For over one year Barbara McVeigh served as a substitute teacher in San Francisco and Marin County public schools in California. In that effort, she had opportunity to observe and learn about our current state of public education. She often witnessed and experienced daily trauma, abuse and often times a disregard for what should be natural – a respect toward another human being.
Her notes herein are not meant to shame or blame, they are to expose a toxic system of disrespect and inadequate schooling so we can reconcile the challenges we have as a means to heal and reshape who and what we are as California and as an American society. Our schools are a mess and given we are in extreme challenges with climate change, working poor, billionaire corruption and collapse of our American civil liberties, we can acknowledge our public schools have failed us. We have overworked teachers, underpaid educators, crowded schools, bully kids running classrooms, bad food, trash, abusive teaching practices and misinformed pedagogical approaches that got rolled out by corrupt billionaires, as our classrooms serve today as commercialized platforms for big tech and junk media.
Education can become the next great frontier to broaden the context of what it means to nurture and cultivate well balanced, happy children who can thrive in and solve a growing environmental crisis that has been exacerbated under the neoliberal decades these last forty years, post President Jimmy Carter who tried to set it right, a four decade span which should be labeled “The Reagan Era.”As in Jimmy Carter’s famous speech, “We have a crisis of confidence.” It’s time for a new era of healing, reconciliation and peace, and to write a new chapter for our history books.
Barbara McVeigh is an international award winning filmmaker, impact producer and teacher. She is the mother of two children and lives in Northern California. When she was 13 years old, her father and less than 12,000 union members, mostly families, took a stand against the federal government, President Ronald Reagan, in the 1981 National Union Strike to demand political honesty and fair wages. Her father was labeled a federal criminal and her family lost almost everything, until the federal courts in 2021 awarded the 1981 strike validation with a return of her father’s losses. Barbara’s memoir Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life and her other projects serve as messages of hope and resilience for a new age.
It’s time for change. It’s time for healing. It’s time to write a new narrative for our textbooks.
In July I interviewed with Naomi Wolf who is known well in the political circles for her work with Al Gore and The Clintons. We had a vibrant talk about lockdowns, economy, Reagan and more. Thank you to Naomi Wolf and Daily Clout for allowing me to give voice to important issues. https://www.altcensored.com/watch?v=9lgHWyS8IvE
In January, 2020, I was invited to the Alwar International Film Festival in India to share our documentary film The Man Behind The White Guitar, the Life and Music of Brazilian Guitarist José Neto. Here I talk about the film journey in making this international project by artists who gave generously and why. I also share the magic of starting a project and what that can look like for anyone stepping out of their comfort zone to create art, writing or a film project . . . LINK HERE.
We don’t have to look at Indigenous genocide 100 years ago in our country, acts that were not committed by us. We can look at a mere 35 years ago when we supported a US President who joined forces with Guatemala President Rioss Monte and slaughtered men, women and children, Indigenous Mayan, in Guatemala. The years were the 1980s.
President Ronald Reagan called these Indigenous people, the Ancient Mayans, communists, a good trigger word to get support by those afraid of Soviets during the Cold War. But, nothing could be further from the truth. The Mayans have dealt with 400 years of oppression. They tried their best to uprise and say no more to nothing less than slavery these last 60 years. President Rios Montt of Guatemala ruled with an iron fist, gathering support from Reagan and literally wiped out Mayan villages.
What makes the story almost surreal is that Mayan Indigenous workers live amongst us in my community of Marin County, a wealth suburb of San Francisco. The Mayans surrendered to the oligharchy in Guatemala and started a slow stream of immigration to the United States, mainly to work and support their impoverished families back in Guatemala. The family ties are paramount and go deep. The level of respect for the elderly is a value westerners could learn.
Many “illegal” Mayan indigenous are the housecleaners, gardeners, nannies and roofers for the wealthy in Marin, raising an entire generation and adding valuable to what is considered a very wealthy community.
