From the right, and now increasingly from the left, we’re getting used to hearing Where’s the change, Obama?
I anticipated this sort of horseshit from the established right, a now completely rudderless opposition party who are determined to see the President’s agenda (and the POTUS himself) fail at any cost. The stakes are high, but it’s evident to anyone who’s even remotely paying attention that the GOP are willing to sacrifice the nation, over the well being of citizens, in their quest to achieve and maintain political power. If the Republican Party were an ex-lover, they’d be the type to slash your tires by dark of night, kidnap your beloved pet, or spend hours calling to hang up on you. Whatever, not much surprise here (see also BREAKING! stories on the wetness of water).
What’s harder for me to stomach is the bizarre intransigence from the left of center folk who decry ‘incrementalism’. We saw this all throughout the healthcare debate; we saw it again with DADT, and again with FinReg. Nothing has been good enough for these people. Nothing.
Again and again, over and over, issue after issue. I’m not talking about the general swath of leftward-leaning people who have disappointments. I have a few of my own. I’m talking about the self-absorbed, holier-than-thou lefty motherfuckers who are willing to hand control back over to the aforementioned power-mongering GOP, purely out of spite.
These are the same assholes who are willing to sit out the midterms, deliberately dampen enthusiasm for Democrats down ticket, and shoot all of the country in the collective ass, just to teach that dirty Corporocrat shill Obama that they will not brook any ‘dirty fucking hippie punching’. He needs to be more like LBJ they say, more like FDR. Apparently, hippies have been too busy shitting themselves (and complaining about the stink) to read an 8th grade history textbook.
If they had, or even if they had the will power to read beyond the Huffington Post headlines or spatula their dialated pupils off the front page of FireDogLake, they’d know that the substantial progressive achievements of both FDR and LBJ were only possible because of significant compromises and political deal-making. In fact, many of the programs, laws, and policies we know and love started small, and improved over time. A long time. You know, little shit like social security and civil rights. The kind of things that only begin to live up to our ideals as Americans.
Recently, I’ve been reminded that real gestalt level change takes time. This little lesson came to me the other day as I carried out one of the regular functions of my job — a gig made possible in large part by the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Thanks Obama and Democrats, you swarthy bunch of neo-liberal corporatist shit-sandwich servers tossing us all under the bus!
SRSLY people, let’s get a goddamned grip. Change takes time. Given the challenges we face as a nation, now is most assuredly not the time for poutrage.
For those that don’t know, I’m an archaeologist (no dinosaurs, no gold). I used to work for a large corporation that provided environmental consulting services to a variety of clients. I got laid off when the economy tanked. Now, I work for a federal agency that is fielding a number of ARRA funded projects, most of them related to infrastructure repair and improvement. This one in particular involved the widening of a public roadway.
During construction, there was a late discovery of a historic mining adit. It fell to me to try to find something out about this hole in the ground. To begin, I conducted a review of GLO plats in an effort to collect any available chronometric information for the feature. While the GLO plats and associated survey notes provided some information from 1855, 1858, and 1949 for the specific area of the discovery, they revealed no evidence of historic mining activity (either as mapped features or subjects of mention in the surveyors field notes). Digging deeper, a review of available Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records failed to produce any historic or modern mineral claims for the area. The paucity of data with regard to this kind of feature isn’t particularly unusual, and in no way precluded the possible historic era origins of the feature. It could be that the adit and/or affiliated remains and features may have been deemed unworthy of mention and omitted from survey notes, or simply were not observed in the course of each cartographic/survey effort.
Additionally, I checked out the BLM’s California Automated Land Records Management Improvement Project online database to scan available Master Title Plats and the Historical Index. The results showed only one land patent within the project area–a cash entry filed on November 1st, 1880 by Edward Booth. A number of other historic land patents (homesteads, scrip patents, and cash entries) had been filed in the vicinity though none of these directly accounted for any mining activity in the project area.
So, where are we now? Based on a field recording of the adit (and possibly associated prospect features noted in the vicinity), it’s likely that the adit feature is representative of a drift-mining episode. The drift mining method was well in use across California by the mid-1850s, reached its peak in the 1870s before virtually ceasing. The technique came back into popular use after 1933.
