Earlier today President Donald Trump announced the largest reduction of publicly protected lands in U.S. history.
The crowd erupted in applause, and my President signed two proclamations aiming to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by more than 80% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by around 45% – a total of more than 2 million acres in Southern Utah.
“I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action, to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens” – Donald Trump
This announcement frustrates me, but mostly, it makes me feel tired. Drained of energy almost. I have yet to even begin this fight, but it drains my energy.
There is something that I notice in his speech however. Maybe I’m wrong, but that last “restore the rights of this land to your citizens” (combined his tone in the video) seems to reference a song every good American girl and boy learned in school.
“This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.
But I don’t think he understands the song.
Or the person!
Ironically, Guthrie even has personal connections with our current president. Fred Trump, Donald’s father, was Guthrie’s landlord, and Guthrie despised him.
Scholar Will Kaufman says “He thought that Fred Trump was one who stirs up racial hate and implicitly profits from it”. Guthrie accused “Old Man Trump” of not accepting black tenants into his apartment complex.
Kaufman found these writings from Guthrie:
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodspot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project”
A man famous for the phrase on his guitar “This Machine Kills Fascists” is bound to be a little more complex than elementary school musicals let him off to be.
You might remember verses like:
“As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.”
But what about these verses?
“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me
The sign was painted it said ‘Private Property.’
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?“
Is this land really made for you and me? …
In some parts Guthrie gives an overwhelming “YES”, but In these verses, it becomes more of a question.
I grew up learning the answer to that question was yes. I was pointed to the generations before us that set aside and protected public lands like Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Moments like these beg the question, “Is this land made for you and me?”. There are 7.6 million jobs supported by the outdoor recreation industry in the US. What about all of them?
It doesn’t feel like Trump is restoring the “rights of this land to your citizens”. It feels a lot like he’s giving it to the corporate big wigs that smiled giddily around him as he signed the proclamations.
Is this land made for you and me? …
The song doesn’t stop there.
“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.”
The son of Guthrie’s racist landlord may actually be our president… but nobody living can ever stop us. NOBODY
“From California to New York Island, this land is made for YOU and ME”
So push back! The big high wall Guthrie sings of will not stop us either.
Put the pressure on our public officials. There are people whose job it is to represent you. Let them know where you stand.
3 million Americans have already written this administration in support of the preservation of public lands.
I urge you to share this message with your friends and family. Whether that be through social media, texting, or word of mouth, just get it out there.
If you liked this post you might enjoy reading Picking Up a Little Trash – a post I made a little while back on the simplest thing you can do to help the planet, and it’s a start.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – MLK Jr.
Thank you so much for the support you have been giving me here. It really is an honor to produce this content for you, and I have been blown away by such positive feedback.
Makes sure to hit the like button below, and stay up-to-date on content by following me on WordPress or by email.