We Got Exploited – AGAIN, But Maybe We Deserve It.

My reaction was likely the same as yours. . . what the hell?

The recent Senate bill supporting our American society after a global economic and health crisis was nothing less than a corporate frenzy feeding by our politicians. This should be a dire wake up call right now for “we, the people.”

We have not been heard. It took Bernie Sanders screaming for four years and beyond to wake us up. And without a penny from a corporation or billionaire, it may be evident that they did their fancy foot work AGAIN and squashed him quietly so we would forget what it means for the working class and the working poor to stand on our own two feet and scream as loud as Bernie.

But, I ponder if we are truly ready for this act, when “we, the people” are not living into the integrity we so demand of others. Over the last few years I’ve had enough examples in my life to show that it’s not the politicians who are corrupt and exploitative – it’s everywhere in our society, even in my own neighborhood against the most vulnerable people, including my eight year old son.

I think the moment hit me hard as I sat in the driveway one sunny afternoon. My  eight year old son wanted to have a garage sale and he was determined to do it all by himself, including signage and him choosing which possessions of his to sell. I loved his determination. I chose not to tell him his signage was barely legible. I smiled when he hung it upside down on the curbside post. He grabbed his big collection of hot wheels which he rarely used and laid them out on a blanket on the driveway, waiting patiently for his first customer who turned out to be his only customer – a passerby. An older woman out on her walk greeted my son and my son worked hard to be the professional. He greeted her and showed her all he had to sell. She especially liked the cars, and he offered each one for 5 cents. She gave him three dollars for the entire collection. He packaged them up in a bag with a big thank you. He turned to me and smiled. “See mom, I can do it.”

My jaw had dropped. The woman walked away with an extra skip to her walk as if she was happy to get the deal of a lifetime, for her own grandkids, as she had told me. Any other garage sale would have had a sticker price of at least 30 dollars for my son’s collection.

My jaw was still dangling, but I put myself together for my son. I wanted him to own this feeling of accomplishing something himself, and I resisted the urge to tell him that he was robbed blind. That woman completely exploited an eight year old boy and she felt good about it.

Now, my own mother, a generous sort, would have entertained the young boy, understanding his age and ability. She would have spotted him a good $20 bill at least and given him a pat on the head. My mother’s view of the world is how I grew up, believing we help each and neighbors are honest with one another. Her rearing did not prepare me for our world today.

About five years ago I went through a divorce and lost pretty much everything. I had to struggle back into the “game” realizing wages in my own Marin County, California were literally slave wages for the working class. I started to accrue debt rapidly, just to survive, believing that I’d soon find a job to make a decent living. However, after four years I found myself in $40,000 in debt which kept me awake at night. I had never experienced such debt in my life.

I kept getting letters in the mail about loans to eliminate my credit card debts, so I decided to check one out, feeling a bit uncertain given that many such “deals” are often scams. I made the call. The nice man Michael talked me through the process which sounded like a great deal. I was enormously stressed given I had been working as a substitute teacher and I found myself telling him some of these woes and how criminal it is that teachers make such low wages. He really listened and played into the “friend” role. I began to trust him. He’d call just to check in, understanding I was stressed and he genuinely sounded like this method could help me get over the financial hump. Like my mother, my innocence goes deep. I found it difficult to question the integrity of a professional and could not imagine one exploiting a single mother in debt and working the way I was.

Michael wouldn’t send me the full documentation over email, saying at the time it wasn’t complete but he’d have it complete the night I’d meet his notary (anywhere and anytime), so then I could read the contract. It was in the dark of night, at a local cafe, where I sat down with a woman whom I had never met before and she presented me the financial contract. My jaw dropped again though I didn’t reveal my shock right away. Did they really suspect I was THIS STUPID? The idea was they’d give me a lump sum, make a deal with my bank, screwing them (and I liked my bank – a community credit union) and ruin my credit for years. But there was more. If the bank sued the company for the bully deal they were preparing the bank,  I would be responsible for all litigation and lawyer fees!

