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Lita Kurth
Lita Kurth
Lita A. Kurth is a Jungian Anarcho-Syndicalist teacher and writer

“This is What Religion Looks Like!”


by: on July 31st, 2011 | Comments Off

Anyone driving through Madison, Wisconsin in April and May would have recognized those nine beeps of car and truck horns, ubiquitous throughout the city: This is what democracy looks like!

Wisconsin State Capitol

The mainstream media focused on unions, of course, public and private, coming together in unexpected solidarity, but not everyone realized that spiritual and religious groups played a significant role as well. And here’s something that will challenge your prejudices: evangelical groups were among them. Together with the religious organizations that form the usual progressive “suspects,” they chanted their own variation on a theme: This is what religion looks like.

Bruno, Hawkings, Dowling at WCSA

Houses of Worship: the new “public” spaces for political action?

Churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques have an ambivalent history with social justice, but a panel at the Working Class Studies conference in Chicago this June offered evidence of deep and innovative support for justice movements, worker rights in particular, which really inspired me. Not everyone knows, for example, that during the Wisconsin Uprising, a Shabbat service was held in the Capitol with Hebrew songs in which Rabbi Renee Bauer played a key role. Or that four hundred clergy signed a statement of support, and one hundred fifty of them marched in the protests. Robert Bruno, author of Justified by Work, moderated an impressive panel consisting of Father Larry Dowling, a Catholic priest from a 50 percent unemployed, 55 percent ex-incarcerated parish, and Rev. C. J., . Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago, and Minister of Social Justice at the Euclid Avenue Methodist Church. Unfortunately, Rabbi Brant Rosen, leader of an activist Jewish Reconstructionist congregation, and a Muslim Imam were not able to come.


Secret Weapon Against Fascism: Ourselves


by: on May 1st, 2011 | 9 Comments »

Wisconsin workers

Happy International Workers Day, everyone! All over the world, on grand and small scales, people are celebrating the majority in every society: workers and would-be workers. Every day, in my work as a teacher, I see that the belief in fairness continues to flourish among the majority, the baristas and servers, the nurse’s aides and clerks, the dishwashers and groundskeepers.

photo by Jonathan McIntosh wikimedia commons

It’s a complex situation, of course. Workers can be hard on one another, proud of their endurance under extreme conditions. As one server told me recently, “If you can’t take abuse and disrespect every day, you don’t belong in the restaurant business.” And yet, in a recent class discussion, both men and women restaurant workers acknowledged that at the end of the working day, they often cried.

There Is Hope

Though the power of the privileged has grown grotesquely and the power of workers has shrunk, commitment to justice is a motion-sensitive light that turns on again when we move.


April 4th and 5th: Catch the Wisconsin Fire


by: on April 5th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

The fires of democracy continue to burn brightly in Wisconsin.

With a Smile, Photo by Rebecca Congo

Recall campaigns are racing along, and a recent community meeting in Milwaukee, usually a sleepy, ill-attended affair, boasted several hundred attendants. When their representative, Chris Larson, one of the “Wisconsin 14″ showed up, they jumped to their feet in a standing ovation. Neighborhood listservs are boiling with activity.

Photo of and by Rebecca Congo+Friend

On Facebook and in a thousand union and church meetings, people solidify their connections with each other and their commitment to recover and strengthen our precious democracy.

Meaningful Individual Acts, Meaningful Collective Acts

April 4th and 5th, there were dozens of opportunities to participate in democracy both publicly and privately. At least five activities were planned for the South Bay (Please comment and post photos if you attended one of these.)


Special Dispatch: Solidarity in Wisconsin


by: on February 19th, 2011 | 11 Comments »

Protest in Wisconsin photo by A. Renner

Special Dispatch: Solidarity in Wisconsin

In Jordan, teachers protested this week for the right to form unions. In Wisconsin, they fought to keep that right. The stakes and the dangers in Jordan are enormously higher, but it’s a sad irony that we find ourselves sliding down to the status of a country that doesn’t even pretend to be a democracy. I wish with all my heart for these dangerous struggles in the Mideast and North Africa to bear real and lasting fruit, that in each of these cases, justice will prevail.

And I’m proud of my home state. I’ve been proud all week. Newly-elected Tea Party Governor Walker proposes to remove collective bargaining rights on workplace rules, safety, pensions, benefits, overtime, and, for salary, more than a cost of living adjustment would require a state referendum! This drastic curtailment of a voice for workers in their working conditions affects teachers, custodians, game wardens, university employees, librarians, health service workers, everyone except firefighters, police, and state troopers.


The Perils of Privilege


by: on February 12th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

The Perils of Privilege

At the college where I teach, I get free parking: prime spots right on the edge of campus. Should my designated places fill up, I can help myself to any student space. Nice deal. For me.

How is student parking? Well, I don’t know exactly. They pay for parking and it’s farther away, but I’m hazy on the details. Unless they speak up, I won’t know how often they circle for half an hour or how long it takes them to walk from class to where they parked. Even if they do speak up, might I dismiss it? Might I think they’re just complaining to cover up a lack of effort?

This, in microcosm, is the peril of privilege. Those with even small amounts of power, education, and wealth can remain ignorant and unmotivated to change an unjust situation. We owe a great debt to the privileged who seek out the truth and act on it and to the unprivileged who dare to step into the light and speak: canaries in the coal mine we all inhabit.

