February 11, 2017

Recent protest activity has been causing flashbacks for some New Yorkers of a certain age. The clouds of pot smoke and incense in Washington Square Park are missing, of course. And today’s young men mostly favor sensible haircuts and trimmed beards. But the clichéd vibe of “revolution in the air” feels awfully familiar.

Today’s iteration, a protest rally and march in Greenwich Village was prompted by yesterday’s ICE raids across the country. News reports indicated that several hundreds of men, women, and children were swept up in the cause of the deportation of dangerous criminal aliens. And that odd word, “deportation,” sparked yet another flashback for some.

Long ago, an American balladeer took notice of an earlier deportation program. His name was Woody Guthrie and the song he composed was called, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” and often remembered simply as “Deportees.” It recounted the story of Mexican migrant agricultural workers rounded up, put on a plane back home, and dying when that plane crashed en route.

“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” ”

However one feels about this new round of deportations, it’s worth remembering that we’re talking about real people – moms, dads, cousins, sons and daughters. They laugh and cry, get hungry and sleepy, live for awhile and then die, just like we do. One can hardly begin to imagine the anguish of being swept up, dragged out of one’s home and held incommunicado, awaiting probable deportation. But imagining it is the human thing to do.

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