Rarely-seen independent film from 1954. Directed by Herbert J. Biberman and written by Michael Biberman and Michael Wilson. Starred a few professional actors, like Will Geer, and a bunch of non-professional actors -- in other words, many of them had never acted before.

Based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the movie dealt with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who unionized and went on strike to attain wage parity with Anglo workers in other mines and to be treated with dignity by the bosses. The film has a strong feminist theme, because the wives of the miners, against their husbands' wishes, play a pivotal role in the strike.

Quite a few members of the cast and crew, including the director, Will Geer, screenwriter Michael Wilson, and producer Paul Jarrico, were members of the "Hollywood Ten," who had been blacklisted for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. After the movie was completed, the filmmakers had trouble finding anyone who would process their film, much less release it. The film was denounced as pro-Communist, and the movie was in theaters for a very short period, thanks to angry protestors and skittish theater owners. Even today, "Salt of the Earth" is a difficult movie to find on video. If your local video store carries it, rent it -- it's a good one.
I don’t know about you but I keep reading in the papers and hearing on the news that the “economy” here in the States is rebounding and more and more jobs are being created every day. Maybe that’s all well and good but I just can’t see it. The last few years my raises have averaged somewhere between three and four percent yet my healthcare costs, rent, fuel and a host of other things have gone up exponentially much more than that. To top it off, most companies are cutting back on benefits like pensions and 401K plans and some have stopped offering them at all.

I guess it helps to be born into money. I’m pretty sure the “death tax" that only affected a small percentage of the population has been repealed because, after all, everybody hates taxes.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great world we live in. I’m far from starving and when I compare my lifestyle to that of many other people around the world, I’m pretty flush. I keep hearing that more and more millionaires are being created each year but the gap between rich and poor is expanding faster than ever. There’ll always be the success story, the one about a poor person who rises up through poverty to create a fantastic world for themselves and their loved ones. I take my hat off to them, they deserve it.

Nobody tells of the story of those in the middle or those on the bottom. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast?

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let's drink to the salt of the earth

Even though I served my country, I was fortunate enough to do so during peacetime. Sure, there was always a threat and I got out just when the Iranian Hostage Crisis was in full bloom but I never had to shoot at anybody and nobody ever shot at me. Thank God for that.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to send a son, daughter, wife , husband or any kind of loved one off to war. Being the person I am, the emptiness and the worry I would feel would probably do me in. I mean, how do you get up and go to work and go about your business when there are bombs exploding all around those you love?

Very few people tell the story of those that are left behind to wonder. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast to those that are?

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

Being the news junkie that I am, I always try and find time to watch the Sunday morning talk shows that touch on the hot topic of the day. What I see are both Democrats and Republicans alike pointing a lot of fingers in every direction. Naturally none are pointed to themselves. They seem to have blended into a collage of jingoisms that either scream “get out now” or “stay the course”. Either way, I can’t tell them apart.

Everybody writes about who is to blame. Very few seem to have any answers. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast to those that do?

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

America during the 60’s and early 70’s was a time of activism. People took to the streets to protest what they perceived was an unjust cause. I wonder today where those people, including myself are. Back then, there was no such thing as a Department of Homeland Security or free speech zones. Maybe people are scared about landing on some kind of “no fly” list if they wave their banners too high.

Everybody says that something should be done. Most of the time, those conversations are held in private. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast to those who still fly their banners in public?

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let's drink to the uncounted heads
Let's think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from a fella by the name of Garrison Keillor. It goes like this.

“Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people."

The number of people who actually get out and vote is dropping steadily. Are they to blame or is the entire voting system to blame? You hear arguments that elections should be held over period of days or Saturdays so that people might have more access to the polling place. But then those arguments are corrupted by things such as exit polls that predict outcomes before the votes are actually cast and discourage participation. The fewer and fewer people that vote are becoming more skeptical about the value of their vote and sometimes it seems we’re in the hands of what journalists like to call “special interests”.

I think there are a lot of people who are still willing to put their necks on the line and just do what’s right. I’ve got to think that way, it keeps me sane. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast to those who are willing to fight the good fight?

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

I think that, no matter what our social status is, be it rich or poor, black or white, healthy or sick, we all come out of the womb humble. We all come out with a sense of mystery and awe and wonder and joy at being alive. Where and when those senses go over time, nobody can tell. Given our own particular set of circumstances, it’s probably different for all of us

I think the time has come to go back in time and rediscover them in whatever way we can. That being said, why don’t we offer up a toast to all of us?

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the salt of the earth
Let's drink to the two thousand million
Let's think of the humble of birth

Lyrics to Salt of the Earth copyright Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and recorded on the album Beggar’s Banquet by the Rolling Stones way back in 1968.

CST Approved

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