A Postcard to Cinderloo – From Cinder Hills to Capitol Hill – Two Battles Two Centuries Apart

This latest postcard in our series comes from John Miles Smith in the United States. The author has responded to the criticism of his earlier postcard by providing a new version to better explain his viewpoint.  Cinderloo can provide a perspective on current events involving the ill-treatment of workers or other people.  Dialogue over such events and their relationship to Cinderloo is a key part of the project that we will continue to encourage.

Dear Tom

I am a relative of your mate Tom Gittins and I now live in North Carolina in the USA.   I write to tell you about a battle I have just witnessed exactly 200 years after the Battle of Cinderloo. This one has been broadcast all around the world and took place on Capitol Hill, the seat of our democracy.  Some of the protesters were from extremist groups that you could never have imagined, but others were ordinary workers suffering hardships similar to you and your mates.  One big difference though is that, in your day, you had no allies in government.  But these protesters had our President on their side and they were battling to overturn his lost election.  You must wonder how these workers got into this unbelievable situation.  Let me explain.

First, let’s look at your economic plight back in 1821 compared to the one in America right now.  You were working in the coal mines and iron works and barely making ends meet.  But then those industries fell into a depression and the owners wanted to maintain their profits by cutting your wages.  Understandably, you were very upset.

In present-day America, the workers suffering the most hardships were displaced from their jobs in manufacturing or agriculture.  There used to be lots of good-paying jobs in manufacturing, but then American companies started to shift manufacturing overseas where costs were lower.  Manufacturing workers in America were losing their jobs.  If new work was available at all, it was mostly in service jobs which paid much less.  They were very upset just like you.

Now I’ll tell you about the government’s role.  In your day, Tom, you and your fellow workers did not have the vote.  Only property owners could vote.  You had no representation at all in the British government.  Even if the government knew of your plight, they weren’t going to do anything about it. 

In America (and Britain too) everyone has the vote now.  The displaced workers voted and expected their government representatives to do something about their plight.  Over the years, the workers grew disillusioned by the government’s response.  Democratic administrations proposed some programs for retraining and relocation – not much help if you want to stay with your friends and family.  Republican administrations seemed to think that displaced workers should use more initiative and find a way to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps – in the great tradition of the early American pioneers. 

But then the displaced workers thought they got a very lucky break.  In 2015, Donald Trump ran as a Republican for President against the Democrat Hilary Clinton.  He specifically sought to win votes from the displaced workers and he promised to fix all their problems.  Displaced workers and their larger communities voted overwhelmingly to support Trump, and he became president the following year.  In reality, Trump was only concerned with cementing his grip on power.  He had no sincere interest in the lives of displaced workers or any other group.  Trump’s nationalist and populist agenda produced little tangible benefit for displaced workers. 

Nevertheless, Trump made a show of “keeping his promises”, and he charged up his supporters at frequent rallies and on Twitter.  He told supporters that only he was capable of helping them.  Over the next 4 years, his supporters became very enthusiastic about Trump.  They doted on his attention, swagger and showmanship, and saw him as their means to a better life.

But then, last year, Trump lost his bid for reelection.  His supporters couldn’t believe it – they were going to lose their most powerful ally.  Then, and this is the most incredible bit, Trump asked his supporters to help him overturn the election results.  Usually, Americans are strong believers in democracy.  But in this case, the displaced workers felt desperate to keep Trump in power, so he could continue working on his promises.  They did not worry about what overturning an election really meant. 

Tom, now I’ll tell you about the battle.  Trump supporters travelled from across the country to Washington, D.C.  Some of these supporters were members of extremist groups (such as militias and white supremacists) and they were very aggressive.  Some of the extremists were very visible in military-style gear or outlandish costumes.  But most of the supporters who showed up were ordinary folks determined to do Trump’s bidding in any way they could.  Trump held a rally where he got everyone riled up for a fight.  He told his supporters to go over to the Capitol and protest the ratification of Joe Biden’s election in the Senate.

In the role of Trump’s appointed protesters, his supporters marched over to Capitol Hill where they encountered the Capitol police.  With extremist groups appearing in the vanguard, the protesters battled with the police who were trying to oppose their entry into the Capitol. There was death and injury on both sides.  The protesters succeeded in gaining entry but, by then, the Senate had been forewarned and gone into recess.  Senators took shelter in safe locations.  The protesters were finally ejected from the building, and the Senate came back into session to complete Biden’s ratification.  Biden became our next president.

Trump had exploited all his supporters, whether protesting on Capitol Hill or not, in an attempt to achieve his personal ambitions for power. Even so, the displaced workers and their larger communities remain largely aligned with Trump.  He will seek to use their support to maintain control of the Republican Party while he is out of office.  All efforts to undermine democracy must be condemned, but the displaced workers still deserve a sincere response from government.  The Biden administration will no doubt reach out to them and offer support.  If the displaced workers switch their allegiance to the Democrats, it would severely weaken Trump’s hold on power – and that would be good for America.

John M. Smith was raised in Hadley, and studied Electrical Engineering at the University of London before emigrating to the USA.  He is currently retired from working in the computer industry and teaching computer science at university.  His ancestors have lived in the (now) Telford area since records began in the early 1600’s as farmers, miners and industrial workers.  John retains a great affection for the area and enjoys learning more about its history.  His views on the Capitol Battle, and preceding political events, were formed from reporting in the New York Times.  He has written other short articles that have appeared in the Wrekin News.

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