I realized the notary kept looking at her phone. Michael had been texting her and it was completely evident to me that I was set up for a complete scam. I looked at her hard and then started to laugh uncontrollably. There was pure humor in this moment. “Did you really think that I was THIS STUPID!” She got very quiet and actually, in the end, sided with me and said  “we women really need to stick together, don’t we?” She felt bad. At least, I think she did. I even told her I’d pay her notary fee for the evening. She declined and disappeared into the night. I never heard from Michael or the company again.

Tonight, days after the Senate bill sold the people out,  I sat down with my son again. He’s now almost 14 years old and continues to have a strong independent nature. He had wanted a “credit card” to use for online purchases. So, together we went to our local CVS store where he picked out a card and added a value of $20 to it, money which he had earned. I pointed out to him that he was also spending $3.95 simply for buying the card. He didn’t care and made the purchase. Later he made a few online purchases until he discovered this: for every purchase, the credit card company takes a dollar. A full dollar!

Now, you could think that I’m stupid for not reading the small print or teaching my son to read the small print. You could say I’m naive and should have researched these contracts or at least have stood up to that woman who jipped my son over the hotwheel set. That’s right, I could have. But, my point here is how do we even question our government and their exploitation when our entire culture operates in a predatory and exploitative approach. It’s everywhere! How can one develop trust in a system when one has to question everything. What has happened to honesty and making an honest living?

It’s not the government that needs to be reworked. It’s not even about newly elected officials representing us. We, the people need to step up integrity and stop pointing fingers at others until we face ourselves. We need a system to call out those who continue to exploit us and we need to stand up for one another.

As we experience lockdown, and dwell on our own mortality, let us also think about life and what we want out of life, community and society. Let us go deep with a cleansing of our entire culture of the exploitation and be prepared to stand up for the vulnerable and call out those who are robbing us blind.

We are better than this. And we deserve better.

If it’s not a revolution we undertake, let’s make it a cleansing and create a just world for ourselves. I, for one, would love to see my children grow up and look back at our current generation and be inspired by our power of honesty, integrity and justice and accept nothing less. Listen to my mother.

My suggestion: No more profit for the corporations.
Buy second hand only
Buy from small businesses
Create community gardens, own local food sources
Share, barter and trade goods
Get creative and never give them a penny more.

What are your ideas?


-Barbara McVeigh

Meeting with the Iranian Delegation in India – A Peace Movement?

Join us for my talk following the Alwar International Film Festival in India where a peace movement has been seeded.

 

AND we did it! Our film The Man Behind The White Guitar received an award – Best Bio Pic!

A huge congratulations to the international team for creating this wonderful project to help share the values of kindness, generosity and humility with the power of the White Guitar! THANK YOU!

Alwar, India – Representing Our International Film!

I’m in Delhi right now and in a few hours I board the train for Alwar south to meet up with international film makers, writers and industry leaders. Yes, we were selected to screen our film The Man Behind The White Guitar at the Alwar International Film Festival this weekend!

Why is this location important? This film which has been a collaboration by artists around the world, including Brazil, UK, NY and California, shares the life and music of a Brazilian Guitarist named José Neto who walks the talk with kindness, generosity and humility. Despite the fact he shares global stages with world leading musicians, as he is one himself, most people do not know his name. He has never promoted himself, as many have done these last 40 years. Let’s call it old school method or how Paul Liberatore Music Journalist says about him – “he’s in service to music, not fame or money.” These are good values in our world today and it’s an opportunity to shine the light on what can inspire us.

What’s also significant about this location in India is that Neto jammed with George Harrison in London and we all know the significance Indian music had on The Beatles. The White Album was written in India, not too far from Delhi, as The Beatles were on a spiritual quest themselves.

Yesterday I had the time to visit the Gandhi Smriti to give my respect to India’s legendary leader and I was so moved. His words reminded me of a spirit we can all get in tune with as the year 2020 brings in vast changes, and we must start dreaming big in order to make the positive changes needed for everyone in this dark hour of Australia burning, global war brewing, authoritarian regimes breeding and ocean acidifying. We, the people, must take a collective stand because we have forgotten our power and our responsibility, despite the fact we have had those before us who have lead the way in writings, music and their legendary lives.

