How I Spent My Summer Vacation
- by Chris Maisano
This past summer I caught a glimpse of the new society on a dirt road in rural Ohio.
I was working on a campaign to organize nursing home workers in Monroe County, and I pulled my car over to the side of the road to stop in front of the worker's house I was visiting. It rained hard the day before, and being the city slicker that I am, I didn't realize the seemingly solid ground was actually a mud patch. I was stuck.
I approached the worker's house to talk about the union and, if the meeting went well, to get some help. Nobody was home. Dejection set in. I began to think I'd be stranded in the Appalachians forever.
Then I spotted a jeep up the road. I waved at it, and to my amazement, the driver stopped. He was burly and bearded, wore a plaid flannel shirt and suspenders. And there I was, looking sharp in my khaki pants, blue shirt, and bright green tie. "I seem to be stuck in some mud," I offered feebly, while fretting that the guy thought that either I'm ridiculously incompetent or a serial killer, or possibly both. But he actually helped me. We tried to push the car out of the mud, but to no avail. "I know a guy up the road with a tractor," the stranger said, and we hopped in the jeep and sped toward the next house.
I knocked at the door, and utterly embarrassed, I explained my situation to the man who answered. He was a farmer, and he indeed had a tractor. He offered to fire up the machine and come to my rescue. I hopped back in the jeep with my guardian angel, and somewhat incredulously, he asked me what I was doing in Monroe County. I explained that I'm from New Jersey, I work for the Service Employees International Union, and was working on a campaign to organize nursing home workers in the area.
The immense cultural gulf separating us narrowed. It turned out he is a member of the machinists union. The farmer showed up with his tractor, and he was a union man too. We talked some, mostly about our common distaste for President Bush and how much of a tragedy the decline of unions in this country is. The farmer hitched my car to the tractor and pulled it out. I offered my new friends some compensation for their help, but they refused. "I don't mind helping out a fellow union man," the guy with the jeep said to me. We got back in our vehicles and drove our separate ways.
It was then I realized why I am a radical, that all of the talk about solidarity and brotherhood wasn't just so much wooly-headed pap. Building a new human community built on these principles is possible, and it indeed exists in the interstices of this unjust order.
Chris Maisano is a student at Rutgers University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.