Mark Palermo

Bread, But No Roses

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives



The largest parade in Lawrence’s history was on September 23, 1962. They called it the parade “For God and Country.” I marched with 50,000 others that day, but now after learning of the parade’s origin, I regret it. Not that I have anything against God or country. I am a Christian-although a very imperfect one. And I am grateful for the opportunities America has given me. But the story of how the parade came to be is a study in collective amnesia and historical revisionism.


Excitement was in the air in the days leading up to the parade. I was curious about why the city should be celebrating God and country because there was no such celebration the year before. This expenditure of collective energy seemed conspicuous in some way that I could not articulate. And so in school, I asked my sixth grade teacher. She gave me a vague answer about the people of Lawrence and communists. I pressed her for more information and she became annoyed, and said something about my taking too much of the class time. I got the message, in not in so many words, to sit down and shut up.

But I pressed on. I asked my scoutmaster why-if there was no God and Country Parade last year- was the city planning this enormous spectacle. And why on this date and not another? He gave me a vague story about some “atheists and troublemakers” that came to Lawrence. I pressed him for a clearer answer, but he blew me off too. He didn’t really know. Others I asked gave similar answers. Nobody knew. Looking back, I realize that 1962 was the height of the cold war, and nuclear exchange with Russia was dangerously close. People were scared. God and country are important when you are preparing for all-out nuclear war.

Years later, in the late 1970’s, a cultural reawakening occurred, and people rediscovered the Lawrence Strike of 1912. Before that time, nobody talked about it. I worked in the IBEW (electrical workers union), for example, and the organization never referred to it. I attended Lawrence schools for twelve years and no teacher ever said a word about it. Old timers never mentioned it. It was as if it never happened. And yet it was one of the most important strikes in the history of the labor movement. It was front-page news in Rome, London and Tokyo.

 The strike happened in response to a pay cut and a work speed-up imposed by the American Woolen Company. Pays were already at subsistence level, averaging six dollars for a 56-hour week. The strike dragged on for ten weeks, with ugly confrontations between police and strikers. Strikers were killed, bayoneted, and beaten down with clubs. Harvard boys came to Lawrence for the sport of beating up and intimidating immigrants. Some immigrants fought dirty too, using knives, guns and brass knuckles. But the nascent power of mass media laid open to world opinion the wretched conditions in Lawrence’s mills, and Bread and Roses became a rallying cry.

 What kind of places were those mills? If you’re over fifty and you’re grew up around here, chances are you’ve had a taste of working in them. They were sweat shops; hotbeds of prejudice and the most rabid, backstabbing politics imaginable. And sexual harassment? We will never know what was endured in silence. Growing up around old-timers in Lawrence, I never heard them say a single good thing about the mills. Their attitude could be described in two words: good riddance.

Some of the strikers were indeed communists, anarchists and atheists. They advocated openly for abolition of the capitalist system. But can you blame them? Dr Elizabeth Shapleigh, a Lawrence physician wrote, “Thirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age.” We can scarce imagine the wretchedness of their lives. And let’s remember the strike happened in communism’s infancy when its glowing promises held forth the dream of social progress. This was, of course, long before Stalin revealed another side of communism.

In the fall of 1912, eight months after the strike was over and the city settled down, the mayor, local clergymen, and business leaders organized a parade as a counterattack against the goals of the strikers, who were painted as troublemakers and atheists. The slogan of the parade would be, “For God and Country.” The 1962 parade was a commemoration of this first reactionary parade fifty years before, a reminder for Lawrence’s poor to remember their place and do as they are told.

As to “God and Country”, the Bible- if you believe it- says that God works through man. You can say that God, working through people, raised up those mills from the dust of the earth. But God, speaking through the voices of the workers in those mills, asked something more of life. Here’s to the bravery and intelligence of those who demanded bread-and roses too.


July 2006








 Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?—Robert Browning


We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our education system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.Charles Bukowski, beat poet and postal worker


Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. —Chinese Proverb

Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.— Leonardo da Vinci