(Cross-posted at Wild Wild Left)
In the aftermath of a tragedy 50 years ago, Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the deaths of migrant workers in a plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon. They were being deported, and when they died, the newspapers didn’t consider it necessary to mention their names. They’d been born on the other side of the Rio Grande River, which rendered them inferior to white, church-attending Americans and negated the need for any respect.
The skyplane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning that shook all our hills.
Who were all these friends all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio said they were just deportees . . .
Woody Guthrie didn’t consider them to be just deportees. They were human beings, their lives mattered, so he honored them with a eulogy, he said goodbye to them.
He knew a river runs through this land of capitalism. The wealthiest one-percent of Americans live on one side of that river. The rest of us live on the other side. To the wealthiest one-percent, we have no names. Our lives don’t matter, we’re just migrant workers in their fields, we’re just miners in their mines, we’re just numbers on a balance sheet, and unless we cross that river and scatter them like dry leaves on the wind, workers in their fields and miners in their mines is all our children will ever be.