The More Things Change …

The More Things Change … March 9, 2012

The following excerpt from Dorothy Day’s House of Hospitality was written in 1937/38. This particular scene takes place during a speaking trip Dorothy took to California. Seventy-five years later, things really haven’t changed that much, have they?

Yesterday on the bus to San Diego two older men were talking about the President, and loud enough for everyone in the bus to hear. They called him a yellow coward, with the heart of a louse, a maniac on the verge of total insanity. They talked of their investments and losses. They talked of public utilities. And every other minute they cursed him. Each mention of wages, public works, unions, led to increased bitterness.

“There’ll be bloodshed yet,” they concluded, and grimly added that they’d like to take part in it. Hate was etched into the bitter lines of their faces and into their voices.

I could not help comparing their attitude with that of the two hundred or so unemployed I had talked to the day before in Los Angeles at an open Forum of the Workers’ Alliance. I talked of Christ the Worker, of a philosophy of labor, of the farming commune as a solution of unemployment. I told them of Peter [Maurin], and his social program for the lay apostolate.

The men I talked to wanted work, not a dole. They wanted private property (the idea of homesteads and community farm combined appealed to them). They wanted peace and brotherhood. They were interested in government help but would rather have work, provided it meant something to them–was building for their security and future. They were interested in a constructive program, not in fighting a class war. And when I thought how betrayed they are by their intellectual leadership, my heart wept.

It was enough to make one weep just to hear those two men talking on the bus. I thought of Peter Maurin and how he loves to indoctrinate wherever he goes, talking on street corners and buses and restaurants, wherever he happens to be. But his is a conservative indoctrination, and not a message of hate.

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