I was one of those people who paid “under the table” to housecleaners. And I would do it again. Because I understand their story. I will support the people before government policies that have destroyed families, communities and countries. I also will be outspoken about President Ronald Reagan and a generation that has chosen not to acknowledge the atrocities of the 1980s and how those unjust policies have contributed to more trauma 35 years later as the Mayan and other Guatemalans struggle to survive.
It’s time for truth, reparation and apologies. It’s time to support Central America as the Bridge Between The Americas. . . the friendship bridge to our brothers and sisters of South America. Nobel Winner Rigoberto Menchu and her book When The Mountains Tremble, is an account of the genocide. She has been an outspoken leader for over 30 years.
“Who is Jimmy Carter?” I asked in a public high school classroom, an ice breaker I’d use for my entire year as a substitute teacher in Marin County and San Francisco County schools.
“A baseball player?” “A terrorist?” “Wasn’t he that really bad president?”
Out of the entire year of over a thousand students I might have gotten one or two answers right, that he was a president. But even then they had no further idea about his historical significance until they Googled him on their phones. “Oh, he was a peanut farmer.”
It’s time to reflect on the words of President Jimmy Carter’s 1979 speech “Crisis of Confidence” when you recognize his administration’s work on climate change, peace and human rights carries a story to shine a light on the absolute horror of these last forty years. You can understand today why Democrats and Republicans would work hard to shun President Jimmy Carter. He makes them all look like criminals. And maybe they are.
“Have purpose,” Carter said to the people when he recognized a growing shift in the American psyche – a drive toward materialism. Following two decades of counter culture, creating new boundaries of American identity, feminism, civil rights and environmental ethos, ultimately the 60s generation cashed out under Ronald Reagan’s policies of Reaganomics (trickle down economics) and crushed working class unions, creating today’s billionaire and working poor castes. But, that’s not all. Denis Hayes, Author of the 1976 book Rays of Hope, Transition to a Post Petroleum World, published by the Worldwatch Institute, who also served in the Carter Administration, says “had Carter gotten a second term, we would not be dealing with climate change like we are today. We were already experiencing changes in the 1970s.”
It’s valid to say the 60s generation brought not only Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles, but after their big talks and fancy parties, they also brought global climate change and the collapse or our American economy, pitting us in disaster for years to come. It’s not a surprise of the millionaire status of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Ringo now does shoe ads for a multibillion dollar corporation.
If Jimmy Carter was a Democrat, why are the Democrats not heralding Carter who tried to stop climate change? The answer is simple. The Democrats grew in line with the Republicans when you recognize the leaders of the Dems herald Reagan, the very president whose policies brought us these economic and environmental policy disasters. Take Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, for example. Ten years ago, Pelosi removed the abolitionist Starr King’s statue in Washington DC to replace it with President Ronald Reagan – a statue to represent the State of California. D-California Governor Newsom created a Ronald Reagan Day to honor Reagan. Several years ago President Ronald Reagan was inducted into the US Labor Hall of Fame despite the fact his crushing of the 1981 National Union Strike led to the collapse of unions across the country. The Democrats have embraced the GOP leader whose policies have ruined not only our country, but arguably the entire planet, yet they contine to point fingers at the GOP.
One has to reflect on that time under Carter whose administration was sabotaged as he boldly stood up to OPEC, the oil giants, with a vision to transform our country into clean energy, likely believing that the people would understand the value and wisdom of such a transformation. Denis Hayes and I discussed in my interview that when you consider who the players are behind OPEC, those with their own military mercenaries around the world doing their dirty oil business bidding, that’s it’s a that wonder Jimmy Carter wasn’t assassinated. The GOP machine under Ronald Reagan came in fast and furious, with enough Hollywood shimmer and glitz to dazzle the country, with the oil giants behind him, leading us into these forty years of wars and exploitation that make The Vietnam War look like small potatoes.
