To the Editor: The other night I had a Kafka-like dream. I had just read the article on the agricultural strike out in California (in issue of June 4th) and was so deeply disturbed by it that it affected my sleep. It is seldom that I dream, but when I do, it is usually clear and to the point, having to do with something that has been going on in my daily life.
In my dreams I thought I was speaking to our own parish, which is an Italian one on Baxter Street. There is a big hall downstairs with a stage, and a bar at one side, and I don't know if they have parties there, or what kind of parties there are. The place is very shabby and badly needs a coat of paint. It is a rather dreary place for young people, and when we tried to induce some of our workers around the house of hospitality to volunteer to paint it, they said they did not approve of the bar, that it was a reminder and an occasion of temptation to them. Bars were all right in their place, on the Bowery, but not in halls under the Church, directly under the Blessed Sacrament. There may never have been any drinking there, but when they have raffles at the Church on Mott Street there are always bottles of whiskey raffled off as well as automobiles. Another Church I knew of had had such beer parties that people had to be carried home.
During my dream the bar was in use. There was also a ramp down the side of the hall and cars kept coming in and out. They might have been new cars to be raffled, or then again they might have been our two cars which we had been joking about. Two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot. We had just eaten the backs of chicken cooked up with rice as a cheap meat dish for our Sunday dinner at the farm, and some friends had just donated not one but two cars, a 1924 Columbia and a 1932 Chevrolet. Tommy and Johanna Hughes had been praying for them, and sure enough they arrived!
In my dream, the cars kept coming in and out, and they sounded like Mack trucks so I could not make myself heard, though the people crowded the hall and seemed to be listening attentively. I was trying to tell them about the strike in California and about how the huge business factory farm was owned by an Italian family, and I kept thinking, "I should not mention that, because maybe they are sensitive like the Irish and the Jews. And yet I must mention it, because they will feel a greater obligation to help."
Thousands of people on strike, and needing help, going without food, perhaps, running the risk of being beaten up, even of losing their lives, in a long drawn battle between capital and labor. A battle in which every means was used by the owners, every lie was employed, the impression given that the workers lived in spacious sunny houses, with plenty of fruit and sunshine and space and work. An impression that the owners were small farmers, a community of farmers standing for all that was good and Christian in American life. These people need help, I kept thinking, and I cannot make myself heard. "Too much eatings and too much drinkings," as one of the dear priests at that same Church used to say, when he urged the Lenten fast on us.
When I woke up, I thought to myself, these people to whom I was speaking are those who live by pennies, from push carts, from hard work at the fish markets, driving trucks, taxis, etc. Why not write and urge The Commonweal, to solicit funds for the strikers. The readers of the magazine can all help a little. A dollar here and there piles up. We are not really living the Kafka life. During our years of Trial, our tribunal is not a grim one. We go regularly before our judge when ever we go to confession, and regularly we receive pardon. Our religion is a religion of mercy, and the works of mercy can express our love of our brothers. So let us all help the strikers and send them a message of congratulations on their courage and fortitude, and whatever we can as a gift for their soup kitchens. People need to eat, even during their "periods of repose," which they will be calling strikes next, as well as periods of unemployment between harvests.
Contributions may be sent to John Haynes Holmes, Chairman, Citizens Committee on the Di Giorgio Strike, Room 905, 112 East 19th St., New York 3, N.Y.
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]