ask Uncle Google if you want the specifics. What you need to know about her is that she was a fierce champion for the rights of the worker, and she was willing to lay it on the line, do and say whatever it took, if it would help achieve the goal. She was old-time tough, a hardbitten woman willing to say and do the unpleasant thing for what she believed in. Mother Jones fought the power for far longer than most people would've- the year Teddy Roosevelt called her "the most dangerous woman in the world" for storming down a road completely alone and confronting a militia owned by John Rockefeller over a strike to enforce the 8-hour day that Colorado had recently made law, she was 83 years old.

She wasn't even from this country, but in that respect she was fundamentally American, and that's what I admire so much about her. That's what the hell we need in this country. We need people who are willing to call it as they see it, do and say the unpleasant and usually uncomfortable thing for the things they believe in. We need people willing to ask the questions, make people a little uncomfortable, dig under the fragile veneer that holds our society together to find the truth, however wanting, underneath, and we need people willing to do that regardless of what others think about it. We need people who are willing to blur, blend, and defy definition and delineation, people willing to confound those who attempt to classify while working for the betterment of our society. (Our entire society, not just white male conservatives.) We need people with big hammers who are willing to smash the hell out of all forms of systemic inequity, and willing to engage with people who endeavor to maintain the status quo.

We need people with the courage of their convictions.

Those weren't just words for Mother Jones. That was her life. She lived it, and I respect the hell out of that. I try as best I can to embody that, even when it's hard and uncomfortable and lands me in hot water, which it does with not-at-all startling frequency. I don't always stick the landing. It's a tiring, if not exhausting, way to be, and I don't always have the energy. Sometimes the enormity of the reality of all the issues we face as a society overwhelms. Sometimes, a lot of times, it seems futile. That I can make the choice to engage or not is indicative of privilege on multiple levels, and although I'm trying like hell to keep that particular knapsack as empty as possible, it will never be truly empty because of who I am and the socioeconomic space I inhabit.

I never give up, though. Ghandi wasn't just speaking to hear his own voice when he encouraged us to be the changes we wanted to see. No one ever said it would be easy, and no one ever said it wouldn't suck sometimes, but it is inherently worth it. Our society is inherently better because of her willingness to fight the power, and we owe her and all our likeminded foremothers a great debt.

Rest in power, Mother Jones. Give 'em hell.
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