Friday Reads: Harvest of their Hands

Julien Dupre, circa 1880, In The Fields

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I hope you had a wonderful feast day!  It’s difficult for me not to think about how fortunate those of us with food and shelter are this year. I’ve watched the number of community fridges grow in my city and the food bank drive throughs are endlessly long. Unless Congress reups some kind of aid for those whose work and lives have been severely disrupted by Covid-19 we will continue to experience the kinds of things not really seen since the Great Depression.

Food Insecurity is on the rise.  Congressional Republicans seem completely disinterested.

Food insecurity appears to be on the rise across the country, worsened by the pandemic. Researchers from Northwestern University estimate food insecurity in America doubled in the first few months after the coronavirus arrived, and a recent CBS News poll shows more than one third of Americans are at least somewhat concerned they won’t have enough money for groceries in the next year. Errol Barnett reports on the growing need before the holidays.

I’d like to start by reminding everyone that some of the most essential workers in the country are Farm Workers.  No meal would be possible without them. Those of us of a certain age remember the work of César Chávez.  His Granddaughter,  Julie Chávez Rodríguez,, will now serve in the Biden Administration.

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday (Nov. 17) selected Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of farmworker icon César E. Chávez, to serve on his White House staff.

Rodríguez, 41, who was born in Delano, will serve as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

As a senior adviser for Latino outreach, she is the highest-ranking Latina on the Biden campaign.

“I am proud to announce additional members of my senior team who will help us build back better than before. America faces great challenges, and they bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling these challenges and emerging on the other side a stronger, more united nation,” said Biden in a press statement.

Rodriguez is expected to help Biden improve his outreach with the Latino population. More than 70% of Latino voters supported Biden, but he failed to garner as much support as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in areas like Miami-Dade County and Texas border counties.

Harvest, 2015, Sunil Linus De , Kottayam

Ever wonder how that food gets to your table?  Here’s an interesting set of tweets compiled by Life Hacker to let you know “Learn How Farmers Produce Ingredients for Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes.”  The United Farm Workers sent these tweets with videos showing the food and a farmworker that harvests it for our use.

On Sunday, November 22nd, the United Farm Workers tweeted a call for requests: “Tell us your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and we’ll share some of what we know about the work behind the ingredients.” And after inviting people to participate, the dishes started coming in hard and fast.

In response, the UFW sent photos and videos with brief explanations, providing some details about the growing and harvesting process. For example, Brussels sprouts grow on a very tough, woody stem, and there are not one, but two ways to harvest cranberries.

These videos are really quite fascinating:  “Organizers are using mesmerizing video clips of harvests to advocate for better protections and pay.”

The thread blew up, garnering more than 50,000 likes in a couple of days. It’s full of mesmerizing videos of highly skilled agricultural workers tossing turnips, parceling parsley, and harvesting radishes, hands moving with impossible quickness, blades swinging fast enough to take off a less-skilled person’s finger.

Yet the images don’t just reveal the immense skill most of us take for granted: They also reveal the often dangerous conditions, and lack of compensation, that agricultural workers endure. Most farm workers are paid by piece rather than hourly, a few cents a bundle, meaning they need to pick quickly, in physically grueling conditions, to make above minimum wage. Almost a third of farm workers live in poverty, often in cramped, impermanent housing, with no ability to work from home. This has left agricultural workers particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

“This has just been a brutal, brutal summer to be a farm worker,” says Strater. “We’ve heard so much about how their work is so essential—no matter what the cost you’ve got to keep it open, keep production running. But few people are thinking about the human cost.”

At one point earlier this year, following a particularly devastating outbreak, Strater found herself on the front lines. “It became my job to engage with the county coroner, and explain to these workers’ families why they weren’t even going to get their dads’ bodies back,” she says.

And then in late summer, when things seemed they couldn’t get worse, wildfires broke out on the West Coast. The fields were filled with a thick, dangerous coat of smoke. “There were farm workers working in the fields while their homes were burning,” Strater says.

Here’s just on example:

California accounts for 80 percent of the U.S.’s celery supply. Here, workers cooperate to harvest, process, and stack the long stalks in a few deft movements. According to Strater, celery juice can irritate exposed skin, so workers must completely cover themselves during the harvest—a difficult prospect in the harsh California heat.

There are a lot more to watch! Go to either of the above links or directly to the UFW’s tweet stream.

Dawn on the Farm, Rice Harvest , 1945, Thomas Hart Benton

We’ve said this a lot but read this  The Guardian article for more: “Putting Trump behind us is like exiting an abusive relationship: it takes time. Under Trump many had a ‘collective hypervigilance and anxiety of what he might do next’, experts say – so how do we unpack these past four years?

There are certainly many parallels between the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and a psychologically violent relationship. Think about the temper tantrums, the refusal to accept reality, mood swings, fear of reprisal and a sense of looming danger: all are hallmarks of controlling and abusive behavior.

Farrah Khan is a gender-based violence expert and member of the government of Canada’s Advisory Council on the Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence – and she echoes how Trump’s time in office has often mirrored domestic violence.

