Marc Dion: The lost verses

 

Marc Dion

 

 

The girls and boys are out tonight in my town, walking back and forth in front of the old gray granite public library, locking glances with men in passing cars, looking for the jittery, hot-eyed one who slows down.

 

And it's not that I don't like the brag and bounce of "Hail to the Chief" played by a well-fed band. I do.

 

But the girls and the boys looking for trade on a cold night are part of the backdrop to the soundtrack, as are the millions of acres of single-family homes with nice people inside raising their children, working their jobs and paying their property taxes online.

 

 

And the convicts in their cells, the ones who are guilty and the ones who aren't, both of them waiting out a five-year bit, a punishment referred to by people who haven't done time as "a slap on the wrist."

 

A woman in the white gown of a priestess stood up at Joe Biden's inauguration and sang Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." She sang the verse about the golden valley. It's pretty, and it's right, and it's part of Guthrie's song.

 

Guthrie was the Dust Bowl troubadour out of Oklahoma, singing about failing crops and hunger. "Was a-farmin' on the shares, and always I was poor," he wrote in a song called "I Ain't Got No Home."

 

Guthrie's appearance was so ragged that you couldn't have gotten him into the inauguration if you'd thrown a blanket over him.

 

And by the time the woman in the priestess robe sang part of Guthrie's song about this land, it was clear the Proud Boys weren't going to try conclusions with the real soldiers, and so it seemed like maybe it was our land.

 

It snowed where I was that day, big-as-a-nickel snowflakes, so pretty that I just stood outside for a while, watching the flakes whirl to the ground.

 

I love Woody Guthrie, but wherever I go, when "This Land is Your Land" is sung, most of the time, they never get to the rest of the verses.

 

"In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,

 

"By the relief office I seen my people;

 

"As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,

 

"Is this land made for you and me?

 

"Nobody living can ever stop me,

 

"As I go walking that freedom highway;

 

"Nobody living can ever make me turn back,

 

"This land was made for you and me."

 

It's a call, all right, but it's not a call to admire the scenery, and people don't sing those verses too much because Guthrie, no matter how much beauty he saw, could not forget the children who hadn't eaten that day, and he knew that hunger amid the beauty was a betrayal of everyone and everything from Christ to the Constitution.

 

In front of the library, I see my people. Sex for money and money for heroin, as pure a circle as campaign contribution for influence, and influence for money and money for campaign contributions. The hell of junkies and politicians is that there's always something left to sell.

 

Guthrie, who saw his people by the relief office, thought no one living could ever stop you if you walked that freedom highway.

 

And we walk. We walk up and down the sidewalk, and we look for that freedom highway.

 

 

Marc Dion, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a reporter and columnist for The Herald News, the daily newspaper of his hometown, Fall River, Massachusetts. For more on Dion, go to go to www.creators.com.

 

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