Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blood & Flesh So Cheap

YA nonfiction
The cover of Blood & Flesh So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its
Legacy by Albert Marrin sent chills down my spine. It shows rows of
young women working industriously at sewing machines in a factory. In
the lower right hand corner menacing flames are superimposed on the
picture. It wasn't that the Triangle Factory fire was news to me. As
a progressive, I read voraciously about the evils of corporate greed
past and present. But you know what they say about a picture being
worth a thousand words. Those girls, some to die so painfully and
needlessly, looked so much like my own beloved daughters.
No one really knows how the fire got started. It happened late
in the afternoon at the end of a shift. People tried frantically and
futilly to put it out. The hose on the stairway wall was dry--having
not been connected to a standpipe. Elevators were soon put out of
action. Stairways were blocked. A fire escape collapsed. Singly and
in small groups, women, many with hair and clothes on fire, began
jumping from windows to certain death on the pavement below. One
hundred forty-six workers died that day. No New York City workplace
disaster exceeded this fire in carnage until the 2001 terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center.
Needless to say, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire shocked New
Yorkers and people all over America. It was decided that never again
would such workplace devastation happen. A commission found horrific
conditions in a wide range of factories and sweatshops. It was
decided that government could mandate safe working conditions in mills
and factories.
In America things have changed a great deal. This is not the
case in the third world nations where many of our consumer goods are
now manufactured. In Bangladesh, for instance, there was a factory
fire very much like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire...in 2006. In
Marrin's words, "...short memories and greed are a deadly mixture."
Flesh & Blood So Cheap is obviously well researced with a wealth
of information on the history of the fire and the people whose lives
were claimed by it, the social and political issues of the time, and
the long lasting consequences of this tragic event. The wonderful
balance between individual narrative and larger story makes this book
both readable and informative. The pictures are riveting, a couple
heartbreakingly so.
The title is perfectly chosen. And it should raise a question
as relevant now in 2012 as it was in 1911. When we Americans clamor
for cheaply produced goods, spurred on by media's selling frenzy,
should we not become aware of their far higher hidden costs?
Shouldn't this awareness spur and empower us to fight for the safety
of our sisters and brothers around the globe whose blood and flesh are
still far too cheap?
On a personal note: Joey Cat passed his check up with flying colors.
He's the picture of feline health and securely attached to his adopted
mom, me. :-)
A great big shout out goes out to Dennis Kucinich, a tireless advocate
for working class and poor people. These days he's in a shrinking
minority in government. He's my top pick for president. Hope springs

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