Sunday, October 08, 2006


In 1948, a plane carrying undocumented workers being deported to Mexico crashed, killing four Americans and twenty eight deportees. Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the incident, giving names to the people listed in the mainstream media of their time as "just deportees" while naming all the Americans involved in the crash. The song was actually a poem for years, until music was added to it by Martin Hoffman, and performed by Pete Seeger.

I'm not saying that Woody would be a Green if he were around today. Read the lyrics behind the "Read more!" link... Woody seemed to believe in the big government project as a solution to difficult problems, but didn't seem as aware of the negative side. For example, his songs praise the Grand Coulee Dam without a counterbalance concern for the environmental impact. But the truth is, there are still supporters of big projects, like the construction of over 200 new nuclear power plants in the US alone. There is something very attractive to the idea of lifting everyone out of poverty at the same time with huge programs or projects, but unless the pyramids created a large middle class, I can't think of anything of that nature that has created prosperity.

Greens, I think, believe that we must apply brakes in ways that no other party is willing to consider. Of course, time will tell if I am wrong, and God knows that I long to be proven wrong, but if some profound changes are not made with the full cooperation and empowerment of everyone to control our impact on the environment, we may be faced with some sort of Frankenstein future where most people on the planet are in some way sacrificed and as a result, life on the planet survives. I can even imagine a system so severely broken that it consists of one or more large population centers covered in some way with a protective layer of clean air while the rest of the planet is allowed to die for our survival. Some people have an innate trust of technology, and believe that we can "think our way" through any man made catastrophe.

I think I lost my train of thought...oh yeah.

Woody sez, don't think of others as "others", but as friends you just haven't met yet. The folks who sneak to get here would prefer to live with their own families in their own homes. How many people do you know who move except for economic opportunity? Do we get angry when a North Carolinian drives down here to work in York County? Maybe. I don't. We're all just people.

That does not mean that we should allow folks to come into the United States without the authorities knowing who is here, for what purpose, and for how long. They should be expected to deposit an insurance policy guaranteeing that the visitor complied with their visa. But we can't reasonably gather up everyone who is here and ship them all back without turning the US into a police state.

And we have got to remember that we have more in common with one another than the few who don't even know we exist. We can whine and complain and catterwall all we want, but unless we have the talents of a Woody Guthrie or the influence of the rich, we have to organize ourselves together to have any shot at saving a future for our great grandkids.

Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

Words by Woody Guthrie and Music by Martin Hoffman
© 1961 (renewed) by TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc.

Copyright 2000-2006, The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives
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