Column no. 68 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH July 14, 2005

Last week I in this space, I published a lengthy column on what I called “The Dick Durbin Disaster.”  This week I am on vacation, so my column will be (for some readers, I know mercifully) somewhat shorter, but on the same subject: recognizing that we are in a war with the Republican Religious Right over Constitutional democracy.

Last week Stephen Gheen kindly introduced my article with the following words [slightly emended]:

“Dr. Steven Jonas authors an article today that [puts in bold letters] the problem that threatens the vitality and reemergence of the Democratic Party.  Dr. Jonas frames the issues with simple perfection: ‘Do we want to win?  Do we really want to restore and preserve our precious constitutional democracy and above it, the Rule of Law?  [If we do], the first thing we have to do is recognize that there are sides in this battle and then recognize who is on which side.’  [In his column] Dr. Jonas draws the sides and provides some critical [recommendations] for Democrats.”

Over the years since 9/11 and the Georgites’ response to and use of it to undertake in earnest their long planned full assault on Constitutional democracy in the United States, I have occasionally thought of a union song from the 1930s by a woman named Florence Reese.  Although we in the upper middle-class, left-wing, Depression/New-Deal Era households of the type in which I grew up, in New York City had not-too-much in-depth knowledge of, and certainly no direct experience with, the events, or even the type of events, to which it referred, the song was a staple.

The song was about the situation in the coal-mining county of Harlan, Kentucky that came to be known as the “Harlan War,” during which the county came to be known as “Bloody Harlan.”  The “J.H. Blair” referred to in it was the local sheriff who, after he had his men violently break up a local meeting of the National Mineworkers Union, famously said: “The Red revolt in Harlan County has been crushed!”  For a further brief history of the period, I refer you to

Let me share with you the lyrics of that song, which often bring tears to my eyes when I think of them, and do now as I write this.  Will we need to have a book entitled Cry the Beloved Country written about our glorious land too?  For me, these words just resonate so well down to our own time, sadly on so much larger a scale.

“They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there You’ll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair.

“Chorus: Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

“My daddy was miner and I'm a miner's son And I'll stick with the union 'til every battle's done.

Come all you good workers, I have good news for you I'll tell of how our union has come in here to dwell.

“Chorus: Which side are you on? Which side are you on?”

“Oh workers can you stand it? Oh tell me how you can; Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man?

“Chorus: Which side are you on? Which side are you on?”

Don't scab for the bosses, don't listen to their lies Us poor folks haven't got a chance unless we organize.

“Chorus: Which side are you on? Which side are you on?”

In defense of the Constitution, there are only two sides.  Just as on the slavery question, there is no middle ground.  You are either for it, or agin’ it, as they would say in the hills of Kentucky, and North Carolina too, for that matter.  The only question now is: is our side going to organize for its defense and protection before it is destroyed by the Republican Religious Right, lead by the Georgites, and win the battle through organizing and electoral politics?  Or will we have to fight for its Restoration after they have completed the campaign of total destruction leading to theocratic fascism they are currently engaged in?