Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Remember - This Land Was Made for You and Me
It's hot. My job has had me working late. I'm looking forward to your reactions on Friday when you come across my favorite lines in White Trash in the Snow (in a chapter where you learn why Field doesn't look like Tad), and the Palin Place needs to recognize this holiday - this day that started our whole democratic experiment. For the occasion, I'm repeating my least-read posting from this start-up blog on a certain other national holiday. Have a great 4th of July!
Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” is a song far right-leaners and dominionist say it is a communist/Marxist theme song. Sarah Palin probably doesn't like it. But, I’ve done a bit of research. Here’s what I learned that I think is important to today’s Americans.
Woody Gutherie saw the Great Depression first hand. Americans then, like today, needed jobs, needed to feed their families, and sought assistance from the government.
When "God Bless America"by Irving Berlin was topping the charts, Woody Gutherie had “had it” with Americans being fed the message “don’t worry about anything” through songs and pop tunes. "This World Is Not My Home” and "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, and Dream Your Troubles Away" troubled him, too. Woody didn’t think it was right to tell people not to worry, that God was in the driver's seat.
I’m not in a position to get into Woody’s religious beliefs, but I think it’s safe to say he would join todays' Occupy Wall Street movement. He and Sarah Palin would have differences of opinion. Michelle Bachmann might say he was anti-America. Newt would tell him to get a bath and a job.
But he isn't here. His time was earlier. First stanzas of "This Land is Your Land" were written in 1940, a time when folks still hitch-hiked legally and safely. While he hitched north and east through Appalachia, Woody put together some verses. Eventually, they were written down on a piece of loose-leaf paper,. With "God Blessed America" at the top, he began the first verse:
This land is your land, this land is my land From California to Staten Island
He stopped, crossed out "Staten", and put in "New York."
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters , God Blessed America for me.
He wrote five more verses working in a fleabag hotel room. "All you can write is what you see," he wrote at the bottom. He signed and dated it "Woody G." February 23, 1940. He didn't do anything with it for another five years, then it became published and popular. At least some of it did. Some verses are less well known, and there’s good reason-- they challenged the big money monopolies that were quite comfortable letting "lesser people" struggle. Have you learned these verses?
Was a big high wall [there] that tried to stop me
A sign was painted, said, 'Private Property' But on the back side it didn't say nothing, God blessed America for me
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple By the Relief office I saw my people As they stood hungry I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me
[1993:] And Woody later added a new last verse:
Nobody living can ever stop me As I go walking my freedom highway Nobody living can make me turn back This land was made for you and me
There’s some political history about the trimming of verses from “This Land is Your Land.” Washington Bigwheel Clark Clifford in March 1950 addressed the wealthy businessmen at Chicago's Executive Club and explained it to peers:
"[...] The people have to feel that their small share of this country is as much theirs as it is yours and mine [...]." With only half of Woody's verses, This Land Is Your Land falls right into Mr. Clifford's trap. In other words, "Let people go ahead and sing the song. It makes them feel better. Meanwhile you and I know who really controls the country."
Everyone reading this is part of the 99%. Well, almost everyone. The one percent that isn't? Say "Hi" to Bristol, or Willow, or Sarah - you know one of them is on duty reading anti-Palin blogs even today. My message to the 1%:
"This land was made for you AND ME."
Here is Woodie Gutherie's song sung by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen. This links to the performance in Washington during the Obama inauguration celebration. (Warning – if you are so inclined, it will give you goose bumps.)
Pete Seeger has sat at my kitchen table. He’s a gentleman and a fighter. He fought for Civil Rights when dogs and hoses were used to punish protesters and now he’s fighting for the 99% in the OWS movement. I’m thankful for patriots like him, and thankful that the 2008 election turned out as it did. Enjoy the day and your family, Truthers, we have much work yet to do