Monday, August 29, 2011


An interesting NPR interview of an author on the tasteless industrial tomato.

He also details labor abuses.

It  is pretty disturbing, and if it doesn't convince you to grow your own, you're probably unusually resistant to disturbing news.

One things, though, is that the interview, while not on immigrant labor and farming, makes it pretty clear that the system depends on using, and abusing, immigrant farm workers.  A partial solution to this sort of thing, although one nobody ever seems willing to consider, is ending the practice of importing agricultural labor.  We didn't do that until World War Two, when we had to.  Before that, we did it ourselves, with our own population.

We have plenty of Americans to do the job, and having seen many absolutely rotten jobs Americans will do, the thesis that you "can't get Americans" to do this job is a fraud on the public.  What you can't do is to get them to work for substandard wages, in substandard conditions. And they shouldn't have to do that either.

Paying Americans humane wages to do a job in humane conditions would put a lot of Americans to work in an outdoor job and connect them with agriculture and the real world.  It would raise the cost of food, but perhaps its unrealistically low priced to start with to some extent, on some items.  Of course, we'd have to actually guard our borders from the import of food produced poorly by those paying the poor, poor wages, but so be it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Church in New Mexico, early 1940s.

I've been thinking of trying to find a way to post this topic for awhile, but I hadn't gotten around to it, and I also hadn't quite figured out a way to post it effectively.

The topic is prejudice, but not racial prejudice. Religious bias may be a better way to phrase it.

Americans today are so used to the concept that the country was founded on religious liberty that they don't really question it. There remains religious prejudice in this, and every, country to be sure, but the way it was ingrained in society was once much greater than it is now.

To be more specific, I recently saw a topic concerning Roman Catholics and university attendance. The specific topic was the GI Bill. In the topic, a second hand citation to Catholics attending university in the time period was mentioned. More specifically, it was mentioned that prior to World War Two very few Catholics attended university. One of the people responding to that post found that assertion to be just ridiculous, but there were first hand recollections cited to support it (including mine).

I think that actually is correct, and it taps into the general theme of the website here. We look back at our country and figure, except for certain big historical facts that are generally known, that we share much in common with those who came before us. This is simply not always true. And this is one of the ways in which it was not true.

It has been frequently debated whether or not the country was founded on religious principals, and while it can be well supported that the country was not a theocracy in any fashion, it generally had some unity of religious thought, very loosely, early on. To call it a Christian republic might be too strong, but to call it a republic founded largely by Protestant Christians would not be. Generally, up until the 1840s, most Americans belonged to only one of several Protestant denominations. This made sense, of course, as most Americans descended from one of only several ethnic groups, and very early in the our history (our colonial history) immigration had been restricted to exclude members of other faiths, generally. Or more specifically, immigration had excluded Catholics.

This wasn't the case after we severed our allegiance to the United Kingdom, but still, it wasn't really up until the Irish Potato Famine got rolling, and the revolutions of the 1840s in Europe occurred, that this began to change. At that time, a lot of Irish immigrants began to come into the country and, at the same time, a lot of Germans from the Catholic regions of Germany began to do the same. An identifiable Catholic population existed in the US for the first time, excluding of course Acadians and Louisianans, who had been in it for a very long time, but in isolated pockets. Mexican Americans too, fit this latter description.

Prejudice ran strong against these new immigrants, particularly against the Irish immigrants who were inclined to congregate in cities. Prejudice against German Catholics also existed, but the German immigrants were much more inclined to strike out for German farming enclaves where English speaking Americans were less likely to encounter them. In regards to Irish immigrants, however, prejudice was so strong that they were typically defined as a "race", much like African Americans were and are.

Things began to change for Irish Americans during the Mexican War. During the war they were strongly represented (as were German Americans) in the Army, and that helped ease feelings against them. Still, lingering prejudice against Irish Americans well into the 20th Century. And immigration by Italian Americans, which came around the turn of the 19th Century, once again brought in what was regarded as a strongly alien, Catholic, population.

These populations, to a large degree, were much more isolated and communal in the American population until after World War Two. This varied by region, to be sure, but to a surprising degree these Catholic ethic communities remained segregated wherever they lived in a substantial urban area. And everywhere they were strongly associated, and self associated, with their church. Ecumenism was much less valued as well, so identification by Faith meant a great deal. This still occurs, but prior to World War Two to identify as a member of any one Faith, and most people did, meant a fairly strong allegiance to it.

These Catholic populations, the evidence seems to support to me, were also almost exclusively working class. In most urban areas Roman Catholics worked in laboring endeavors. In rural areas of the West, they were often ranchers. I can't really say much about rural areas elsewhere. There were always Catholics in the professions, such as law and medicine, but their clients were more concerned about Faith than they would be now. This is also true, fwiw, for African Americans, who had black doctors and black lawyers surprisingly early on, but those black lawyers and doctors had black clients.

In this era working class men had a much easier time making a living for a family than they do now. Laboring jobs were never easy, but they did often pay a living wage, if they were for skilled labor. A much smaller percentage of Americans attended college or university in general. Generally, Catholics did not attend. Some did, but not anywhere the percentage that now does.

World War Two seems to have changed all of that. It was likely changing anyway. Well before World War Two the nation had seen its first Roman Catholic Supreme Court justice (a Southern Confederate veteran). A Roman Catholic had attempted an unsuccessful, but serious, run for the Presidency prior to the war. General Terry de le Mesa Allen, a Roman Catholic, and Gen. Keyes, also a Catholic, had long running Army careers by the time World War Two broke out and they'd commanded large number of men. For that matter, Gen. McClellan of Civil War fame was a Catholic. But the war seemed to break an already breaking log jam, and after the war identification by class or religion was no longer a statistical factor in college attendance. By the 60s, Ivy League colleges that had effectively been Protestant schools were abandoning chapel requirements, thereby opening them up to members of non Protestant faiths.

In mentioning all of this, I'm not seeking to start a debate. But it is interesting to note. Religious tolerance has always been a feature of American life, but how religion has been a factor in culture and even employment has been largely forgotten.