“Throughout his time in office, Trump would belittle communities, enact state violence through policies, act out in vengeful ways when he felt slighted and cut off access to supports or protections, isolating communities from each other,” she tells me. “I feel that under Trump many of us had a collective hypervigilance and anxiety of what he might do next. This has shown up in things like night terrors or constantly scrolling on social media for real or perceived threats from him to your community.”

One of the most common ways an abuser exerts control is through isolation, cutting their partners off from the support of their communities and loved ones. Through his most despicable policies on issues like race, immigration and LGBTQ+ rights, it can be argued thatTrump has pitted Americans against each other, sowing discord and creating rifts that push his supporters further from their family and friends.

For years, Trump has managed to isolate his most fervent followers from reality, creating a parallel Maga world where Covid-19 is little more than a hoax, mail-in ballots don’t count (unless they do) and behind every pizza place lurks a pedophile ring. And like many coercive partners, Trump refuses to let go.

Like many, Khan’s immediate reaction on election night was one of suspicion and worry. She wrote that the “most dangerous time in a violent relationship is when you leave”. She’s still concerned that Trump’s violent rhetoric is escalating rather than declining. “As someone that works daily with survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, I know that the risk of violence is often highest during the period of separation. People who cause harm will use anything available to them from coercive threats, lies or pleading to force the partner to stay,” she says.

Those are hardly words normally ascribed to the transition of power from one US president to the next, but prescient given the lengthy and increasingly futile legal battle Trump continues to wage in hopes of denying the reality of his loss and his increasingly tenuous grip on power. In a recent Guardian article on his increasingly unhinged behavior, Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota said: “This behavior is even more erratic than usual and he has retreated. He has put himself in a form of psychological isolation. His emotional state is clearly abysmal.”

The Harvest, 1883, Camille Pissaro

The Pope wrote a blistering Op Ed in The New York Times that seemed pointed towards Trump and his cronies.  It seemed prescient given that five pseudo Catholics on the Supreme Court Basically just voted against his advice.  “Pope Francis swipes at groups protesting COVID-19 restrictions in NYT op-ed.”  This is Joseph Choi’s take from MSNBC.

In the article, the pope talked about the ways in which his own personal health crisis helped him to understand how science is used to help people recover.

At 21, the pope had part of his lung was removed.

“When I got really sick at the age of 21, I had my first experience of limit, of pain and loneliness. It changed the way I saw life. For months, I didn’t know who I was or whether I would live or die. The doctors had no idea whether I’d make it either. I remember hugging my mother and saying, ‘Just tell me if I’m going to die,'” he wrote.

“I have some sense of how people with Covid-19 feel as they struggle to breathe on a ventilator,” he added.

According to Francis, two nurses – Cornelia and Micaela – helped him survive, adding that “They taught me what it is to use science but also to know when to go beyond it to meet particular needs. And the serious illness I lived through taught me to depend on the goodness and wisdom of others.”

The pope lauded doctors and medical workers who continue to take care of the sick during the pandemic, stating that they understand that “it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call.”

“That’s why, in many countries, people stood at their windows or on their doorsteps to applaud them in gratitude and awe. They are the saints next door, who have awakened something important in our hearts, making credible once more what we desire to instill by our preaching,” he added.

However, the pope swiped at groups who have insisted that measures put in place to stem the spread of the pandemic are an attack on their personal freedoms.

“Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate,” he writes.

Vincent Van Gogh – The Harvest,1888

Justice Sotomayor–also Catholic–delivered an eloquent clap back on the decision that basically puts religion above the law. “In Covid-19 regulations case, Sotomayor dissent claps back at Supreme Court majority. The high court’s ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, will “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.”

Sotomayor, the nation’s only Latina Supreme Court Justice and a native New Yorker, was not having it.

“Free religious exercise is one of our most treasured and jealously guarded constitutional rights. States may not discriminate against religious institutions, even when faced with a crisis as deadly as this one,” she wrote. “But those restrictions are not at stake today.”

In her dissent, in which she was joined by Justice Elena Kagan, she wrote: “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.” The Court had rejected challenges to similar measures in California and Nevada earlier this year, and she saw no reason for its apparent change of heart. The Court’s ruling, she noted, “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.”

As the Court has increasingly shifted to the right, Sotomayor has emerged as its strong progressive voice. She has taken aim at what she saw as improper actions by the Trump administration, as well as what she considered improper behavior by the Court itself.

In her dissent in the Covid-19 restrictions case, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Andrew M. Cuomo, Sotomayor took aim at Gorsuch’s comparison of New York’s treatment of religious institutions to liquor stores and bike shops. In the latter venues, she reasoned, people do not gather inside for more than an hour to sing and speak to one another.

Sotomayor brushed aside allegations that Governor Cuomo had made anti-religious statements, which would mean that his coronavirus orders be subjected to strict scrutiny by the Court. Just a few years ago, she pointed out, the Court declined to consider President Trump’s remarks and comments in its evaluation of the so-called “Muslim Ban,” limiting immigration from Muslim-majority countries. In her opinion in the DACA case earlier this year, she likewise noted that the majority did not give weight to Trump’s comments (about Mexicans) in that decision, either.

So, that’s it for me today.

We’re still here together. Let us know how you’re doing!  We are a community that cares about each other!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?