Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Southern Maine Workers' Center. An astonishing resource (and pictured below, this featured at the SMWC site, Fairport workers on strike, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).

Thinking about the center, and later stopping in, I found myself thinking about the Miners' Gala in Durham each year, and Little Moscow, the Chopwell district of Durham, the banner of the lodge there, a trinity situated at center, Scottish socialist and Labor Party co-founder Keir Hardie, Lenin and Marx, this lodge National Union of Mineworkers, a Labor Party badge to the right of the banner, a hammer and sickle with a red star at the other, this contradiction, and below lines from Whitman, Pioneers: "WE TAKE UP THE TASK ETERNAL | THE BURDEN AND THE LESSON."

That Whitman could be so seamlessly situated beneath this trinity, or that this configuration—Hardie, Lenin and Marx—can still resonate through the streets, if only as ritual practice, to this one might ask what better ritual to observe, this echo of a perhaps more radical past, and I now I find myself recalling the shop in Durham where I found Bill Griffith's North East Dialect: Survey and Word List (1999), later Griffith's would hone and expand the endeavor into A Dictionary of North East Dialect (2004), encouraging me to wonder where a dialect ends and a language begins, and as ever the question of the shibboleth for any dialect ensnared in a humiliatingly subordinate relation to a dominant language, the subordinate dialect often figured culturally as the butt of a joke. And so to see Whitman, who, like Springsteen or Baraka, aspires to celebrate working people and the working poor, to privilege them, as washing the feet of the indigent and ill—to see class cut across the Atlantic in this way—this offers something—even if only ritualized gesture.