Discover more from Dirtbags Through the Ages
Or, big big news and an extended dunk on Henry Ford because obviously.
Friends! Before we get into it, I have something that only comes around every couple of years at maximum, so I feel comfortable delaying the story for it—some Big News!
That’s right! It’s Book Three O’Clock, babyyyyy!!!
If you know me in real life, this is the worst-kept secret in the world, because I’m so excited I’ve been physically incapable of waiting for the Publishers Marketplace announcement to talk about it. It’s been sneaking out every time I open my mouth. “Hello! Did you know I’m writing an Oliver Twist retelling because Fagin is my comfort character and I want to fight Charles Dickens in the street? Yes, I’ll have a grande cold brew.”
Our Rotten Hearts covers the events of Oliver Twist but starts well before them, following Jacob Fagin’s rise from unruly street child to one of East London’s most successful pickpockets and mentor to the infamous burglar Bill Sikes. It’s about survival and betrayal and codependency and love and violence and cowardice and predestination, and it’s also my chance to fix the shitty ending Dickens wrote for Bill’s dog, because what the actual fuck, Dickens.
Everyone in this book is a garbage nightmare person and at the same time they are my tiny tiny babies. I feel exactly this way about them.
February 2025 is still quite a ways off (compared to October 2023 for Let the Dead Bury the Dead, which is very preorder-able! and which I love very much! and which I’m meeting my publicity team to discuss next week lord help me I am so nervous), so I won’t dwell too long. Just long enough to say that I really love this project and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and if anyone knows how to get Raúl Esparza to blurb it now that he’s done playing Fagin in the City Center revival of Oliver! the musical please connect me to him because he and I have a lot to talk about I think.
Okay. Deep breath. Moving on.
Actually, one last quick aside: my dialogue workshop with Bookends & Beginnings is coming up on Monday the 17th, and there’s still room to register if you’d like to join us. There’s a Shrek meme somewhere in my PowerPoint slides, and you’ll only find out where if you sign up.
Now we’re actually moving on.
I’ve been traveling five out of the past six weeks and cranking through revisions and lesson planning and also I started a new job three weeks ago that is a lot and is somehow in-person five days a week in this the Year of Our Lord 2023. So I’m giving myself permission to go for an easy one this week and just make a list.
It’s also a nice segue from the Big News segment, because if Charles Dickens hated the Jews (he did), guess who else did? This man.
The Top 10 Reasons I Would Punch Henry Ford in the Teeth if I Saw Him in the Street and Nobody Would Blame Me
I will tell you up front that I had a hell of a time limiting myself to 10.
1. He’s why work sucks so bad.
All by himself? No, but in surprisingly large part. Henry Ford’s auto factories were pioneers of the assembly line, which took us from an artisan-based economy where skilled workers could perform fulfilling labor to a dehumanized system where you do the same repetitive task over and over until you want to drown yourself in the sea. As someone who has spent at least 3 of her past 24 waking hours aligning text boxes someone else made, I offer a real hearty fuck-you to Henry Ford’s mode of production.
The assembly line is also to blame for mass production and by extension consumer culture. What I’m saying is, it’s Henry Ford’s fault that companies are hounding your every breath trying to make you buy things you don’t need, and that there’s an island of garbage in the ocean three times the size of France.
2. His assimilationist, white-supremacist work policies were unhinged.
Ford hired immigrants and Black people at his factories, which people bring up like he deserves a cookie for doing it. But he kept his workforces strictly segregated, believing that people of different races were suited for different kinds of work. The fact that a man who looks like Orville Redenbacher if you left him in brine overnight hated Black people should surprise no one. But the immigrant stuff got weird.
The immigrants in Henry Ford’s factories were put through a rigorous program of assimilation that purportedly taught them English, but really went out of its way to strip people of their cultures and traditions. After they finished their “Americanization” classes, they all dressed up in their “native costumes,” then climbed into a giant paper-maché Melting Pot and came out waving American flags and singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
What! The fuck! Xenophobic “It’s a Small World” re-enactments? Complete with costume changes and musical numbers? It is fully insane to me that not everybody knows about this! There are hospitals named after this man!
