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Rachel Maddow and New York Magazine's Frank Rich did a wonderful job of giving her viewers a little history lesson for those who were not already aware of the struggles, protests and turmoil that Americans experienced in similar times of severe income disparity, a government that was only responsive to the ultra-rich and and uprisings that eerily resemble what we're seeing now with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Sadly, most Americans are not taught about the protests by the Bonus Army during the Great Depression as Maddow and Rich discussed here, nor are they taught about the history of our labor movement and the violence that was inflicted on them as well, before we finally got some laws in place to keep workers from being abused by their employers and some rights to protect them in the workplace.
If there's anything you can say about the success of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I agree with Maddow: It has at least changed the conversation in America about our economic policies and the fact that the poor and what's left of the middle class were pretty well being ignored by our corporate media before these protests started taking root nationwide. I'm grateful to both Maddow and Rich for segments like this that do take the time to educate the public about some of our history that most in the media and in our schools would rather ignore.
Here's Rich's article -- The Class War Has Begun.
Transcript of Maddow's opening describing some of it below the fold.
MADDOW: A few years after the end of World War I, congress passed a law saying that veterans of that war were entitled to a bonus for their service. In 1924, Congress said American veterans of the First World War had earned a bonus of $1,000. But here`s the catch: it could not be paid for about 20 more years. They couldn`t collect it until 1945 or their families could collect it upon their death if that came before 1945.
Well, along the way, the country felt into the Great Depression. Americans were starving to death. They were on bread lines. And the veterans who knew that thousand dollars was owed to them by the government decided they would much rather collect that now, please. That money was owed to them. They had earned it and needed it to feed their families now.
So, in the spring of 1932, in the middle of the Great Depression, the veterans marched in to Washington because they wanted payment of that bonus they had earned in World War I. They were called the Bonus Army.
The Bonus Army set up as an encampment in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of people in a living political protest. History tells us they kept their instant city clean. They integrated their camp racially which was really quite radical at the time. We know they grew gardens for food. They settled in for as long as it might take to make their point to Congress and then President Herbert Hoover. At least that`s what the Bonus Army hoped.
The head of the U.S. Army, General Douglas McArthur, looked out at the peaceful protests of the veterans camping out and saw an embarrassment for his commander in chief. McArthur mustered troops on horseback against the veterans` camp and followed those horses with tanks. The destruction began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Then troops began to set fire to their wooden shacks. One reporter wrote, "The blaze was so big it lit the whole sky. A nightmare come to life."
The president looked out a window of the White House in the direction of the fire then retired for the night.
And the roaring flames, the fantastic Bonus Army that in so disastrously in the shadow of the capitol of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Two U.S. veterans were killed that day, but the movement grew. What does not kill you makes you stronger, they say. News of the raid, the first footage of what had happened reached Americans in movie houses, in newsreels that they used to show in theaters before the main feature. As Frank Rich describes in "New York" magazine this week, when Americans saw the newsreels of McArthur`s army destroying the protest camp, Americans applauded the Bonus Army, they cheered for the Bonus Army, they booed General McArthur.
Yesterday, these images began to reach Americans. As the police in Oakland, California, breaking up the occupy protests there, "Occupy Oakland." Part of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is for economic justice. This one in California, the police moved in with batons swinging, they tore down tents and smashed signs.
They sent tear gas grenades into the crowd. The cops are also alleged to have fired rubber bullets, something they are denying, despite injuries to protesters that look like they were caused by rubber bullets. And police admits to firing bean bag rounds, though.
Frankly, when you look at the footage of this, it rather looked and sounded like a small war. Washington, D.C., 1932, the raid on the Bonus Army. Oakland, California, 2011, the raid on "Occupy Oakland, "Occupy Wall Street" -- two American scenes separated by almost a century. Put the old one in color, throw on some plaid shirts and you almost could not tell them apart.
In his story this week in "New York" magazine, Frank Rich tells the story of the Bonus Army and of "Occupy Wall Street." He titles it, quote, "The Class War Has Begun."
Full transcript of her interview with Frank Rich is available here.
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