Entitlement, Self-Blame, and Injustice

What if the aforementioned students shrug about parking injustice and suck it up?


Three Cheers for the new Huck Finn


by: on January 9th, 2011 | 13 Comments »

Auburn University professor Alan Gribben has just come out with a revised version of Huckleberry Finn from NewSouth Books that replaces the N-word with “slave.”

Wow, the reaction! Typical of many critics is Michael J. Kiskis of Elmira College who says in a newspaper interview, “I don’t think you should change a writer’s text” (So much for translation!) “It changes the tone and intention.” When he teaches the book at the college level, he notes, “We talk about the context” and adds, “It’s not enough to just say ‘well, everybody used this language in the 1880s’.’ That’s not true.”

My reply? There’s theory and there’s practice. And practice at the below-college level is mighty rough.


Gratitude: What a Chore


by: on November 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Why is it so hard to be grateful?

In the churches of my childhood, the ministers would intone, “Let us give thanks,” perhaps after the collection plate had been passed, and we would all bow our heads and go through the motions. I don’t remember feeling actual gratitude.

But that wasn’t for lack of reminding. A hymn too exhorted us, “Count your Blessings. Name them one by one, and you’ll be surprised at what the Lord has done.” I do not recall ever literally counting my blessings or being surprised, except in a bad way, at what the Lord had done. Being the pious kind of person who read the Bible from cover to cover on summer vacation, I must have gone through the exercise, in prayers on my knees, but I do not recall feeling grateful. Maybe I thought my blessings wouldn’t add up to much, or maybe I didn’t know how to be grateful. Gratitude was hard to muster; however, sardonic and sarcastic responses arose with great ease.

Isn’t gratitude just happy talk, denial, and bullshit? Isn’t it masochism?


The Tea Party, a Middle Class Mob; and a Return to the Fifties


by: on September 22nd, 2010 | 10 Comments »

Little Rock, 1959. Rally at state capitol, protesting the integration of Central High School.

In April, I was riding the DC Metro to the Capitol Mall, when several Tea Party demonstrators got on and sat a few seats away from me. The first, a young white man, wore red-and-white striped shoes with blue tops and other Uncle Sam garb; the young, white woman with him carried a hand-made sign on which was glued an old document titled “The Constitution” and the words, “Miss me yet?”

Their origins, judging by hair, clothes, accent, and where they got on seemed to be lower middle class church goers. Not rich. Not sophisticates. And not stupid. I wanted to ask the woman, “Which part of the Constitution do you see as lost?” Had she read it all the way through?

Tea Party rally March 13, 2010 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Credit: Flickr Fibonacci BlueWho Are These People?

Who dresses up in red, white, and blue costumes, demonstrates, and now, votes for astonishingly extremist candidates in New York and Delaware? What motivates them?

We hear from investigative reports that the Tea Party is, by and large, a middle class group, including ironically people with jobs in the Department of Defense (never a waste of tax dollars), and nourished behind the scenes by wealthy conservatives like Dick Cheney and his daughter, but it has spread. Looking at those two, I caught a glimpse of a world they probably longed for, a world I grew up in, a place that we, as a country, have been before.


The Uses of Unemployment: Art


by: on August 26th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

Still from Scar Tissue Dance Video - section 'Scar Writing', The Olimpias, 2005

“AIDS is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Those words from an exhibit a decade ago at the California College of Arts, struck me speechless. I stood, riveted to the wall-sized set of panels. The honesty and courage of the words and images impressed me profoundly. I felt I was in the presence of something significant and wholly unexpected, something I would have thought impossible.

How could the artist make this claim? The notes revealed the reason: the calamity had transformed his art and his personal relationships, his very identity.

I would never suggest that everyone should have this attitude toward suffering. But that it was possible at all made me ponder.

Unemployment, too, can hit us like a heavy diagnosis; where in this disaster can we find meaning and healing while we send out applications and wait for change? How can we walk through the gaping door into the unknown?


Unemployment, Fear, and What We Can Do


by: on July 20th, 2010 | 14 Comments »

  • A manager in a failing department store runs to the bathroom and throws up, consumed with the fear of losing her health benefits which, even with COBRA, will cost too much.
  • A teacher wakes up multiple nights a week with his whole body clenched, dreading that California’s annual pink slip won’t be retracted this time.
  • A factory worker grieves the loss of friendship and socializing at work as much as the lost income.

Very likely everyone reading this knows someone who has recently lost a job. Unemployment is a strange word; defined negatively, it fails to convey the meaning of an often devastating experience (though one that, together, we can mitigate). In a society that has allowed many supportive institutions to atrophy, job loss looms even more menacingly than it would elsewhere. Added to the practical economic blows are wrenching emotional wounds: fear, self-blame, despair, and lowered self-esteem.

The late Cambridge University professor Marie Jahoda (a Jew and former prisoner of the Austrian Fascists) noted in an important 1982 article, that having a job “imposes a time structure on the waking day; it compels contacts and shared experiences with others outside the nuclear family; it demonstrates that there are goals and purposes which are beyond the scope of an individual but require a collectivity.” Unfortunately, for too many, work is the only significant collective activity they have outside the nuclear family.