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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show
"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket
"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming
March 27, 2011
Expanded Memory Hole Now Accepting Cabinet Secretaries
By: Aaron Datesman
My personal heroes include Saul Alinsky, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Dellinger, which only indicates my conclusion that “troublemaker” is just a way of saying “saint” with more syllables. Among the other Americans on the list, there is a woman, too. I believe that no human being ever did more to improve the lives of Americans than she did(*). Because of this, I doubt that one American out of one hundred has ever heard of her.
Her name is Frances Perkins. That’s her in the black coat and hat in the middle panel below.
If you’ve been following the news, you might recognize these panels as belonging to the labor history mural which the governor of Maine is trying to remove (perhaps he has succeeded by this time) from the state labor department. I’m sure that removing images of Frances Perkins from the public domain has nothing to do with, oh, attacks on public sector unions or Social Security.
It’s an especially classy touch, I think, that the attempt in Maine (the site of Perkin’s grave) to toss this one small remaining shred of our shared history into the Memory Hole comes on the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Perkins witnessed that tragedy in 1911. According to her biographer, it was a turning point in her life.
(*) P.S. The biography of Perkins by Kirstin Downey, The Woman Behind the New Deal: the Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, is one of the most exceptional books I have ever read. The following excerpt from the book’s prologue describes her interview with Franklin Roosevelt for the position of Secretary of Labor - a position which she held for twelve years. It’s a bit dramatized, I think, but it supports my opinion that no other single person ever did more to improve the health, safety, welfare, and quality of life of her fellow Americans.
He wanted her to take an assignment but she had decided she wouldn’t accept it unless he allowed her to do it her own way. She held up the piece of paper in her hand, and he motioned for her to continue.
She ticked off the items: a forty-hour workweek, a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation, a federal law banning child labor, direct federal aid for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized public employment service, and health insurance.
— Aaron Datesman