This is about all we know, save that in 1880, Edward Booth held a land patent for the spot. Usually, this is where the story ends. Most of the time, if we’re lucky enough to get a name associated with a place, we generally find out very little about the person. They’re often just lost in history, their stories forever untold, and for the most part this is where we give up. We write up our findings, show our due diligence, and move on. As it turned out, Edward Booth still had a story to tell.
After some more exhaustive research, I’ve compiled a collection of circumstantial archival data to suggest that the Edward Booth responsible for filing the land patent in 1880 is likely one of California’s first African American miners. Edward Booth was born to slaves in Virginia. One account indicates that his mother once stood in the presence of George Washington (she was reportedly much impressed with his fine breeches). Somehow the children, or perhaps the entire family, were granted their freedom, and they relocated from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. The eldest of several siblings, Edward Booth first came to California in search of gold in 1849 after a successful stint trading in the West Indies. After some profitable mining efforts he returned to Maryland to collect his family, and in 1851, began what would be an arduous journey to California accompanied by brothers George, Samuel, Elijah, and sisters Ann-Maria and Harriet. After repeatedly enduring the indignity of establishing that the family were legally free blacks (i.e. not escaped slaves) the group sailed from New York City to Panama, where Mr. Booth’s fluency in Spanish (probably the product of his trading career) reportedly helped to save the lives of a man and woman in dire circumstances.
To reach the port in Panama City, the family had to hire Spaniards to guide them upriver, and ride mules across the isthmus. When they reached port, the family was separated by a series of misfortunes, whereby no single vessel was able to accommodate the entire group. Edward and his sisters managed to secure passage to San Francisco aboard a steamship, and later travelled to Sacramento via the riverboat New World. Edward’s brothers were delayed several months more however, as their vessel (the sailing ship Cabargo) became lost at sea — a voyage that ended in a mutiny adrift. After eventually coming ashore somewhere in Mexico, the younger Booth men began their voyage anew, finally arriving in Sacramento via the riverboat Sydney Stepp in 1852.
With the exception the sisters and brother George, who remained in Sacramento as an Expressman, the Booth Brothers took to mining — initially in the Nevada City and Grass Valley area. Brothers Samuel and Elijah appear in the 1856 Nevada County Business and Residential Directory as miners, and are listed as working at American Hill, where hydraulic mining was first practiced in 1853. Later, Edward and Elijah are listed in the Placer County Directory of 1861, evidently residents of the Last Chance / Michigan Bluff area, the latter being among the earliest mining towns in Placer County. Edward Booth surfaces again in the historical record via the Placer County Great Register of Voters for the year 1890. Like his brother George, Edward was active in seeking equality for African Americans. He spoke formally before the second Colored Convention of California in 1856:
It is with pride I say, we are showing to our white fellow citizens, that we have some natural abilities. We are resolved to let them see that all we want is an equal chance, and open field and a fair fight…We intend to disprove the allegation that we are naturally inferior to them. The colored people of Nevada County possess property to the amount of $3,000,000 in mining claims, water, ditch stock and some real estate.
One of four such events, the conventions were held in response to a Gold Rush era environment that lacked any significant legal and/or political recourse for African Americans living under racism and discrimination. The Conventions of Colored Citizens of the State of California marked the beginning of organized civil rights activism in the American West. Upon word of the Klondike strike in Alaska, Edward Booth travelled to Alaska, staked a reportedly successful mining claim, and later died in 1900.
In 1856, Edward Booth wanted equality. He wanted an equal chance, an open field, and a fair fight. Today, in 2010, we’re still not there yet. If anyone wants to suggest that equality has been achieved, please present that particular argument to the family and friends of Oscar Grant.
Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who killed Oscar Grant while he was lying face down and handcuffed in an Oakland train station, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter — his crime, according to the jury, was negligence in not knowing the difference between his heavy black gun and his light yellow Taser.
Edward Booth and Oscar Grant are just two reminders that change — the kind of change that actually fucking matters — is a process, not a destination. Let’s all remember that when we get off our whiny asses and go to the polls this November, shall we?