Sunday, March 3, 2013

Union made.

Eddie Wright wasn't going to take "shut up" for an answer.  The former business agent (read: president) of Iron Workers Local 7, Eddie was having his moment in the spotlight, and he was going to have it, all of it.  Last week's NAACP annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast was the venue, and after a long life of lifting iron, organizing men, fighting bad developers, and building the cities of Cambridge, Boston and the region, now was his time to talk.  Eddie Wright was being recognized.  Eddie Wright was being honored.

Eddie Wright isn't a tall man.  Perhaps he's 5'6", and that's stretching it.  But he's a stout fire plug of a big heart.  He's a Cambridge kid through and through.  Back when you could be a working class boy from a working class family in this town, he was one of them.  Silver-haired now, he remembers his old neighborhood with the touching fondness of age and loves his high school even more.  He's a Rindge man -- that is, the old Rindge Tech.

Eddie Wright is from a dying breed: working class whites who linked their politics to Robert Kennedy and accepted his dream of America as their dream of America.  Deeply conservative in some ways, these men are more radically liberal than most every person in the audience last week at the Cambridge Marriott.  Eddie Wright is not a yuppie and never was one.  Eddie Wright is not a man of iChat and Google Earth and cappuccinos.  Eddie Wright is from a time when organized labor was a force in our economy and working men were hard hard men, but strong enough inside and out to raise the liberal banner.

Eddie Wright, a man who has organized many a picket line in his day, told the story of Martin Luther King organizing pickets in the South in early Civil Rights days.  Eddie commented to his well-healed listeners just how hard it is to maintain a picket for 365 days, something King was able to do.  Of course, the protests were getting people arrested.  That was in part the point, but no one had money for bail.  Eddie said a rich Jewish philanthropist from New York City who also happened to be a Communist was posting bail so the protesters could exit jail and go right back out on the picket line.  This was the "struggle" part of the Civil Rights struggle, and Eddie Wright knew it intuitively better than the multi-racial audience he was talking to.

Eddie Wright is not the glossy veneer of most Cambridge liberals.  He's not Harvard-cut and groomed, all polished to vote Democratic and own a Volvo.  He is the remainder of the dying world that liberals say they want to protect, but most have never seen.  

Eddie Wright is also a man who could have walked off the screen of a Sydney Greenstreet film.  But he's real.  And he is a treasure.