Tales of hard times on the coast

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – Being a self-described “radical engineer” and engaged in political and human activism and advocacy on the North Coast of California, each day presents new and varied challenges.

Up here, the sea has provided many a worker and family a decent living. But nowadays, too many boats of our union fishing fleet are for sale. Cheap. The ocean has been hurt deeply. Fish are scarce. Because of overfishing by “factory ships,” natural and manmade global warming and pollution, most of our fishermen have had to take work far from their beloved sea.

One such out-of-work fisherman is Karl. He lives in an old tool shed down the road. He’s getting along by taking odd jobs and recycling. He has had to leave his family behind so they might receive a modicum of welfare and health care. Karl, himself, has no real health care and is often sick and cannot leave his shed.

Pete, a neighbor and a single parent to his three-year-old son, often tries to help Karl out, but because of the depressed local economy he has great problems of his own.

Pete, a hard worker, is employed but receives a low wage. After paying his rent, utilities, food and health care costs, he has nothing left for child care. I’m trying to assist him with filling out forms and papers so his son can attend the Head Start program and the Well-Baby Clinic.

Another man I’m assisting is an old friend named “Tree.” He’s a disabled and homeless man, a Vietnam-era vet, who was (and is) a master wood craftsman. Ten years ago he seriously injured his back and had to retire from labor.

A few weeks back, I invited Tree over to a barbecue at my house. I had forgotten to buy hot dogs so after we shared a few beers, Tree volunteered to walk to the store and purchase our dinner’s meat. He never showed back up that day and I worried.

I found out later that as he was walking to the store, the sheriff, having profiled him as homeless and indigent, arrested him for public intoxication and took him to jail. Tree was certainly not intoxicated and warranted no arrest. At the jail he demanded his rights and answers to his questions. The sheriff “educated” him against doing this and he was gifted with a broken leg.

Tree was “released” shortly after his schooling and now faces possible surgery and months of pain in a cast. I look forward to testifying on his behalf in a civil law suit he has brought against the county’s constabulary.

As these stories demonstrate, we need to come together and unify our efforts to bring about complete, comprehensive national health care, quality preschool and day care for all children and the immediate repeal of Patriot Acts One and Two to restore our constitutional legal rights. Furthermore, we must go forward and guarantee all people the right to “living wage” employment and safe affordable housing. These are but the basic needs a humane society must provide to its citizenry.

Photo: www.northcoast101.com/nc101/images/12a.jpg