3. He’s the reason the Midwest has zero reliable public transit.
Henry Ford and the car companies he created threw a fucking tantrum and refused to let there be high-speed rail or decent public transit near its factory towns. There’s no transit in Detroit except for one train that goes in a three-block circle near the baseball stadium and buses that only appear if you stand on one foot, spit three times, and hoot like a screech owl. If I want to get from my house in Chicago to my brother’s house in metro Detroit I have to drive 6.5 hours on the most fucking boring road of all time and then take 11 highway interchanges in the space of seven minutes.
(Aside: don’t come in here with your “What about Amtrak?” unless you’ve ever tried to take a train in the Midwest. Delays add anywhere from one to seven hours to every trip and sometimes the doors freeze shut. Other times the trains derail and poison a whole town. The East Coast and Japan don’t know how good they have it.)
4. He made us all learn square dancing.
Noted Racist and Asshat Henry Ford was so afraid of Black people that he made students learn traditional “white culture” like square dancing to keep children away from the damaging effects of jazz. This sounds like the plot of Hairspray, but it is in fact a real thing. Look it up. It was still happening at least in the early 2000s. Midwest youths who subscribe to this newsletter can tell me if they still have to swing their partner round and round in the name of racism.
5. He was literally the Morality Police of Detroit.
Ford is famous for paying his employees a living wage, but fewer people talk about all the hoops people had to jump through to get that wage. Employees had to abide by the rules of Ford’s “Sociological Department,” which prohibited drinking, gambling, having a dirty house, not showering often enough, having a wife who didn’t shower often enough, and so on.
If my boss sent a PI to my house to see whether I had dusted the baseboards, I would eat his heart in the marketplace. Fuck all the way off.
6. I mean, there’s the whole Nazi thing, I guess.
“Surely you mean a metaphorical Nazi,” you say, shaking your head in 21st-century skepticism. Reader, I do not.
Henry Ford believed with his whole chest that the Jews orchestrated World War II on purpose to make a profit for themselves, and that 19th- and 20th-century pogroms happened because the Jews were asking for it. Not only did he oppose US intervention in the war, he sold munitions to the Nazis. Henry Ford is the only American that Hitler mentioned favorably in Mein Kampf.
Bro makes Edward VII look like a liberal. Come on, man.
On the home front, Henry Ford bought his hometown newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, and transformed it into his own personal antisemitic megaphone, publishing articles that he later turned into a four-volume book titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. This sounds like a thinly veiled satire of what just happened to Twitter, but it is a real thing.
There’s a story that when Ford saw footage of US soldiers liberating the concentration camps, he was so overcome by his own mistakes that he had a massive stroke. Which, like. Be serious. If anything he had an angry stroke because he couldn’t turn Willow Run into his own camp.
7. Bro literally broke the Geneva Conventions.
Ford forced 200 French prisoners of war during WWII to work at its German factory without pay. Y’know. War crimes. Totes casual.
8. He helped popularize the Indy 500.
This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, necessarily. But I live in Chicago, a city that was just turned upside-down for the whole first week of July so some assholes from downstate could hold a NASCAR race through the streets where I work. I should have known Henry Ford was to blame in some way for this.
9. He was a notorious union-buster.
To fend off union organizing in his factories, Ford hired a former Navy officer to threaten workers into submission. When they refused to back down and went on strike in 1937, Ford’s security guards opened fire on the workers and beat them with clubs. This was called the Battle of the Overpass, which is a sincerely badass name.
Even when the bad press from assaulting his workers ramped up, Ford didn’t give in, and the stalemate with the unions went on for years. He threatened to break up the entire company rather than allow workers to unionize, because he was a small-minded little coward who wanted to treat his employees like children. He’d never seen Newsies, so he didn’t know that even though they ain’t got hats or badges, they were a union just by sayin’ so.
The UAW finally got Ford Motor Company to recognize it in 1941, presumably because Ford was distracted by Nazi business.
10. History ignores most of this.
I’m from Michigan, and you can’t throw a rock in that state without hitting something named after Ford. His name is always staring at me. Like, at least Napoleon has the decency not to show up every five minutes in my daily life.
Fuck off, Henry Ford. I hope you’re boiling alive in a melting pot somewhere in hell.
All righty, that’s all for now, friends. Until next time, be well, and if you see something named after Henry Ford this week make sure you spit on it from me,