Tuesday, December 20, 2005

December 20, 1932

I was an ordinary mother in 1932
My husband out of work and more worries here than food
I was weary with asking the man for relief
Feeling like a beggar, being treated like a thief

A large part of my walk at work last week was downtown. Lots of businesses, lawyer's offices, and two missions. Each day at the Good Shepherd there stood a line of men and women, holding themselves against the cold as best they could, waiting for the doors to open so they could head inside for some warmth and a simple meal.

So when word of a protest started going round
I bundled my boys for the long walk downtown
And bless them, they didn't make a peep about the cold
One was only 5, the other 9 years old

I saw no children standing in line, but of course this was downtown. A short distance away there are streets where suburbia has vacated the realm a long time ago, and where children live with their families in a situation most of us are unfamiliar with.

We were good people, gathered in the square
It wasn't ease and comfort had driven us there

Tonight we took the kids for a ride to see the lights in the local version of Candy Cane Lane. Ahead of us there was was a stretch limo, its passengers invisible behind the tinted windows.

Well the air was almost festive with Christmas trees in view
But as we moved to leave the square and march the Avenue
A sound I'd never heard before turned my heart to lead
The sound of a billy club cracking open heads

Every year for Christmas, BC Premier Gordon Campbell is lucky enough to be able to go to Hawaii for a family Christmas holiday. Hawaii, of course, is where Campbell was busted for drunk driving, and where he paid $913 in fines and fees while not admitting to doing anything wrong.

Well I'd always taught my sons we were safe around police
But when they charged on horses, I dragged us off the street
It made me so angry they'd endanger children too
In silencing the voices of 1932

In British Columbia, 84,317 people used a food bank in March 2004, an increase of 16% in one year. Almost 8,000 more children needed emergency food in 2004 than in 2003, an increase of 41.7%."

(Chorus)We were good people, gathered in the square
It wasn't ease and comfort had driven us there
But they treated us like criminals for showing our despair
Oh I remember well this Bloody Tuesday

From the same link as above: "
People are now relying on food banks for their total source of nourishment because the money is used for other basic living expenses. Also, in order to continue to qualify for welfare, people are required to complete endless paperwork and reporting. It has created an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust and many low-income people are becoming more depressed and desperate. When you lose hope, you lose the will to survive. "

Where was the government who wouldn't let us starve?
Who wouldn't take the farmer's land, who knew we worked so hard
We, the people, were just scraping by for our daily bread
We had voted for the cowards and away they turned their heads

Recently a volunteer manning a Sally Ann kettle on Vancouver Island stole the kettle and blamed it on others.
"We're not so much angry as we are saddened," said someone from the Salvation Army. "Someone that desperate needs help."

Now I've read it in the paper, this supposed "Hunger March"
Was the scheme of Reds, they said, our hunger was a farce
Well I don't care what they say, for me it did ring true
An ordinary mother in 1932

December 19, 1932. Ten thousand Albertans gather in downtown Edmonton for a march to the Legislature, a march to demand better working conditions and better pay—and for the bosses and politicians to do something about the poverty and desperation engulfing a province in the throes of the Great Depression. Young communists. Labour party members. Families. Farmers. Factory workers. After making speeches declaring their intentions and tactics to be peaceful, the marchers turned west onto Jasper Avenue; there, the Hunger March was met by police. Storming the crowd on horseback, police cut a swath with their billy clubs, the bones and skulls of ordinary people breaking the trajectory of police truncheons. The official records say 29 were arrested. Countless others were injured."

Song lyrics from "We Were Good People" by Maria Dunn with help from a letter by William Dolinsky, from the 2004 CD of the same name.

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