Isn’t it our time now?

I have always felt as an outsider in my own country. That division began when I was 13 years old watching politics and life fall apart for my family. Most people don’t understand when I tell the story of my father’s 1981 national strike because they didn’t live it and it’s not in history books – in fact, the strike has nearly been erased from history. And, it was, with reflection, the last act of solidarity in this country, by a group of families who risked everything in order to demand political honesty when President Ronald Reagan had lied to them and gave them false promises in order to be elected. The trauma that strike left on my family and others, as many lost everything, committed suicide, were jailed or fine, taught me something . . . it was a gift, because it’s allowed me to see the truth of these last forty years and to scream them, post President Jimmy Carter who actually tried to stop climate change and the impact of foreign oil. Now, we do not have a second chance with the environmental policies, energy policies and more . . . that the GOP has delivered, along with the submitting Democrats who cashed out. We MUST clean up these last 40 years. Trump is merely the mirror demonstrating who and what this country became. And now we can shatter that mirror into shards and recreate the reflection we want – and that, I will say, includes kindness, generosity and humility.

We can do it. We can do it all over the world. “We, the people.”

KPFA Interview with Dennis Bernstein – Friday, Dec 13, 5pm

KPFA INTERVIEW:
FLASHPOINTS, Friday, Dec 13, 5pm
KPFA, Berkeley CA/Pacifica News Radio

Here is the full interview.

I was very excited to join Dennis J Bernstein’s KPFA/Pacifica news program Flashpoints at KPFA Berkeley, CA, December 13, 2019.

It’s time to recognize those 12,000 families of the 1981 historic national union strike who stood up for the people of this country demanding political honesty – they are our inspiration today of what it means to be a citizen in a democracy, as written in the constitution “we, the people”.

And, it’s time to come clean, America. What happened in the 1980s under Reagan – wars, economics, labor and media policies that have devastated our country today? After all, wasn’t it the Iran hostage siege that determined the 1980 elections? That would essentially mean Iran controlled our elections. Was it truly a manufactured Hollywood style propaganda presidency that hoodwinked the American people? Why are we NOT talking about the war crimes of the Reagan Administration today? Reagan is known as the “Hero” of the Republican Party and has been worshiped by both the GOP and Neoliberal Democrats. It’s time to look at history with 20/20 vision and set the record straight.

We will not forget President Jimmy Carter and A Road Not Taken – Carter’s visionary solar and wind energy initiatives at time when we KNEW about carbon consequences. It’s a miracle he wasn’t shot when asking the American people to take a stand against OPEC. Carter is the shining light in our election year . . .let’s “Jimmy” these elections, and remember what integrity is all about. http://www.jimmycarterjamboree.com

Listen for what is a very dynamic, sobering conversation! Time to come clean, America!

A Road Not Taken – Time To Come Clean, America. Dec 4

The Swiss made film, “A Road Not Taken.” A powerful historic look at President Carter’s visionary green energy policies.

About this Event

December 4, 6:30pm (film begins at 7pm)
Museum of International Propaganda, San Rafael, CA
FREE. Please RSVP
to reserve your spot.

A Swiss made film, A Road Not Taken, offers a powerful look at history revisiting President Carter’s historic solar initiatives and conservation efforts in the late 1970s when America knew about big oil consequences. Barbara McVeigh, author Redemption, How Ronald Reagan nearly Ruined My Life and DSA Member introduces this documentary with exclusive interviews with President Jimmy Carter.

The film showcased locally three years ago with College of Marin in honor of Carter’s 93rd birthday and the inaugural California celebrations of the Jimmy Carter Jamboree, celebrating a living legend and whistleblowing the greatest forty year propaganda act ever delivered to US Citizens. http://www.jimmycarterjamboree.org

Carter’s historic green energy efforts have nearly been wiped out in US history books, by the corporate media and even by modern day environmentalists who refuse to acknowledge a president who urged the people to stand up to OPEC and big foreign oil and to adopt aggressive energy conservation habits. His solar panels on the White House were symbolic of his efforts and California (under Governor Brown, at the time) was leading the world toward solar and wind clean energy.

president-jimmy-carter-85th-birthday

WHAT HAPPENED?

