John the Baptist in Red Wing Shoes



Shift work can be a dangerous, nauseating experience. Working 12 hours straight in a control panel at a power plant for 84 hours I often have entertained myself by adjusting the junked out radio with an antenna that wraps around the wall like a bizarre labyrinth. I was able to receive transmissions from one static local radio station “Magic 101.1 FM”: specializing in hits from the past and present”. During mid-week on a night shift schedule I had to check myself for auditory hallucinations (another result of shift work) as I heard an advertisement that was ludicrous and had me laughing to myself uncontrollably. The advertisement was for Red Wing shoes and here is the initial auditory onslaught:

What is work? Is work talking about working? Is work telling others to work? No, work is actually working with your hands and your brains. Work is building skyscrapers and drilling for oil. Work is loading ships and building submarines. Work is craft. Work is complex. Work is family. Work is pride, and if you’re serious about it, work is a pair of read winged boots on your feet. Red Winged work boots are purpose built for the exact work you do. Red wing shoes, work is our work.

The advertisement insanely rambles on to describe how wearing Red Wing shoes makes you an American. I sat and looked at my footwear and thankfully I wasn’t wearing any Red Wing shoes. After all what is a corporation to instruct me what work is or how somehow certain jobs are more meaningful than others? For a company that prides itself in being “American” and “For the working man” they certainly have been busy. Recently a plant was closed in Kentucky and a second shift eliminated in Minnesota; 200 jobs eliminated in all. Apparently their work wasn’t “worth talking about” and the employees’ families weren’t a consideration. The type of America envisioned by Red Wing shoes plays on the stereotypical beer-chugging construction worker who musters up enough energy for domestic abuse at the end of the day.

I visited my local refuge site the next day; a neat local phenomenon where people can leave items for others to use and recycle. There are all sorts of characters and miscreants that scavenge the trash heaps for something salvageable. A bizarre subculture has emerged with people poking the trash mounds for their hoarding at home. There are also needy individuals that find salvation and otherwise goods that would go to waste.

I saw one of the familiars, an individual who has been termed “John the Baptist” because he spends his days preaching to anyone who will listen and has subjected himself to a life of poverty. When he isn’t at the refuge site he’s at the local jail. His primary crime is “criminal trespass” because he has been banned from many local businesses for loitering. His most recent foray into jail was a result of singing to children. The police showed up after an enraged parent called. He was subsequently tackled to the ground because he refused to get on his knees for the police. His reasoning was that he bowed before no one but God. He received brutal treatment for being mentally ill and confusing the public. He has never assaulted or hurt anyone.

I donated John the one pair of Red Wing shoes I had and he was very much appreciative. He had previously been wearing worn-out shoes made out of dilapidated cardboard. His work is “worth talking about” and he said a little prayer for me as I exited the refuge site. This is the America I warmly embrace. This is a diverse country where people like John should be treated fairly and just. This is life at the edge of the empire in interior Alaska.

Daniel Church is an activist writer residing in Fairbanks, Alaska and can be reached at lfsdan@hotmail.com


October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria