Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Cut Off From “We”

And from the first “we” there grows a still more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It’s wool. It was my mother’s blanket – take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning – from “I” to “we.”

If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I,” and cuts you off forever from the “we.”

–John Steinbeck

I sat back last year and watched as so many complained about having their “freedom” taken away by the health insurance reform legislation. It was the end of America if you listened to them tell it. I watched and said nothing figuring they wouldn’t listen anyway (and wondering where all this hyper-vigilence over our “freedom” was ten years ago).

As I sit here this year I wonder if perhaps losing a little bit of “freedom” in this country wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Sometimes I think we have too much freedom…if by freedom you mean being concerned about yourself. If by freedom you mean holding on to all the “I” and “me” and “my” so prevalent in our public discourse. Maybe if we had a little less “freedom” and a little more mutual responsibility – for each other, for the powerless, for the hungry, for the sick, for our children- we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.


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