We do know that Reagan, the “Hero” of the Republican Party took down the solar panels. And by the looks of it, we’ve endured 40 years of the greatest political propaganda act driven by politicians, corporate media, educational institutions, including text book history writers, to conceal the most important environmental and political history of our time – when we had a president who tried to stop greenhouse gasses, big oil and our current global ecological disaster. It’s time for America to come clean.

Carter is more than a peanut farmer. He is the leading visionary of our time and The Father of the Solar Age.

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 7.42.40 AMBarbara McVeigh will introduce the film. Barbara is host of People’s Environmental News on Marin TV. She also wrote a memoir “Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life” about being the daughter of a union member in the 1981 national strike of air traffic controllers as they stood up to Reagan, risking everything, for political honesty. She was 13 years old waiting for the FBI to come arrest her father. She wants Reagan to be held accountable for the ecological disaster we are facing today, and ensure Carter is recognized properly as the Father of the Solar Age, as he tried to mitigate climate change 40 years ago. . . “Reagan has nearly ruined ALL of our lives with his big business and big oil policies post the visionary President Jimmy Carter!” Barbara says. “Our history books are backwards!”

 

The filmmakers of A Road Not Taken, Roman Keller and Christina Hemauer, presented the film in Marin County, along with Michael Stocker of Ocean Conservation Research in the year 2017 in honor of Carter’s 93rd birthday. You can see the talk here. This film has been unable to find distribution for over 12 years. It’s been given to the Redford Center and the events of the last three years have been shared with nearly every top level journalist, comedian, environmentalist . . . and NOBODY wants to talk about it.

IT’S TIME TO TALK.

 

It’s Here! Film Release in Marin County!

After five long years . . . a group of international artists made it happen! We are ready to share a story of inspiration, one to showcase the values of kindness, generosity and humility with the power of diversity and world music to unite us all!

This film is my take back – a childhood dream I had to play the guitar after I lost my lessons when my family went broke. My father took a stand for political honesty in the 1981 union strike of air traffic controllers. He broke his federal contract, risked arrest and heavy fines. We endured years of emotion and financial turmoil.

My hope with our film is for us all to gain the power to rise and take a stand for the values we want in this country . . . and we could do it. Neto says, “believe in yourself to live the dream.” Believe in yourself.

Film Screening at the Smith Rafael Theater on June 10! Neto also performs the day before at the Fairfax Festival. Join the fun!!!

The theater will definitely sell out – so, get your tickets fast!

51329022_1067535143419632_1449670561843118080_n

Advice From An Activist Parent – TIME TO RISE WITH OUR KIDS

I recall a civil conversation with my former father-in-law ten years ago about the health aspect of smoking cigarettes. He said, “When I learned how bad it was, I knew I had to make a choice. It was on me. So I quit cold turkey.”  Our conversation turned to environmental issues. He said, “People are adept at figuring a way when they have to. People will figure it out.”

I valued my former father-in-law. An Italian man who had faced the throes of Mussolini, World War Two, and then educated himself as a high level engineer and immigrated to the United States and thrived. I respected his words because he had lived through unimaginable atrocities and injustices.

