Monday, July 15, 2019

71 years later, and yet the Woody Guthrie tune remains ever-so relevant

Good bye to my Juan/Good bye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name/When you ride the big airplane
All they will call you/Will be ‘deportees’
--Plane Wreck at Los Gatos/Woody Guthrie (1948)

It’s kind of scary to think that a song composed some 70-plus years ago remains so dead-on accurate this far into the 21st Century. Yet that seems to be the case with the famed protest tune “Deportee.”
Composed and originally performed by Woody Guthrie, the same man who gave us “This Land is Your Land,” the tune has come to be associated with folk singer Pete Seeger and has been covered by so many differing artists – including some such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash whom I’m sure many would think fit the profile of the “real America” the ideologues claim they support.
THE SONG WAS motivated by Guthrie being offended by the New York Times account of the Jan. 28, 1948 plane crash near Los Gatos Canyon – not far from Fresno, Calif. Guthrie was bothered by the fact that the report clearly identified the members of the flight crew , while merely dismissed the 28 migrant farm workers on their way back to Mexico as “deportees.”
Which, I would suspect, is exactly the way that the proponents of the immigration raids that President Donald Trump has been screeching and screaming about for months would like to see happen yet again.
The raids were supposedly (or at least according to the rumor mill that Trump is openly encouraging) set to occur Sunday – possibly in the early hours. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of foreigners whom the ideologues are determined to think of as criminal just for their very existence in this country will be woken up from their sleep, hauled off by authorities, and eventually put onto an airplane taking them to Brownsville, Texas – where a bus will then transport them across the border to Mexico.

The last thing we’re supposed to think about is the fact that these individuals are human beings, with lives and individualities. Who probably are doing work in this country that make a worthwhile contribution to our society.
NOT THAT THE ideologues want to hear any of this kind of talk. It was just a week ago I encountered someone (who actually is a decent-enough human being) who tried to justify his nativist thoughts by saying he’s really only against Somalis – whom he claims are absolutely refusing to assimilate to the ways of life of our nation.
I don’t doubt that any effort to do reporting on the actual deportation process to bring humanity to these people will be regarded as somehow being un-American. Although to me, the actual “un-American” conduct is having the authorities bust down people’s doors and haul them off – possibly before anyone is truly awake and aware of what is happening. Just like in the modern-day Russia or North Korea whom Trump claims aren't really all that bad!

Now it’s always possible that the anticipated deportations won’t be as extensive as some fear – and are merely trash-talk meant to feed the mini-mentalities of those people who want to think Donald Trump is a true patriot – rather than just an egotistical buffoon with a bloated view of his self-importance. Maybe Monday will feel like a relief.
But the way in which the Trump-types keep insisting they’re targeting people with arrest records in this country (and could accidentally pick up others in the process) makes it seem like Guthrie was on to something all those years ago when he wrote: “They chase us like outlaws/Like rustlers, like thieves.”


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