The song met the town. Last Sunday night James McMurtry performed “We Can’t Make It Here” (see counterpunch.org 9/30/05 for all the lyrics) at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton gets mentioned in the song as the hollowed-out shell of manufacturing that it is.
The crowd of 100 punctuated “We Can’t Make It Here” with hoots, hollers, claps, “yeah’s” and “right on’s.” The man was testifyin’. The song, which came midway through the show, received the longest ovation I’ve ever seen for a song that wasn’t a regular-show closer or an encore.
Dayton’s 5,700 Delphi automotive workers will lose their jobs unless they agree to have their wages slashed by 60-70%. Had a Delphi executive been in the bar that night he would have been ripped to pieces and thrown out on the street without a twinge of remorse. The crowd’s joy of hearing the truth, mixed with anger at capitalist reality, was palpable all through “We Can’t Make It Here.” Think anybody’s going to clap for the lies, irrelevancies and misdirections of CNN, Fox News or the New York Times?
Stephen King has called “We Can’t Make It Here” the best protest song since Dylan’s “Masters of War.” I think of it as a companion piece to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message.” A crack world book-ended with a crank world. Not much has changed — don’t push us because we are close to the edge and we can’t make it here anymore. God, how I wish we’d get pushed over that edge.
The day before McMurtry played, the Dayton Daily News told us:
1) Ohio leads the nation in bankruptcy filings
2) Ohio leads the nation in mortgage failures and home foreclosures with Montgomery County (Dayton) tops in the state
3) the Dayton Metro area is second only to the Detroit Metro area for employment declines in the past year
One day the American working class is going to exercise, in Henry Miller’s words, our “legitimate bloodlust.” One day workers won’t be freezing their asses off in a picket line outside of a factory; they’ ll be occupuying the factories and they’ll have their spouses and lovers and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children and guns and dogs with them. And they’ll be daring the cops to take them on. And the cops will back down. And if it happens at just one plant it will spread like wildfire all over the country and the working class will announce that things are going to be different from this moment on. The world can’t get well until the American working class gets well; the whole world waits for us to ignite a revolution and dispossess the capitalist class.
The day after McMurtry played, the DDN reported on the last minute record-setting crush of bankruptcy filings. Clerk of Courts Michael Webb for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court covering Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus said his staff was “excited about it. They think it’s a part of history.”
That’s the only kind of history that capitalist America is capable of making. One day the 50 millionth American will have no health insurance. One day soon the 2,000th American soldier will be killed in Iraq. One day $1 trillion of our taxes will have been spent on the Iraq crime. And more and more of us “can’t make it here anymore.” Thanks, James McMurtry, for giving this country its true national anthem.
After reading the bankruptcy article I was out the door to my no-benefit driving job where the cost of fuel is killing us worse than the wage cuts we’ve also eaten in the past year and where most drivers can’t afford health insurance and most have either been through bankruptcy or should go through it but are too proud to file but who all happen to be the hardest working, hustling people I’ve ever worked with in my life… It’s time for me to drive up and down I-75 and move your shit, capitalist tapeworms. One day, we won’t be moving; you will. You’ll be shagging your asses to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, one step/jet ahead of a bullet, a blade or bare hands.
RANDY SHIELDS lives in Vandalia, Ohio. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org