Marc Munroe Dion: Working - and dying - for a living

Marc Munroe Dion

After various politicians are through using his death as a weapon, the city should name an elementary school after John Carvalho, the Fall River DPW worker who died after falling off a trash truck.

Working for a living.

I’m serious.

You read about the guy and you read about Fall River.

All of his brothers and sisters left Portugal for America or Canada. How many Fall River people have nearly the same story?

He was born in Capelas, in the Azores. In America, he was a member of St. Michael’s Parish. A lot of people from Capelas live in that part of the city. Carvalho carried the Sacred Heart in the St. Michael’s Feast procession. I stood on the sidewalk last year and watched that procession.

He worked as a presser, a job that’s almost gone from Fall River. How many people in Fall River did the same thing?

He worked construction. How many pick-up trucks leave Fall River every morning, carrying men who will build nice-looking buildings in other towns?

How happy Carvalho must have been to get on a trash truck. Working people know that municipal jobs are lay-off free, or they were until the guys in the suits started playing with matches and burned the economy down.

Carvalho got laid off, but he kept working part time because, in a city with 16 percent unemployment, where do you go? Besides, he knew that when times got better, he’d be close to the head of the line for getting re-hired.

You have to ask for a job. Sometimes you have to ask real hard and sometimes you have to beg.

You get the job and it wears you down, it wears you out. If you’re a construction worker, the work grinds down your joints. Writers and waitresses get carpal tunnel. Stress explodes your heart. Truck drivers get bad backs.

You beg for the work and the work wears you down, wears you out. Sometimes it kills you.

And they always find someone else when you’re done. Sometimes they find someone else, in China, before you’re done.

Between the time you’re old enough to work and the day they don’t want you anymore, you work to buy food, because the biblical injunction to feed the hungry is taken seriously by very few people.

Let me ask you something. At the moment when John Carvalho fell off the trash truck and began the short process of dying was he one of those “union workers whose insane demands have bankrupted America?” Was he? If you think he was, say it loud, to someone else, perhaps his wife.

At the moment of his death, was John Carvalho a “lazy government employee?” Was he? Tell it to his kids.

He was 49, doing a young man’s job. That’s not unique. A lot of American men and women in their 40s or 50s or 60s are tugging and hauling and lifting and bending. You ask for the job and the job wears you down.

You work with your body when you’re 20 and the work makes your body hard, makes it thrum like a big engine. You work with your body when you’re 50 and it makes your body hurt and complain.

Not that it makes a difference. This is 2009 America, where, just like in 1909 America, you’re supposed to feel that you’re “lucky to have a job.”

Name an elementary school after John Carvalho.

We name elementary schools after politicians.

Why not name a school after a working man whose cause of death was the job?

Why not let the kids know that the world turns, not because politicians talk about it spinning, but because working men and women wear themselves out making it turn?

That’s a good thing to teach a kid.

John Carvalho is still working, being used to make some politician’s point, being used to attack a sitting mayor or jack-up a challenger’s campaign.

But the working people understand. You have to ask for a job and then it breaks you down. Sometimes you have to die to get out.

And, sometimes, even dying doesn’t work.

mdion@heraldnews.com