Carter could have become authoritarian, on a Trump like level, to make the energy and environmental changes needed back in the 1970s. Had he done so, we would have avoided 40 years of oil wars and environmental disasters. today we’d be leading a green economy. So, we could blame Carter for our problems today, except for one inconvenient and hard truth – Carter believes in Democracy and when he said “I am not going to do this alone,” he provided the greatest gift to the people of this country to rise and take their own power “as the people”.
Carter’s respect for our American Constitution and the will of the people are the lessons we can learn from Carter today. Most of the students of the public schools believed that Carter is dead today. “No, he’s very much alive,” I answered. If there were ever a time to shine a light on a leader who has walked the talk and preached to humanity the values confidence, grace, peace and humility, both as a President and a Sunday School teacher, it’s President Jimmy Carter.
We have forty years to look back on to witness the dark shadow of greed, wars and exploitation that Carter had to face himself as a leader, and that truth can today give us rise as an entire nation to heed his calling in 1979 “have confidence.” It’s not too late.
The wise ones, I have been told, ask you to be open to what is given to you, the gifts that come your way. Listen to your heart, as it is more true than the head. I would not have believed this, unless I relinquished all that was previously taught to me and decided to take a step onto this path of openness, curiosity and wonder. And it all came full circle when I was asked to join an Acorn Ceremony, in the spirit of the previous land dwellers, the Indigenous Miwok of Northern California, to recognize my spiritual journey into Druidry was my newfound landscape. The Indigenous Native American ways lead me right back to my own heritage of Irish Indigenous practice.
Each year the Miwok would harvest the acorns from the Black Oaks, Live Oaks and Valley Oaks, each acorn having a different characteristic and value. It was a celebration that lasted for weeks, bringing everyone together, as grudges and differences would be set aside. Children climbed trees, strong men hit branches with large sticks. Women gathered the rich brown nuts from the ground. The harvest would be a staple for the full year, with the average family consuming 3000 pounds of acorns. Some Miwok families held rights to a particular tree, and as historians have written, the tree would be cared for, stewarded and honored. The acorn harvest season also marked the beginning of a new year. I was invited to join an acorn ceremony on November 1 by my employer. I’m a nature educator for children and our school strives to share knowledge of Indigenous people of California. I hold my classes in the meadows, on grassy hills and under the oaks and redwoods of Mount Tamalpais, a California State Park that borders Point Reyes National Seashore, with the Pacific Ocean to the west. The land includes coyotes, bob cats, mountain lions, raccoons, deer and other native life and flora.
We met for the acorn ceremony late morning in a park filled with oak trees. The ceremony was a bit awkward at first, in a way that we really didn’t know what we were doing except for one noble act – our intention was to recreate a ceremony to honor the oak trees and new season, in the spirit of the Miwok who had lived on the land. So, as a collective group, we decided to first share with each other knowledge we had of oak trees, recognizing the many different kinds of oaks, witnessing their unique leaf shapes and acorn varieties and discussing the areas where they grow in California and beyond. We shared acorn recipes – acorn pancakes, mush or bread. We discussed best ideas to leach tannins of the grounded nuts to make into edible flour. We each stood by an oak tree, resting our hands on a trunk to feel the energy from our arms into the trunk, down to the roots and than back up into our feet and into our bodies, creating a visual energy cycle of connection that we ultimately have with all of nature. We brought acorns to process together, and the music of the pestle against the stone mortar created a rhythm of sound much like that of what would have been heard in a Miwok village, knowing we were near an old village where today only a wooden sign marks its history. We stood in circle together recanting gratitude for the season, giving tribute to the gifts of the day – a blue sky, a soft warm wind, a child’s nearby laughter.