When I learned about our environment disaster ten years ago, like you, I was befuddled. I’ve got kids coming into the world, and I began to recognize my role as a responsible parent was no longer about baking cookies for parties or getting my daughter or son to a proverbial soccer practice on time. The stakes had changed, and I needed to get on board fast to see what sort of social change I could muster, especially in my own County of Marin, California which heralds one of the world’s worst carbon producing lifestyles in the United States. Though we can claim to have some of the most powerful, forward thinking environmentalists, such as Author Paul Hawken, Environmentalist Michael Stocker and Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos,  the elite lifestyle by many is ruining integrity for the rest of us, yet the financial elite have the most to offer. I recognized that quickly and then had to take a hard look at my own life before I dared to advocate anyone changing their lives.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 11.59.49 AMIn 2013 I had the opportunity to make a first time film with children standing for our oceans, recognizing that our love for our children’s future is the gateway for us all to be inspired for social change. My husband wasn’t giving me the support I needed in order to do the film project, so I left him, believing he’d wake up to this immense responsibility I was advocating and join me. Well, he didn’t, and I realized I was quickly disbanded, in survival mode, which felt like a shipwreck, and placed on a solo mission in a highly vulnerable financial and emotional circumstance with a wicked divorce, predatory lawyers, mediators and therapists, my son’s school confused with the facts making my life hell,  an organization undermining my efforts, and a too soon girlfriend taking over MY mother duties and throwing me under the bus as a bad mother while those who I had called long time friends started partying with the “girlfriend” before my kids even got “the talk”! (“Can’t you see I’m trying to save our kids’ future!” I tried to shout.) This is a whole other book, and I’ll spare you the details, but feel free to read HERStory so you can avoid the pitfalls I fell into.

I would never advocate divorce for a change of lifestyle, but as a parent who has shifted my entire life from one living in a big house, being financially comfortable, to a couch surfing activist, filmmaker, writer and educator, living paycheck to paycheck, stretching my credit and going to a food bank while I have the IRS and credit card companies on my back because I’ve extended myself on every level to initiate change  – I  want to assure you, the parents of our kids, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CHANGE.  We  have a duty to our children, and we have a duty to their generation. We must unite on all fronts.

And you could probably do it better than me. Learn from my mistakes.

I live today in a small two bedroom apartment, sharing it with another financially strapped immigrant mother and her kids, with LESS noise in my life and less responsibility with MATERIAL STUFF.  This has been a blessing not a horror, believe me. The level of freedom I experience now is filled with a richness of community, connecting with local and global citizens who are also making sacrifices for the future our kids – activists, artists, environmentalists, where we are all extending our wings in order to be the light and carve a future path of integrity, honesty, generosity and kindness. We’re being rebels in a system that has become so exploitative and greed oriented – WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY WE HAVE TO BE THE GOOD GUYS!

Yesterday’s rise of our youth was one of the beautiful days I’ve witnessed since I’ve stepped into my own activism  – to see our kids understand the priorities in our world today and we have an obligation, a duty, to stand by them right now. And let’s start with our public schools which are disasters and are not taking this issue on the level they should. This has been my story which has positioned me into the “crazy mother” or “thorn in their side” as I’ve tried to fight with our local schools for the last five years understanding a severe lack of nature education, a connection to what is real. I see the values of competition highlighted through aggressive sports rather than cooperation, art, music and dance. I see the books fed to our children, which hold little value than cheap entertainment. I see extravagance fed to the kids with meaningless pom pom throwing parades, expensive school dances without the thoughtful big picture integrity. I see how much technology is fed, without real “people to people” connection or even recognizing technology’s consumerism is leading to an incredible toxic toil on our environment! I see the military recruiting tables at our high schools without the thoughtful foil next to them of environment or peace organizations advocating a wiser society other than the form of violent power, especially given our military has become puppets for the oil industry.

We, as parents, or any other thoughtful, wise human in our country, need to take hard looks at ourselves. The line has been drawn. And as my former father-in-law said, “When I learned how bad it was, I knew I had to make a choice. It was on me. So I quit cold turkey. People will figure out a way when they have to. People will figure it out.”

It’s time to stop cold turkey with all the extravagance and meaningless lifestyles too many of us have been living. Now is the time to rise and figure it out. Fast.

And we can do it.

As for ANY schools who may have an issue with our children’s absence yesterday? Here is a bold message for you: our children are standing for their future. If they have learned their lessons about the atrocities of the Indigenous Peoples, racism, environmental injustices, our kids standing in the protests are an example that they have learned their lessons from you well and are making a choice. Take honor in that instead of punishing them. They are learning how to become leaders and they deserve your support. Work with the movement so we can all rise.

The line has been drawn and our children will remember which side you are on.
Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 9.03.01 AM

And parents, there is nothing more beautiful than watching your own child take a stand – it’s one of the most glorious feelings a parent could ever have. You are doing your job right.

