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  • Reverend James Squire

Spell Man




Something happened recently that took me back to my days in the steel mill. It was a statement by a working-class man who was describing his struggle to make ends meet for his family. It was also the news of the ten years old girl, raped, became pregnant, and had to leave her state for an abortion. There are certain things that trigger a trip down memory lane.


I was thinking about the person who was my spell man in the coal handler. The coal handler was that part of the mill where coal cars would pass under a huge structure that would grasp the car with its iron arms and literally turn it over so that the coal was poured down a chute to a below ground area that would begin its journey first up one story of belts on rollers to ground level. Then it would be transported by a series of belts that would continue the journey of the coal in corrugated metal housings above ground and then would continue the journey until it was dumped into ovens to be made into coke. Coke heats highly than coal and was needed in the blast furnace to create the heat source for the creation of steel.


There was a fiction that when the coal hit the belts that it stayed on them. The fact was that it spilled onto the floor under and beside the belts. When the coal was dumped initially on to the below ground first belt of its journey, you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. The air battled to be replaced by coal dust. The coal was knee deep there. I had to shovel like a crazed man to make sure that I could move and not be frozen in place by the coal up to my knees.


The foreman was a wonderful guy. He would periodically send people down to make sure that I could get the amount of coal under control and keep moving. Shoveling the coal onto the belts that were above ground was easier. First, you could see. Second, there was light and air that came through the holes of the corrugated metal housings that made up the chutes. The heat from the ovens permeated the entire plant.


Enter the spell man. I worked ten hours a day, five days a week in turn of the century conditions. I made what seemed to me to be a fortune! But two days a week, I was off. The spell man was the person who covered for me to make sure the belts could run so there was no coal on the floor. My spell man initially decided to hide in the upper belts and let the coal just amass over the two days while he was on “vacation.” I came back to a nightmare.


But so did he for my confrontation with him was quick and unexpected as he was a favored son of a union boss. He never went on “vacation” again. The spell man became symbolic of “back up” or lack thereof for me. I wanted fairness. I wanted justice before I knew that these concepts would be key to a course in ethics that I would teach for 38 years to very talented students.


According to the Pew Research Center, the top priority for 71% of the nation is the economy.

We hear the echoes of James Carville, advisor to President Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy stupid.” It is hard to worry about climate change, voting rights, and immigration issues when you are worried about money for your family. People aren’t indifferent. They are focused on how to meet the needs of their family. At the top of the nation’s priorities is also women’s rights and abortion.


The American worker is ready to work hard doing anything to make ends meet. As they cling to the justice arm of ethics, they want “back up.” The same desire also is tangible for those who want choice about their bodies and “back up” when confronting the complexities of a lack of choices to receive an abortion. We saw this graphically over the weekend when a ten years old girl was raped, became pregnant, and needed to leave her state, in the midst of a legal gray area, to have an abortion in another state. Fortunately, she had a spell man who was her back up in the form of a woman physician.


The little girl had spell men in her life who were willing to take a vacation including a Republican Attorney General, Fox news, and Jim Jordan. They said that she didn’t exist. It was a lie. If they were with me, like my spell man was at first, they showed the same inaction. They needed to be confronted then, and they needed to be confronted now which occurred. Abortion rights are an important issue for the voters going into the midterms.


The American worker will be voting in the primary for the person they feel will provide them with the best “back up.” Back up is nothing more or less than justice and fairness and depending on people whose “job” it is to come through for you. The current rating of Congress approval as of May 2022 is 18%. In essence, that is why Trump was elected in the first place and why he remains in power today in spite of all of his criminal activity and immoral behavior. He represents “back up” and still fools the people that he will be there for them when he is only interested in his own ego. But we forget the American people are desperate after years of Covid and other challenges.


We as a nation forget the importance of “back up” in the national consciousness. “Back up” is not a hand out. An American worker would never accept that. When my father had his devastating stroke and was the sole breadwinner when I was in tenth grade, my family refused any consideration of food stamps. It is not part of the worker class playbook.


People are confused about why Trump still has power. We forget that “back up”, fairness, and justice are still an integral important part of human nature.


If we as a nation don’t have “back up” in our political leaders, there will be more incidents of violence. Just ask the guy who thought that he could just take a “vacation” when he should have been doing what was part of his job as a spell man. He needed to know through direct confrontation that his inaction would no longer be tolerated.

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