Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Letter From A Friend

I received a letter from a dear friend the other day and in it she describes her emotional reaction to hearing Arlo Guthrie sing “This Land Is Your Land”. I decided to post it because it articulates so well what so many of us liberals are feeling right now, that we are being pushed out, that we are being told this country doesn’t belong to us unless we blindly support this administration.

With Senator Allard practically calling Senator Feingold a traitor for introducing Censure, it is clear that anyone who questions the patriotism of liberals has never had a conversation with a single one of us. We not only love our country, we fight every single day to make the idealized image of America a reality. We don’t pay lip service to patriotism, we honor and protect our founding documents while this administration defiles them with illegal surveillance and belittles them by calling our constitution “just a piece of paper.” So here it is, a little heartbreak, liberal style.

Just got back from seeing Arlo Guthrie. He was playing in Marin, and we went with CR’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law. I first started thinking of you because one of the backup singers looked a little like you- cute, pageboy cut, and dressed in black- except for her red cowboy boots and sparkly (sequins? Rhinestone?) belt. It made me want to sing backup with you, it seemed like they were having so much fun.

And Arlo, he’s a talker. He tells a hilarious story about being searched at the airport. He wonders why people think getting searched is a new thing, since he’s been searched at the airport for the last 40 years. He says he tries to explain to the young whippersnappers who are shaking him down that he’s just a holdover on the list from 40 years ago. “I’m not nearly the threat I’d hoped to be,” he says. And I know how he feels.

And he did Alice’s Restaurant and lots of fun songs, then he does “City of New Orleans” and I tear up because of how much was lost down there that will never be the same, and I think everyone does. And then (and I really wasn’t ready for it, stupid me) he did “This Land is Your Land.”

And it’s this huge auditorium full of people who feel the way we feel about what’s going on right now, and we’re all singing “This Land is Your Land.” It was, and I am not exaggerating, like the Von Trapp Family Singers singing Edelweiss in Sound of Music. No song I’ve ever heard sounded more beautiful, more patriotic, and more rebellious all at once. And I’m wondering where our songs are, the songs that we’re going to change the world to? The angry ones come and go, but where are the gentle, seductive ones that will break our hearts in 50 years?

He breaks in, in the middle of his own song, to say that if the world was full of peace and good will toward men and women, and neighbors were kind to neighbors, and nations to nations, you would have to go an awful far way to do a good deed. “But right now,” he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “things are so screwed up here, there, and everywhere, any individual person hardly has to make any effort at all to make a big difference. Maybe that’s the good news, that it’s easy for anyone to make the smallest effort to change the world.” And the way he says it, in the middle-aged way that all 60+ year-old men talk, you’ve got to laugh, but it’s true, so when you go back to singing “This Land is Your Land” you’re truly a wreck.

I was thinking about how I felt as a kid, hearing that song. Like it was religious, a holy song to my democracy religion, a promise that we make to each other. And I’m thinking about the fact we have a president who doesn’t care about all Americans. Maybe he just cares about the rich ones, or maybe just the Christian ones, but I’m just not sure he cares about all of us, even though the country belongs to all of us. And if that’s being too harsh a judgment of a man I’ve never met, I think it would be safe to say that he doesn’t understand all of us. He doesn’t understand the real diversity of the country we live in, and what a profound place that makes it.

And I’m holding on to my husband with my wet face and he’s wiping his wet eyes behind his glasses because these were the songs from when he was a little person, and now we have a little person, and that’s a big thing right there. And he’s right, so when we go home, I sing “This Land Is Your Land” to my daughter to put her to sleep and I pray that she never forgets it, the ownership and the responsibility and the wonder of it.

Thank you for the letter MK and thank you for letting me post it. We do all still have ownership in this country and we do have a responsibility to each other to keep moving it forward. Even when the resistance to progress is great and even when we wonder if we have enough strength left to carry on fighting for an American reality to match the idealized America we were raised to believe in.

words and music by Woody Guthrie


This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and
I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city -
In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic but I don't think anyone will mind.

New Pew Research Center Poll released today. Bush Approval Falls to 33%, Congress Earns Rare Praise.

Here is the link if you want to see it. As a teaser: make sure you espy the section on one word descriptors people are using for our Dear Leader. The people are starting to get the message.

1:46 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Jonathan--Finally some good news. It will be interesting to see how low he can go, I always assumed that 30% would bring him down to his core supporters that would never leave his side, but even that is beginning to look a little generous. I'll go check out the poll now. Thanks.

2:09 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

Interestingly enough, Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" as a sort of rebuttal to "God Bless America," which he found excessively smug.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

that was one of the first songs i learned how to play on the guitar............

3:50 AM  
Blogger jae said...

It's a bit early to be sitting here sobbing in front of the monitor, but I guess it's as good a time as any.....
Thank you LGND, and thank you, unknown friend, for the kindler gentler reminder of current events.
At least I got a chuckle from Arlo's comments about being searched and not being the threat he'd hoped to be. Hm...have to look around to see if he's gonna go his thing near home....
On the 'I Need To Laugh Or I'll Cry' front, going to the Borgata tomorrow night to see the most pissed off funny guy currently going - Mr. Lewis Black. I hope to be sore from laughing the next day 'cos I need it.....

5:37 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

the local crank--It is pretty smug. Perhaps we should make Uncle Arlo's day and push for it again. Perhaps a silly wedge issue of our own to drive people to the polls.

a rose is a rose--It's a good one.

jae--Sorry we made you cry, she made me cry first so I thought I'd spread it around. Have fun with Mr. Black, he is wicked funny!

8:31 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

rory's wipin' tears ... that was a beauty

11:12 PM  

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