Today, I’m inspired by this 1969 recording of an interview that a brave and curious 14-year-old, Jerry Levitan, conducted with John Lennon, of the Beatles. It reminds me of the reason I wrote Carla Rising.
Levitan asks Lennon why he’s being denied a visa to tour in the United States, and Lennon says some people “think that I’m going to cause a violent revolution, which I’m not,” while others “don’t want to let me in because they don’t want me to cause peace either….because war is big business (that) keeps them fat and happy.” 1
In Carla Rising, I use, as a metaphor, the 1921 workers’ uprising near Blair, West Virginia, to make certain points about our lives today.
At that time, the real-life rebellion prompted the US president to order military intervention, sending thousands of US Army troops and a squadron of bombing planes into West Virginia. This is an event I’ve described before, as nonfiction, in magazines and books.
While I try to describe certain kinds of historical ‘truth’ about the battle, I wrote Carla Rising to deliver a message about the huge political divide that threatens to destroy America today — the division between conservatives and liberals — ‘red‘ and ‘blue‘ America — and the ways that violence and war, too often, become the only answer we know.
I was on Blair Mountain around 1987 when, as a journalist, I accompanied a group of Logan County coal miners conducting a long-distance march to draw attention to their strike against anti-union coal operations of that time.
I actually crossed and camped on Blair Mountain with these men. At that time, I saw that the landscape gave few hints, if any, of the events that had taken place there in 1921. At the time, there had been almost no attempt to interpret the site, as we do with our historical parks today.
In joining the miners on their march, for example, I had hoped to find the site of a particularly strange fight I describe in Chapter 30 of Carla Rising. Like other parts of the book, it is an allegory for the ludicrous political, domestic “civil war” in which the United States has been locked since the election of 2000, at least, the battle of “red” and “blue” America.
Landscape plays an important role in Carla Rising — not as a key to understanding the historical battle — but as a means of understanding the gap between right and left, and the battle brewing within the United States today.
In spite of the allegory — or, perhaps, because of it — I hope you will buy the book, read it, and enjoy it.
1 Lennon was speaking a little more than eight years after Americans were warned about the very same thing by their departing Republican president.