Understand, the fear I felt five years ago when I dropped my entire life to pursue my current path was tremendous. But today, the tide has changed. . . and I recognize that there is no space for fear now.  We all must have courage and stick together as we shift on the highest level any recorded civilization has ever had to do, as we know of.

DON’T BE AFRAID to dive deep. We can do it.
DSCN9791

(PHOTO ABOVE: My daughter and I had the privilege to dive with the Sylvia Earle family after my first time film Racing with Copepods, a 20 minute advocacy film with 12 kids standing for their oceans – a project which I left dropped my own life to make, diving deep into the world of environmental activism. These were our dive instructors – one of the most beautiful days of my life. I lost college funds to study oceanography at UCSB as a teen when my father stood up to a president and went for broke. )

My advice does not come without a deep level of learning. When I was a thirteen years old child, my own father placed me, my mother and everything we had at stake to break his federal contract, risk arrest, prison, fines and his livelihood, along with my dreams of going to university to study oceanography and play the guitar, in order to stand up to a President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, for political honesty. It was the last great strike of 1981 in this country, the beginning of the fall of our economic middle class, media integrity, environmental responsibility and more post President Jimmy Carter who initiated the first Green Deal with solar and wind initiatives and had proper vision for our country of being indepedent with sustainable energy. “It is the moral equivalent of war” he had said. Perhaps today after 40 years of wars, ocean acidification, oil spills, melting polar ice caps and the growing collapse of the health of our planet we can appreciate the wisdom of Carter’s administration.

It took me nearly 40 years of anger and hatred for my father, after years of emotional and financial turmoil, for me to understand the incredible gift he ultimately gave me – a heritage of values and an understanding of what sacrifice truly means when you go for the long run big thinking instead of short term cheapness of looking good, following rules which are bad rules for us today. We must stand for what is right.

Think big, as Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez says. And she’s got it right.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 11.15.31 AM
The film about the 1981 union strike is in the making – a powerful history unwritten in our children’s school books and not valued in our country – the story about military veterans who became air traffic controllers. Their union supported Ronald Reagan who made campaign promises. When those promises were not delivered, the union members had a choice to make between two wrongs: break their contract and stand up to political dishonesty OR go to work and accept dishonesty in their government, during the shadow years of the Vietnam War. Most decided to strike and lost everything – would you  have the guts to do what they did for your country? It was one of the greatest acts of solidarity in our country, even when our country did not stand with them.  It’s a story of American history that has nearly been forgotten and needs to rise as inspiration today – go for broke to stand for our kids, their environment and political honesty.

And as for those lost guitar lessons? I’m not done yet! Another lesson I’ve learned is our losses can be our greatest gains. . . I’ve completed a film with one of the world’s top guitarists, Brazilian Guitarist Jose Neto, who is no stranger to the power of music. As a former guitarist for Harry Belafonte of thirty years and Steve Winwood for the last twenty, I aim to inspire the values of kindness, humility, generosity and integrity, those that Neto has lived by. This film The Man Behind The White Guitar has been created by an international team of artists from Brazil, UK, New York, Los Angeles and Marin County with hardly any money, demonstrating that it’s spirit the can drive people to higher ground and those who believe in the values of kindness, humility, generosity and integrity. Neto’s song “Burning Money” could set the tone for us all. George Harrison and Paul McCartney have been fans of Neto’s – It’s time to “Imagine” and we can do it.

Step into the dream.

Understand this, when I started the film projects, I had no idea what I was doing. I had never been to film school or even been involved in the documentary film business. I just started doing it and figuring it out. I had never written a book before, let alone self publish a book before. But I started to do it and figured it out. I had never made an international film with the likes of top musicians, but I started to do it and I figured it out. Have faith in yourself and each other to do the unthinkable. Support each other with our dreams. And when you help one person rise, you rise too. We can all rise.

We can do this. We have to do it.
51329022_1067535143419632_1449670561843118080_n

World Premier “Film Release”

We did it! The Man Behind the White Guitar screened at the village hall in Guiting Power, UK on March 4 following two amazing music events by the Netoband.

