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John Freeman Ford's Axe, Rivera's Hammer 1)Hitler Nazis drove his trucks through occupied Europe: the British bombed Ford Werke where fascist machinery churned in the night, perhaps the morning too; yes, I imagine it was morning when Ford visited the plant and watched from the catwalk as the men lifted brake pads, lowered truck carriages with pulleys. He must've loved this part the best, when the finished product rolled off the line— the beauty though, was that nothing was ever finished with many more trucks in production already— turning to Hitler, he'd remark that the Detroit workers wore diapers to cut down on time spent on bathroom breaks. He was a good boy. His mother told him not to drink, not to smoke, and he didn't. I am thinking of Dos Passos. You are thinking of a poem to explain it all away. 2)Square-Dancing In '37 he built Lovett Hall and brought Benjamin Lovett from Massachusetts to resuscitate the dead art of square-dancing. And the dance was simple, calculated turns around right angles. No improvisation. When the dance ended it was final, like the carriage-drop onto an automobile frame. Lovett's monotone voice echoed against the plaster as workers filed in to banjo music. When the music stopped they'd bow, and return to their seats where waiters brought them coffee. There was nothing to protest here. Ford employees smiled and swilled non-alcoholic punch. This was not a Rivera mural, though Ford would emerge eerily at points throughout the evening, just like that frame on the North wall of the DIA where he stood with his clipboard and observed 10 the minnesota review the sweating bodies at work. Here they'd be chugging punch, but those badges would catch the glint of a chandelier, and if they hoped for a drink on a Friday night, they'd never know which of Bennett's toughs caught the scent of alcohol. They were ubiquitous, plainclothed. 3)Internal Affairs Bennett wanted criminals, ex-bare knucklers, ex-prizefighters. He'd boxed in the Navy, though his nose had never been busted. People often make mistakes here. Bennett's mind was as quick as his fists. He recalled badge numbers of employees who had mentioned Reuther or the UAW, knew whose faces Ford wanted broken. Each of his thugs kept stenographers' pads to record conversations in delicatessens and grocery stores. I picture Bennett's notes sprawling from the margin, those bruised knuckles making vicious little movements as they left letters like pigeon tracks in mud. The '32 hunger march, workers retreated and still were shot. Five dead. Hard to count the wounded who were struck with dubs and blasts from fire hoses. Under the banner of the Communist party they marched south from Detroit into the factory's arms like a wave crashing in on itself; a battalion of ants, just not as graceful. Many fell and were trampled beneath the flimsy heels of their comrades' worn-out boots. I've seen pictures of the men with blood and dirt clotted in their beards, and a look on one girl's face, not of terror, not even cold. Her flannel blanket covered with straw and dirt. It was a dream they came for: a story and a half home on the Northwest side, the gurgle of percolating coffee on the coal stove. They ended near the Rouge River to the register of gunshots. 4)Iconography Do you remember Rivera taking a hammer to the museum when you reduced your offer for the mural? Freeman 11 Edsel paid him personally, after watching you stomp out; the feudal currency given over to keep the communist painter from using the hammer was a dim shade of what had really been lost when Frieda Kahlo miscarried in your hospital, a sad metaphor for what Diego didn't care to speak. It's a shame it wasn't a sickle, smashed against the Model-A: the hammer's brother crossed over in a symbol that would have terrified you, Mr. Ford. 5)Jim Sullivan's Photograph The scariest thing about a gash on the forehead is that you don...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 9-12
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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