|Lincoln Chaffee As Captain of the Wrestling Team|
Hampton, New Hampshire Democrats have been meeting for some years monthly, usually in the basement of the Methodist church, or in a room at the town library, but this year Chris Muns, the president of the group, decided the meetings lacked something and he initiated a "movie night."
The meeting is usually attended by about a dozen people, but movie night drew more than twice that number. It had been advertised in the Hampton Union newspaper and popcorn was provided, along with bottled water. The demographic of the group divided neatly into the half which was older than 80 and the half in the 50 something range. Everyone sat on the padded folding chairs which can accommodate the human skeleton comfortably for about 30 minutes before low back pain emerges.
Last night the assemblage remained in their chairs for over two hours.
Before the movie, Lincoln Chafee, a Democratic candidate for President of the United States visited and he gave his stump speech for about 10 minutes before the movie, and then left. Before leaving, he fielded a few questions, in particular he denied he ever supported privatization of Social Security, which Wikipedia said he had. His voting record in the U.S. Senate had been reviewed by some of the audience, so they knew he was for gun control, against the death penalty, for same sex marriage and he was the one Republican Senator to vote against the war in Iraq. Then he became a Democrat. So he was on friendly ground. He was not at ease. He seemed just a little too fragile--his voice quavered when he talked about post traumatic stress syndrome among soldiers. I could believe he felt great sympathy for their suffering; I was not convinced he had the steel to fight Republicans. On the other hand, he had been captain of the Brown University wrestling team, so one might expect he had some steel in him, even if being captain of that particular wrestling team was not like being captain of, say, the Iowa State team. He certainly radiated empathy for the underclass and the under-served. I did not see as much fight in him as I was looking for.
The movie, Food, Inc. explored the nexus of politics, science, technology, mores, and government policy which underlie our American industrial food chain. It was a sobering affair, but its effect was dissipated a little by a tendency to veer toward the screed, the polemic. A little too much, "the big corporations don't want you to see this..." sort of thing. It also included a segment on the death of a child from pathologic E. coli in hamburger meat. Sad as this case was, it is not clear it signifies callus disregard of public health by moneyed interests. It is likely true government meat inspection has been bought out by corporate meat packers, but this is nothing new in public health and is more a problem with the vulnerability of low level government hacks than with corporate avarice.
When I was a medical student, I went on a field trip with a New York City meat inspector. We arrived at a packing plant and the inspector never left the office of the plant manager. We all got posters to take home and hang in our dorm rooms.
My professor of Public Health asked me what I had learned from my day with the meat inspector.
"Nothing," I told him. "We never even saw where they handled the meat. They could have been dragging meat slabs across the floor and we never would have known. It was a total waste of time. If that is what passes for meat inspection, I'm going vegetarian."
"Then you did learn what we sent you out there to learn," the professor said.
Food, Inc. shows a part of America which is not comfortable to think about--apart from the way cows are stuffed together, standing in their own manure so they need prodigious doses of antibiotics to prevent overwhelming infection, and for chickens it's even worse, there is the way food workers are treated, not much better than the animals they kill and butcher. There is collusion between corporate bosses and immigration officers which allow for meat processing plants to function with low wage illegal workers; there is the "company store" system by which chicken farmers get deeper and deeper in debt to Tyson's Corp.; there is the outrage of Monsanto being able to sue into oblivion the farmer whose fields get pollinated by Monsanto genes, blown in from neighboring farms; there are the bizarrely unconstitutional laws which make it a felony to criticize Colorado meat or vegetables from a variety of states, the so call "veggie libel" laws.
The octagenarians did not leave their seats watching chickens getting decapitated, or cows being conveyed on hooks above a butchery. When the movie was over, there were a few expressions of outrage and people walked over to the table with the water bottles and drank the way cops used to drink stiff shots of whiskey after a tough day on the beat.
Old people talked with young people and bonding occurred among Democrats.
Chris Muns had been successful. He had stirred the pot.