Their performance at London’s Ronnie Scotts was amazing, as reviewed by The London Jazz News. The following night they performed at the Village Hall in Guiting Power, which harkened engineers with state of the arts sound and light to create a place where one foellow long term fan Berkin Altinok said “this is the Winwood ‘Deep State’.”

Keep an eye out for upcoming screenings of our film. We’ve released the film to film festivals and completed an amazing poster! This film is not just about a legacy Brazilian Guitarist, we think our story can remind all of us the values of kindness, generosity, humility and the power of music to move souls. “Believe in yourself to live the dream,” and Neto walks the talk. . . as certain as his music electrifies the spirit.

My review: Entering Winwood’s Deep State

 

51329022_1067535143419632_1449670561843118080_n

President Jimmy Carter’s Redemption

Let us remember –

Roughly 20,000 working class union members took a stand for political honesty in the forgotten 1981 national union strike of PATCO, Professional Air Traffic Control Organization.

They were willing to lose everything in order to stand for political honesty. And many did lose it all, including homes, livelihood and family.  Yet these working class union members took the burden courageously and honorably without incurring any violence as our country turned their backs on what should be the highest responsibility of every citizen in this country – always stand for honesty.

Let’s remember the guts and dignity of a class of workers who could show us, the American people, our power today.

Campaign promises had been made just the year before by the incoming conservative rising star Ronald Reagan, who labeled himself pro union, given his work with Hollywood’s Actors’ Guild. After years of negotiations, these strikers wanted better equipment and working conditions. My dad, one of the strikers, had the equipment fail on him once putting many people in the air at risk. He was made for the job and had an unyielding calm of dealing with any crisis, gifted with a memory for details. The strike was illegal as federal employees are banned from striking, but, like my father, many believed they were standing for a greater good – political honesty for the American people.

Reagan, The Hero of the Republican Party, took a hard stance and gave the union forty eight hours to get back to work which shocked everyone. Some believed there were back room deals being made. But there weren’t. I was 13 years old, and I remember the gripping stand off well and the hours of those days were tense, filled with anxiety and guilt. Everyone believed there would be a terrible airline crash because of the lack of skilled air traffic controllers, a job that takes years of training. I laid awake all night in a state of fear waiting for the FBI to arrest my father. They didn’t get him, but they got other union members.

 

The media was not kind toward the union as they wrote anti union stories emphasizing the union’s greed for more money. Allies and other unions turned their backs on the strikers, though they were watching, as some had ideas to strike too. PATCO leaders were being fined $1000 a day and others were put in prison.

My parents hid nothing from me. I attended the rallies, joined the meetings when the media bursted in hunting and pecking for stories, as it felt. We watched our backs wondering if the FBI were following us or watching us or tapping our phones.

“If the black coats come to the door, go to your room and shut the door,” my father had said to me. Would the FBI arrest the entire family? The fear was tremendous.

In the final hours my father had to make a personal final decision – to lose his job with an uncertain future and put his own family in financial uncertainty or return to work with his tail between his legs. My grandfather said my dad’s strike was ego driven and told him listen to Reagan, as Reagan said he’d put our country back together. Everyone respected my grandfather, a self made man and WW2 veteran.

We sat together at the kitchen table as Ted Koppel blared the ongoing news from the nearby living room.

My mother said to him, “It’s your job. You have to make the decision.”

My dad never wavered. Not once. “Campaign promises were made. I voted for him. I’m not going back,” he said.

In the end. 13,000 members were fired and the union went bankrupt. My family went broke and spun into emotional and financial turmoil for years. My grandfather laid the blame on my dad driving him to drink and we still to this day feel the jolt of that union bust, ripping my family into political factions and sides.

But, more importantly, our entire country suffered, as that strike broke many unions across the country, cultivating the catalyst for the rise of the 1% today and the exploitative labor industry we endure every day in this country. The reason millenials work multiple jobs at slave-like wages, why teachers can’t afford to live in the very neighborhoods they serve and why we have succumbed to accepting the fact a full time job can keep you in poverty in our country today. This is why they had striked and why unions are needed, to protect against big business bullies and safeguard the workers.

