Thinking about the Solidarity movement reminds me of just how limited my world view was in 1981. I read several newspapers every day during my train rides to and from the city but it was a far cry from the 24/7 news cycle we enjoy (or suffer through) today. We did not have a dozen different talking heads “informing” us on what had happened, was happening, or would be happening in Eastern Europe because a group of shipyard workers in Poland were unhappy with their government.
Working with Polish immigrants certainly heightened my interest in the topic and that is something I remind people about today when they distain interest in some of the immigration controversies. It is very difficult to “not care” when you are acquainted, however remotely, with the people involved. My co-workers in Chicago also included many people of color, many Hispanics, and many Puerto Ricans too. It was a regular United Nations of people trying to make the best gears and gearboxes we could. People were “judged” on how they treated people and how good their work was.
[Oh, we had our disputes, such as when the third shift operator took management’s decision to let operators paint their machines whatever color they wanted to add a large map of Puerto Rico to his Pfauter P-1800 hobber. This did not sit well with the Polish day shift guy and we soon went back to boring gray machines.]
With the Internet and cable news, it takes real effort to avoid developing opinions on many issues. The challenge is to balance those positions against our personal values and the needs of the communities involved. It is seldom a simple case of us versus them. Much like our shop after the “map dispute,” life has many shades of gray in it. Even agreeing on whether it is grey or gray can take some work. Hopefully, our keyword feature in the online archives will search for either spelling.