The following day I reflected on this Acorn ceremony, and a thought suddenly came to me about the connection of Oak Trees, Miwok and Druids. The ceremony was conducted the same day as Samhain! It was in that moment I gained an appreciation for the connection between the two cultures, the Druids and Miwok Native Americans, as they both honor nature and spirit. The Gaelic year began in November following the festival of An Samhain. “The cold was considered necessary to cleanse the land and prepare it for the new bountiful year ahead.” writes Celtic Life International. And the moon cycles are respected and used to mark time thoughout the year.
The landscape of my journey into Druidry was now no longer just found in books or podcasts, but it was physical around me. It was no longer just an oak tree, but it proved to be a deeply rooted connection into my heritage, my blood and my physical realm opening me up to everything around me in a new way.
The following week I pondered this sitting in a field with my students. We were stewarding the land and pulling up what has been labeled as invasive nonnative broom that is choking the native plants. Piles of it had been stacked ready for the chipper. I had just cut a stalk and flexed it as it’s easily bendable, creating a ring and putting it on a child’s head like a crown. The child ran off laughing and climbed an oak tree. And suddenly a new thought came to me again. How easy one could weave baskets from this plant!Native American baskets are sacred and the best ones were always gifted to others, as generosity was valued as has been written in the well known book by Malcolm Margolis The Ohlone Way. The Ohlone of the San Francisco Bay live just south of the Miwok and share many of the same values and traditions. Margolis writes in the book that when a hunter brought home the food, the best meat always went to the most vulnerable. Respect was valued. Not greed.
I took home the broom stalk and began weaving a basket, or attempted to weave, to more aptly describe. How strange it was to be in California weaving an invasive plant, which, as I learned, is the same plant my ancestors used in Ireland to weave potato baskets! I had just read up on Irish baskets to learn about the revered “potato basket” used to wash and serve potatoes in traditional households. Potatoes are not native to Ireland, they come from The Americas. Was this a symbolic cleansing? A cleansing of the native land here by creating Indigenous art of my native Ireland! I couldn’t help but think otherwise. As I continued to weave a basket, I was doing more – I was weaving a story to connect indigenous ideas, a reverence, and ultimately a basket to honor these indigenous and almost forgotten ideals and craft. I ultimately completed the basket into the shape of a cornucopia for each of the children and their families filled them with nuts, apples, persimmons and leaves, symbolic of abundance, sharing and gratitude.I think of landscape differently now, both externally and internally.
The gifts are all around us, if we stop and look . . . and to feel. I am complete with the oak tree symbolizing my temples and a woven basket symbolizing a cleansing and a creation to honor the value of the heart, a vessel to give. I’m reminded of the words of Navajo Nation Tom B.K. Goldtooth whom I once met. He said to me that those in the Western world are upside down. Information isn’t important, that which is stored in your head and is always changing. The heart comes first. Good relations. Start there.
ACTIONENDORSED BY: Professor/Activist Noam Chomsky, Actor/Activist Peter Coyote, Vietnam Veteran/Activist S Brian Willson:
“I support Barbara McVeigh’s hunger strike to bring attention to the imperative of finally ending the era of Reagan’s austerity and neoliberal economic policies that continue to hurt so many people, and for focus on new policies to strengthen unions and to embark upon a new path of radical ecological consciousness. -S Brian Willson
It’s high time to be inspired by S Brian Willson who stood with a Hunger Strike in 1986 and 1987 against the US war machine heading toward Central America, an act that has continued to this day and has upset the democracy of the people of Central America, leading to hunger, poverty and corruption.
I stand in protest of multiple issues that must come clean in the next administration so we can see who and what we’ve been. In addition, it’s time to end the Reagan Era, that of trickle down economics, and give rise to unions and power of the people. Billionaires and politicians must be held accountable for today’s corruption and climate change crisis.
The US MUST pay war reparations to the people of Central America to begin a new relationship with our southern neighbors, one of peace, prosperity and respect.