President Jimmy Carter had warned us about Ronald Reagan. “He’s a right wing radical,” he had said. Carter also warned the American people about other values we were losing as a nation. And he practically screamed the warning to the American people in his Crisis of Confidence Speech of 1979 when he said the people were beginning to value money over purpose and that being dependent on foreign oil is the “moral equivalent of war.” The people blamed Carter for not leading the people. And the GOP slammed Carter for that speech calling it “MEOW”.

President Jimmy Carter today is nearly a forgotten president, though he is well and alive at 94 years, continuing his writing and summits at The Carter Center. Mainstream media continues to portray him as weak, indecisive and a peanut farmer, despite acknowledging his profound work in The Navy, including technological advances in nuclear energy, his profound work in civil rights/human rights and his anti establishment position not catering to big money.

Yet, it wasn’t Carter who failed – it was an entire generation that did not listen to the greatest advice of a visionary leader, of a president who was actually encouraging the people of America to rise up against big money and oil companies! Carter was essentially pushing the American people to be activists against big money and oil companies. Instead, the Boomer generation opted for a life of comfort and values of exploitation, as they remain stuck heralding stories of the 1960s.

As we look back on Carter’s legacy, including his initiatives of the solar panels on the White House and 17,000 wind turbines in the State of California, as he pushed for sustainable energy, we can recalibrate our history and recognize the people of the United States of America has been dealing with forty years of fake news about our country’s greatest living leader, The Father of the Solar Age and as Bob Dylan calls him “The Rock’n Roll President”.

We knew about climate change in the 1970s. It’s well documented in Robert Redford’s 1980 short film “The Solar Film“, as well as the 1976 book Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post-petroleum World, by Denis Hayes (A Worldwatch Institute Book). What lessons can we gain from our failure in 1980 and that strike in 1981 in order to empower us now?

This historical review matters more today than ever before because it helps us understand that pivotal 1980 election and a cultural shift in our country that brings focus on today’s leaders, both Republican and Democrats, and how we failed as a nation to listen to the most profound leadership, censoring truth and supporting the most corrupt political leaders who have caused wars, death, destruction across the world for forty years to maintain a generation’s comfort level and big money interests.

I find it appalling that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama can still honor Reagan. Pelosi helped raise Reagan’s statue in Washington, D.C. and Obama spoke glowingly of Reagan at Senator McCain’s funeral. I also find it absurd that the Democrats could allow Reagan to be inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame just this past March 2018, but, then again, perhaps it was the Democrats who helped elect Reagan in 1980 and no one wants to talk about that failure.

As an environmentalist, I am shocked over and over how many of our leaders, including Al Gore, could possibly talk about environmental issues without talking about Carter. I’ve asked and they have dismissed me. I’ve come to the conclusion that our environmental mission has become nothing but a competitive save the world “superman ego-drive” all stepping on one another to be the leader, while we undermine all the work done by previous leaders. It’s a game driven by pure narcisism than genuine collaboration to save ourselves and our children’s future as our planet faces ecological collapse.

And this news retrospective will likely never go viral. Why? Because it’s the establishment who has the reigns of the media, education, politics and money, all which are power. And nobody with money wants to talk about the power of unions.

It’s time to honor President Jimmy Carter and recognize him as the unsung hero who has walked his talk and demonstrated with his life the power of humility, kindness, generosity and vision.

We Americans have blood on our hands. It’s time to come clean. We can take a stand just like those air traffic controllers of 1981 and go for broke to put our country . . . our entire planet . . .  back together, for our children and future generations. And we can do it.

Barbara McVeigh is the author of Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life. She has produced President Carter birthday celebrations in Marin County for last two years with support of Marin County Democrats, musicians and more.

Her documentary film The Man Behind The White Guitar about Brazilian Guatarist Jose Pires de Almeida Neto releases in 2019, as a message of honesty, peace, kindness and integrity – and to never lose our power to IMAGINE and live big dreams.