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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On the Ludlow Massacre anniversary

It was 96 years ago this morning that a gunfight broke out between the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners at Ludlow, the small railroad town in Southern Colorado where the United Mine Workers union decided to build its main tent colony during the 1913-14 strike.

By the end of the day, some 20 people were dead, including 11 children and two mothers who were hiding in a makeshift maternity chamber dug from the prairie and covered by a wooden-floored tent. What led to the deaths is murky - my research led me to conclude the National Guard intentionally torched the camp, not knowing the women and children were hiding below ground. But the overall culpability is clear as the miners in effect revolted under a corrupt political and economic system.

It behooves us occasionally to pause and contemplate the path to the present. Eight-hour work days, safety regulations and a mechanism to pursue grievances and other "givens" of the modern era weren't just handed down from on high by paternal owners and bosses. They were won through bloody encounters like Ludlow, where the dead women and children accounted for only a portion of the 75 or more people killed in that guerrilla war of a strike.

Change never comes easily. It takes strength, commitment, and a sense of the world larger than a single person's prism. And given what happened in West Virginia a couple of weeks ago, you have to wonder whether there has been enough change.
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