It’s high time to roll back the Reagan Era. . . The policies of President Ronald Reagan have undermined media, middle class, created billionaires and the working class poor. His policies brought in big military, big oil, undermined unions AND created global climate change, post President Jimmy Carter’s green energy policies. Reagan does NOT represent me. Does he represent you? His statue stands in Washington, DC. as a symbol for the State of California.
LET’S TALK. . . and laugh at the absurdity of 40 years of American politics and propaganda.
Premier show – I GO HEAD TO HEAD WITH RON REAGAN, THE SON OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN on December 3, 3pm. http://www.CMCM.TV online or Channel 26 in Marin County, CA
Time to come clean, America.
My father stood in the 1981 national union strike, the last act of integrity and solidarity in this country, with Vietnam Veterans who were willing to go broke to stand for honesty and fair wages against Reagan. . . many of those union members were imprisoned and labeled federal criminals. Reagan was put in the US Labor Hall of Fame, just two years ago. . . and his statue stands in Washington DC representing California (Pelosi put him there with no public comment). I was 13 waiting for the FBI to come arrest my father and it was then I got the greatest lesson in my life – how to always stand for what is right and never cater to fear.
NOTHING BRINGS ME GREATER PLEASURE TODAY, 40 years later, THAN TO SET THE HISTORICAL RECORD STRAIGHT. President Ronald Reagan today should be considered a federal criminal and any politician who has supported Reagan’s policies belong in a court of law for crimes against humanity for creating climate change and engendering the collapse of our American democracy.
After five years writing, I’ve decided to toss this story to the wind, as a community impact project and invite the public to write the story, the new story for all future generations to understand the undermining of our democracy and global health by billionaires, greed, control and domination.
I have been privileged in life to experience the richness of writers’ workshops with two of my favorite writers/teachers Tom Centolella and Tamim Ansary, learning the power of that which is incomplete as a means to be empowered to make complete.
In that spirit, I invite you to read this raw and rough story to offer your ideas, your corrections and your spirit to drive a healing narrative and ensure those who have exploited the people, our land and our water are forever remembered as a means to warn all future generations about our time today. And to demonstrate our power today, as the artists, that all eyes are watching them now and by all future generations.
Available on Amazon. Feel free to email me or contact me with your corrections, additions, ideas and anything else you would like to add.
Oxygen, the new gold, is the powerful commodity the tech corporate elite use to control and dominate the people, post a global economic and government collapse. Two societies have emerged, one of extreme patriarchy, ruled by surveillance and city lockdown methods, and a matriarch society hidden underground in the restricted Wildlands, who are loyal to the spirit and natural world. The leaders of each society were once married and united by love. Is it power or hate that caused the divide? Their daughter, Patricia, must find a way to reconcile their differences to bring both societies together for balance before ultimate death, including her own.
This story serves as an experimental community impact project, a story that can expand into a larger collective narrative as a warning to modern day global powers. Despite the fact “we, the people” may feel powerless today, this project aims to deliver a message to those who abuse power that “we, the people” do have power to tell their stories for all future generations. The author invites you to contribute your ideas and comments to this story to build a large, impactful narrative to ensure today’s global elite understand the power of “we, the people.”
About the Author: Barbara McVeigh is a community impact artist and writer. She’s the mother of two children and lives in Northern California. Her father stood up to the President of The United States in the historic national union strike of 1981 for political honesty when she was thirteen years old. It provided her the ultimate education – “question everything and never give up your dreams.” Her memoir is called Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life. Her documentary films explore ocean conservation, art and music. www.barbaramcveigh.com
I was honored and humbled to join this amazing team of artists from India who collaborated to make a film during lockdown about the beauty and power of nature. This project will be discussed on Marin TV, as part of a five part series on the arts and filmmaking in India with highly celebrated and notable literary and film figures of India and beyond, such as Keyuri Shaw, Dr. Avnish Rajvanshi and more. This film project has been accepted to the Lift-Off Film Festival and has been discussed on the New Delhi Community Radio Federation this past weekend, which I was honored to join.