This land is whose land?

I was recently singing and playing “This Land is Your Land” for a friend’s kid, and it got me thinking about our Cricket travels. So many of the verses speak to the beauty of places we’ve adventured in, and they make my heart melt with happiness.

I also like the folky depression-era populism of Woody Guthrie’s message, and the spirit embodied by subsequent adopters of the song like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen; especially the sometimes-left-out verse that begins, in one variation: “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.” (Hey Trump – it’s not gonna work.)

The melody of the song is lighthearted, and singing it with children is a bit of fun nonsense, not unlike singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

But whose land is this?

Chris wrote an excellent post last fall about our country’s lack of remorse for taking this land (our land?) by slaughter and misrepresentation. He wrote that our relationship with Native Americans is “an unhealed wound, ignored in the hopes that it will go away.”

In the version of “This Land is Your Land” that I’m playing, there’s one last sour chord, not found in the rest of the song, notable for its dissonance, and held for a long 5 beats. That cord speaks (for me) to this unhealed wound, to the fact that we’re celebrating enjoyment of something stolen (some would say won?).


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