For Christmas I received "The Morenci Marines" by Kyle Longley. I strongly recommend it to you. For me it is a personal story. On the surface it is a story about the most famous group of infantry men in the Vietnam War and the costs paid by a small town.
Now wait, wait, wait, Espera te! Since I came back I've known that the mere mention of Vietnam can send insurance salesmen and evangelists running away. But is more than a war story. It is a blueprint that was used first on rural areas and then spread over the whole country to take from the lower classes and gather wealth and power to the top.
Kyle Longley has spent more than a decade in researching this story. His book published last fall tells the story with grace and compassion. I graduated with these men from Morenci High School in 1966 and he has captured the time, place, and people.
I remember the scream. The universal scream that crosses cultures, classes and religions.
My stepmother was a school teacher in Morenci. She heard along with everyone in the cafeteria heard it and recounted it to me. It was from the mother of Sam and Stan King. Professor Longley describes it like this:
As the government-issue car wound its way through the community people prayed that it would keep moving. It finally arrived at the King home. The Marine exited, assed through the short chain-linked fence gate, and knocked on the door. No one answered. After a few quiries he tracked down Glenn. The news devastated the burly smelter worker, sending him into a tailspin that would last for a long time. On that day though, he gathered himself,and accompanied by his close friend Floyd Hoffman, he drove with the officer to the high school where Penny worked in the lunchroom. As soon as Glenn and the Marine walked in, Penny let out a piercing scream. She knew what had happened, admitting forty years later that the memory was "still just as fresh as that day."The officer proceeded with his formal announcement, and the family began the horrible ordeal of acknowledging the death of the eldest son while preparing for his final trip home.
The people of Morenci worked hard mining and smelting copper. Times were good then for the industry and the work schedule was 26 days on and 2 days off. The area sent more than it's share of volunteers to the war and paid a high price for it. The men who returned to work there were subjected to a company engineered strike, saw the National Guard called in to break the strike and union. Had most of the jobs eliminated and saw the town shrink while the New York owners enriched themselves. It was a pattern that was perfected in rural areas, and spread to the rest of the country.
There is one quibble with the book. Kyle Longley describes the different groups of people there, Mexican Americans, more studious college bound types, Native Americans, all fleshed out as real people. It took me a third of the way through to figure out what he meant by those he calls 'kickers'. The word is shit-kickers. It is not a particularly pejorative term. Thousand pound herbivores eat a lot of low protein food, and produce a lot of manure. In a corral there is a whole bunch of the stuff laying around and it is impossible to feed, water or saddle if one has to worry about keeping boots clean. Besides what's a cowboy? Young man with teats? An Anglo isn't a vaquero and a Native America sure isn't a cowboy. It's shit-kicker.
The writer respects his subjects and is true to there longings not to turn the story into a polemic in favor or opposed to someone else's favorite philosophy. He did a fine job.
What I wish people would get out of it is to quit making comments on this site calling those who wish to hang on to their guns and religion stupid. No one is going to be won over if they are disrespected, and those who have had incomes decreased, ignored and lied to must be given a positive reason to support change.
I hope the Affordable Care Act does make positive noticeable changes in peoples lives. Most of the progressive movements have had roots in the plains and the West. If it can be shown that there is an attempt to improve their lives and Republicans offer nothing but the status quo there can be real political shift.
I shamelessly hype "The Morenci Marines" by Kyle Longley. I'm going to get another copy and give it to the Marine Recruiting Battalion at work.