protest 1

by Your Intrepid Reporter

     Giving a new meaning (actually, a very old one) to "tweeting," canaries from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and adjacent states have launched an unprecedented "fly-in" on the Nation's Capitol. Their goal: to make it clear to President Trump that they have no intention of following their ancestors back into the coal mines. As one spokes-bird put it, "We oscines seem to have evolved more than the humans of the southern Appalachian region; why the fuck would we want to go back to a loser job (no exaggeration!) just because our parents and grand-parents did it?"

   He went on: "Now, I know that our situation wasn't exactly the same as the humans in the coal mines. For instance, we didn't get paid at all; the miners, in contrast, made enough (at least, some of the time) to keep their families from actually starving to death. And our jobs were almost certain to end in death; most of us didn't even live long enough to die of black lung, like so many of the miners did. Still, I don't think either species can claim to have had a really great time down in those dark holes. We wised up, and moved on. Apparently, they didn't."

  When I pointed out that the ex-coal miners really need jobs, and that coal mining was their chosen occupation, the bird scoffed. "Well, we don't always get what we want, do we?" But then he relented. "Sorry, I don't mean to make light of the situation; obviously, these people need work, but let's do a reality check here. I talked to a man just the other day, whose ancestors for seven generations were wheelwrights." "Wait," I interjected, "What's a wheelwright?" "My point, exactly," responded the spokes-canary.  "Now, I didn't get the impression that this fellow wanted to be a wheelwright, but it wouldn't have mattered if he did. Maybe there are a few wheelwrights somewhere in the world but, as an occupation, it doesn't exist, anymore. The same with stagecoach builders, typewriter makers,  eight-track tape player manufacturers... Well, maybe that last is not as good an illustration. My point is that thousands of occupations, and millions of individual products, have come and gone. You can't make a living with any of them. They're gone."

   I wasn't going to be put off so easily by a bird. "But, coal mining isn't gone!"

  "No, not gone, but well on its way out as an occupation."

 "Obama's fault," opined a man, who had been eavesdropping. His t-shirt read "I'll Follow Trump to Earth's End."

 "I like your shirt," observed the canary. He smiled with his eyes. (Birds have a hard time smiling with their mouths.) "Could be prophetic. But, no, not Obama's fault. Did you know that the United States is actually producing twice as much coal today as it did in 1945? Did you know that it's being done with 50,000 workers, rather than the half a million who were once employed? Do you know why? It's not Obama; it's automation. Do you know that some people are still making fortunes in the coal production business? Do you know who isn't? They're called coal miners."

   The man in the t-shirt shrugged. "That will change when President Trump gets these mines open, again."

   "That's fake news, man," said the canary. "I may be a bird brain, but it doesn't take an Einstein to know that mine owners are not going to give up automation in favor of old-time hand labor, mining CEOs are not going to take less of the profits, and miners are not going to see big raises in their pay. Besides, just about everybody but Trump knows that coal can't compete with natural gas for profits and sustainability, and that coal is one of the worst pollutants you can put into your environment. And, here's a non-fake fact for you: did you know that there are already 260,000 people working in solar energy in the United States, compared to the 50,000 coal miners, and that there's room for a whole lot more?"

   "But we're coal miners!" protested the Trump man.  "Yes," replied the spokes-canary, "and  I'm a wheelwright."

 *   *   *

   That could have ended the interview, but I couldn't let it go at that. "So, Mr. Canary," I asked. "What do you do if you don't monitor coal mines?"

   He smiled his somewhat-creepy eye smile. "I sing to make people happy."

   Trump Shirt pounced on that. "So, you're on welfare! You're on the dole for seed and a place to stay. You're not contributing anything to The Economy. Get a job, bird!" 

    The canary sighed. (Well, birds don't sigh very well, but it was sort of a sigh.)  "I know it's presumptuous of me to comment on what humans - by your own reckoning, the smartest and most advanced organisms that ever lived - have worked out for The Economy. But here's how it looks to me. In your world, everything rests on making and selling crap that nobody needs. Now, I'm not a Luddite..."

  "What did you call me?" Trump Shirt made an aggressive move toward the yellow bird.

  "Wait," said Canary. "I apologize for using a two-syllable word with you. I meant no disrespect. I was just trying to say that your Capitalism is no longer about meeting needs or improving the quality of life. Now, as long as somebody makes a profit, it's working, even if 99% of you can barely scrape together the price of a meal."

   "Well, what's the alternative?" I ask.

   "Hey, I'm just a lowly bird; you're the humans. But I watch enough news to know that you're letting your whole infrastructure fall down around you, you lead the world in crime, and trail most of the world in health care. If 99.99% of the scientists in the world prove to be correct, most of your coastal cities will under water in a relatively few years, your inland cities will be unbearable because of heat and various forms of freak weather, and most of your crops won't grow." Trump Shirt made a move to speak. "No, goddamn it! It isn't fake news. Get your head out of your ass, and use that brain that you say god gave you. Quit crying because you can't be a coal miner - or a wheelwright! - and get to work on something meaningful."

   "But that's "Government work," mumbled Trump Shirt.

   "Yes, it probably is, because most of your Capitalist leaders won't do it because there isn't enough profit for them. But "government work" is only bad in your mind because the money-men have been telling you that for so long."

   Trump Shirt made a dismissive gesture, and started to walk away. "You're full of shit, and don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

   The canary raised a feather in what, from a human, could be considered a rude gesture. "I do know what I'm talking about, and I'm full of bird seed, not shit. And about my job: I think it was your Victor Hugo who said, 'the beautiful is as useful as the useful.' Think about it!"

   Spokes-Canary turned back to me. "I guarantee you, we're not going back in your coal mines. As far as the rest of it, I wouldn't give a shit about what you American humans do if it wasn't screwing every other human in the world and - most important to me - all of us birds. I'm not going to die in a coal mine, but I don't give me and my kind much chance of surviving the rest of the crap you're laying on us."

   With that, he turned away and  was lost to me in the large milling crowd of yellow birds that all looked alike.


Reporter's note: My editor did publish my interview, although he said he personally considered it "trivial pap." However, he made me take out all the bad language, and also my surmise about the meaning of the bird's extended feather.


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