My name was Tom. Now I'm lost in this strange alternate world, but I'm relatively comfortable with it. I'm not sure what that says about me. Maybe I'm crazy, but if i am, it's a beautiful crazy. Maybe I'm dead, but if I'm dead, I have nothing to fear. Anyway, I've got a story to tell, so I guess I should just tell it.
When you are in pain for a long time, your whole world kinda turns inside out. Things you used to take for granted don't work the way they used to. Familiar things change and move. You go to lean on something that was always there, then suddenly you are falling. And falling. And falling. Well, the same process is happening over the whole world. What I mean is, when the whole word is in pain for a long time, reality kinda changes and moves. Things just don't work the way they used to. You might lean on a wall and fall right though a crack into another world. Now in my case both worlds, my personal world, and the world out there, had been in a lot of pain for a long time. I don't know how it happened, but I fell through a crack in the world into some alternate reality. One minute I was gettin beat over the head by a cop in the Bronx in 2012, the next minute I'm watchin Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath- only I'm not in a theater. I'm standin out in a field somewhere in the Mid-West lookin at Tom Joad as he's makin that speech. You know the one, "....wherever a guy is gettin beat down by the cops, I'll be there..." and man, I'm feelin it. I mean my heart is beating and my chest is swelling up. At the same time my head is reeling, because somehow it all makes sense when it shouldn't. Like I said, if I'm crazy, I'm relatively comfortable with it.
Maybe thats because in the world I come from, man, I was already falling hard through the cracks in that world. I was marching down the street with ten thousand other protesters and we were planning to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on a crusade towards Wall Street. We were all big losers in the stock market crash of 2011, but not because we were bigtime stock investors. Nah, we were just everyday people who had lost their pensions because of crooked deals made in closed door meetings between politicians and corporate executives. The banks, the corporations and the politicians all got bailed out. We were just the losers who were out our jobs, our savings and our pensions. We were never gonna get bailed out. Matter of fact, we didn't know it yet- but we were all goin to jail. We were headed for another big fall because somebody at the top had decided we were never gonna make it over that bridge. After all, who wants ten-thousand honest Americans picketing and making their voices heard up and down Wall Street.
Well, we were marching along and I was near the front of the crowd carrying my guitar and a placard that said, "NO MORE WELFARE FOR WALL STREET", when the first cops started walking over that bridge. Now we never expected as many people to show up for our march as did- but we were a peaceful assembly. When I saw the first uniforms we were a couple blocks away, but I had to keep walking. With a crowd that big the folks in front saw the police but the people in back didn't and there was a lot of momentum. By the time the word spread back far enough in the crowd to slow us down, we were almost face to face with a wall of plexiglass shields and white helmets. Finally, we got completely stopped and we stood there, us and the cops, just staring at each other. For a few minutes it was sorta quiet, but tense. Then there was some mumbling and grumbling. After a few more minutes it grew to a rumbling and some kind of emotional electricity filled the air. People were leaning forward trying to hear a conversation between our spokesmen and a big cop with dark glasses who looked like something out of a B movie.
While all this was going, I was having an epiphany. My whole life passed in front of my eyes. The busted marriage. The frustrated dreams and ambitions. The loss of my savings, my pension and my home. My mind was whirling with doubt. Yea, in the midst of all this I was having second thoughts about what I was doing. Yet, at the same time, I was determined to be heard.
Suddenly I hear all hell breaking loose. I look around and I see the trails of tear gas canisters and people start running and falling all around me. I stand there for maybe the longest 15 seconds of my life, paralyzed by fear and anger. Then determination takes over and I start walking with some guys who decide to make a push for the Bridge. We manage to get through the cops and there's some cheering- until we see another company of uniforms running toward us lock step. The next thing I know I'm gettin beat by this cop. He throws me down and whacks me in the head and I scream and then BLAM!...a million lights go off and I'm spinning around and around and blacking out. When I come to,I'm standin in this field listening to Henry Fonda. He's standing right in front of me talking. Like I said before, I hear everything he's saying in the deepest place in my soul, like a big wind blowin through me. Then, when he finishes, Henry looks over at me and just smiles outta them deep blue eyes and says- "Woody, thats your cue."
Well I just stand there for a little bit, dazed and amazed. The rest of the people there are staring at me with smiles on their faces. I am sort of flaburgasted but at the same time I just feel a natural impulse to pick up my guitar so I do. I strap it on and I start to strum and begin to sing as loud as I can-
"This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream waters;
This land was made for you and me."
And as I am singing I begin to hear other voices. At first just a few, but then it starts to sound like a choir. It was like a choir of my mothers and my fathers and my sisters and my brothers and we started walking and singing,
"As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I looked above me, there in the skyway,
I saw below me, the Golden Valley;
This land was made for you and me."
And as we were walking along I saw the faces of my new friends and although I had just joined up with them I felt as if I had known them all for years. A certain warmth I had only known in my dreams spread all through me. It was courage I think; the kind you get when you know you are doing the right thing for your children and your children's children. So I kept on singing and walking.
"I roamed and rambled, and followed my footsteps
Through the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me this voice kept saying,
"This land was made for you and me."
I looked over at Henry, and he looked over at me and smiled, and we looked ahead and saw the coppers with their clubs and the union busters with their ax handles, and we looked back and we saw the faces of ten thousand decent Americans just singing and marching for a fair shake in the land of the free and the home of the brave. So we all just kept on walking and singing.
As the Sun was shining, and I was strolling
Through the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
I could feel inside me and see all around me,
This land was made for you and me.
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