Citizen Action and the New American Populism

Citizen Action and the New American Populism

Citizen Action and the New American Populism

Citizen Action and the New American Populism

Excerpt

Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, Castlewood had once seemed an ideal place to live. It was quiet, safe, a reminder of America's small town roots. During the long, hot, slow summer days, dust had drifted in the air, until the oil truck sprayed the roads. "The dioxin is all around this town," explained Robert Bagley, a local resident. "No one ever told us that the same spray truck was also used to haul dioxin. Now we're paying the price. Our health is threatened, but we can't get out of this place because who'd we ever sell our homes to? That's why we've got to send a message to Congress."

The message was graphic. Photographers snapped pictures of the abandoned grocery store in Castlewood, emblazoned with a crudely painted skull and crossbones.

During September of 1985, from the four corners of the nation, trucks thundered down the interstate highways toward Washington. Often the trucks turned off on sideroads, attracting crowds of reporters to otherwise forgotten towns like Castlewood. At each stop along the way, local citizens loaded the trucks with evidence of the nation's toxic waste crisis.

It was called Superdrive for Superfund, an organizing and media campaign that climaxed more than a year of grass roots action across the country in support of strengthening the federal cleanup program called Superfund. Other communities sent messages with the trucks. At the Stringfellow Acid Pit in Glen Haven, California, fifty school children added their colored drawings of the ways in which the cancer causing trichlorethylene had changed their lives. In East Gray, Maine, Cathy Hinds sent the truck off with soil samples from the home she had lived . . .

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