We’re Going to Need Some Good Music During the Long Walk Back

Juli Kearns Everyday Stories 4 Comments

Yesterday afternoon I spent quite a long time talking on the phone to an old friend who lives half this continent away while H.o.p. was with Marty touring the Jim Henson exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. She was adamant I bring up NPR on the radio and listen to the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. By the time I did, however, the concert was over. Then last night I saw on Americablog a link to a video from the concert, at Youtube, of Pete Seeger singing “This Land is Your Land” with his grandson and Bruce Springsteen, and Marty and I sat down to watch it with H.o.p., to listen to Seeger exhort the rest of us all to join in, and I tried vainly to explain to H.o.p. why it might mean so much to his parents and to others to watch Pete Seeger up there singing

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.


I’d post the video here for memory’s sake but it has since been removed from Youtube due to a copyright claim by Home Box Office. We have Direct TV but don’t have flashy ornaments like Home Box Office so I’m glad we saw the video last night when it was still available.

Of course I had mixed feelings while I was listening to Pete Seeger, his grandson and Springsteen. The kind of mixed feelings I didn’t have as I sat last Friday with H.o.p. and watched Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery and explained to him what that journey of “discovery” was really about, talked with him about Jefferson’s plans for the indigenous nations and the meaning of Lewis and Clark’s interactions with them, for though he already knows a lot about this I feel compelled to reiterate and tell him again, impressing upon him that, well…what Peter Seeger was singing about Sunday is a sentiment that didn’t exactly drive the creation of this nation as history teaches us it has. I ever remind him, as we pursue history, so that when he chooses to sing along to “This Land is My Land”, he needs to be ever mindful of the bone closets.

Just as I could choose to sing along with Pete Seeger on Sunday even as I thought about a link to a website a friend had sent me over the weekend, that website showing volumes of ledger picture art his great-grandfather had done circa Wounded Knee.

Later that night I read aloud to Marty Making Light’s “The True History of the Bush Years” in the form of headlines from “The Onion” and I laughed and laughed. As I hit the entries for 2008 (Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job, Crocodile Bites off Bush’s Arm, Vice President Cheney Seen Dragging Egg Sac Through West Wing) I was finally laughing so hard I could no longer speak. And it felt weirdly good even though it was painful as hell. Like the night my appendix ruptured when I was 28. I didn’t know my appendix had ruptured, I just knew I was in dire straits and made Marty read comedy to me for hours as an anesthetic. It hurt to laugh but still I laughed, eager for life to be more than Bruegel’s hell. Of course, the next day I was barely conscious, on morphine in the hospital, and then I was really really sick ten days later when I finally had my long-since-ruptured appendix removed after having been misdiagnosed (though they did peg the peritonitis). And I laughed after that, too, because I’d made it through and if I hadn’t laughed I’d have been petrified with fear over the fact that I’d not been just a walking time bomb, the time bomb had in fact gone off and still I’d managed to keep breathing those ten days despite it all. Hell, they’d even sent me home from the hospital and I’d had to keep pestering them, telling them, “Listen, things aren’t right.”

So, I laughed last night. And it felt good.

And it felt really, really awful.

This morning I woke up feeling emotionally like I’d been on a terrible drunk, one that can net you a life of penalties after only a couple of days, much less eight years, only I don’t drink (been there, done that, found out long ao I couldn’t do that) and I was paying for someone else’s bloody mayhem while they rode away scot free and merrily whistling. There are so many parties going on I could probably sling a rock in any direction and trepan a giddy celebrant, but my stomach was sour, I sagged under tons of psychic burden and all I really wanted to do was sit down in a corner and cry.

H.o.p. is excited because one of his uncles is in D.C. and will be attending the inaugural. H.o.p.’s hoping for pictures.

H.o.p. is still talking about the election. He recently asked if we could go back down and vote again soon because it was so much fun and so exciting standing in line with all the friendly people during the presidential election. I think he’ll remember that day for a long time.

We have a friend who is up in D.C. and the house she’s staying in lies under the exiting flight path that Bush’s helicopter will be taking. I hear that there are plans to take photos of it as it passes overhead.

Maybe I’ll get it in gear and feel a little more jovial when the big moment arrives…

Comments 4

  1. I once recounted, in my blog, the story of a neighbor woman who almost died of a burst appendix and peritonitis after having been misdiagnosed as crazy. I recall you commented on that story. I don’t think I ever mentioned that my stepdaughter Anna also had appendicitis, and was quickly and correctly diagnosed after we had taken her to the hospital the minute we became aware of her symptoms, which were classical. Unfortunately (for Anna) she has a very high pain tolerance, and the night before, when she noticed that her abdomen hurt, she was at a dance and continued to dance really vigorously very late into the night, pausing occasionally to vomit, she told us. So as it turns out despite a correct and quick diagnosis, her appendix had already perforated and she was in the hospital for a week and a half being treated for peritonitis. She was really, really sick. And she was not actually feeling OK for a long time after that. It slowed her down, and she was at an age (about 18) when she didn’t take well to slowing down.

    So, if the Bush administration (or even _laughing_ at the Bush administration) makes you feel like that, you have my sympathy in all kinds of ways.

    I am an old 60s leftist, _way_ more leftward than Obama, so if I can’t get myself to quite believe that our 8-year national nightmare is completely over, I will say that I found myself unreasonably happy at my mother’s house watching him take the oath of office (for some reason I was more impressed by the cheerful way he dealt with John Roberts’s bungling of the swearing in, than by his speech, which was a good speech.)

    Bush getting on the helicopter for some reason reminded me of Nixon, leaving.

  2. I know Anna’s situation had to have scared you guys to death…sometimes a high pain tolerance isn’t beneficial. If Anna ever has children she’s going to be like a hawk the moment any abdominal pain is mentioned.

    I spent Sunday night watching a film on Hunter S. Thompson’s life and was thinking of Nixon the past few days. But the reason I’d watched that film Sunday night was because of Bush leaving and my being reminded of Nixon.

    Some called it classless when Bush was booed today, but the man and cohorts should be behind bars and I was glad to hear the mall essentially acknowledge this for the rest of us. And I was glad for Obama’s pointed indictment.

  3. I found a link to a German(?) YouTube posting of Pete. It’s still working on my blog today.

    Pete has an alternate verse that he sings sometimes: “This land is your land, but it once was my land, until we sold you Manhattan Island. You put our nations on reservations, This land was stole by you from me.”

  4. “Come! Sing it with us! We’ll give you the words!”

    Just grand. I had noticed this was on your blog but was confident that if I clicked on it then I’d get the screen saying the video had been removed. Thanks for letting me know it’s still operational. Loved seeing it again.

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