Ode to an American Struggle
by Steven Clotzman

Women and children were crying in the night
and the buildings were blazing, left over from the fight
and the bodies that were lying were just to testify
that the men of Lawrence Kansas were not bought off by the lies
of those rich slave-owing bastards, whose will had seemed so strong
and who live upon the black man's back and spoke the devil's tongue
and he said, "you best face your weakness and start to spread my truth around!"
And the wind, it was calling as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

A few years later, still riding on the pain,
a group of men dedicated to end this vicious reign
went down into Virginia just to swear upon their name
that ain't no man has the right to hold another man in chains.
And drawn unto the forcefulness and the coming of the age,
they stormed unto the arsenal where they met their bitter fate.
And the lines were drawn and they placed upon their thorny crowns,
and the rain, it was falling as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Now, the black man, he was thinking' 'bout the changes he might see
while the rich white man was still telling him 'bout the way that things would be.
He said, "you got your piece of paper that says now you all are free,
but if you want food on your table, you're still going to have to work for me!"
And the poor white stayed where he was, just living on the lies
and standing in the shadows of the smoke which filled the sky
and he said, "you damn niggers, you know you'll never bring me down!"
And the crosses, they were burning as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Well, the country, it was growing as there came the railroads
and they laid the tracks upon the backs of men who came to know
that working for a living meant the selling of their souls
and you best do what you came her for and the means doing what you're told.
And if you didn't pound the steel all day, you'd be shoveling the coal
'til your mind, it ends up frozen and your hands raw from the cold.
And don't try complaining 'cause you know they never hear a sound.
And their bodies all were aching as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Now, the workers, they were blinded by the smoke which burned their eyes
and the pounding on their brains made them finally realize.
They said, "I think we've had enough of this, it's time we organize.
They're working us into our graves, let's don't go down without a fight."
But when a crowd, it started forming' just to demand all their rights,
well, the Federal troops came down the street and the shit began to fly.
And they sang, "by God's glory, we'll bring this mass confusion down."
And the earth, it was shaking' as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

All around Chicago there was tension in the air
and the bombs, they were exploding', 'cause conditions there weren't fair.
They were working people to the bone, like they did most everywhere.
Even little children but the owners did not care.
So when the union started saying' they were tired of working' for free,
well, they took out all their leaders and they shot them in the streets
and to the cause of insurgence, the people became bound.
And some watched from the prisons as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

From all around the world, they were coming' here in droves
with what clearly seems were beggars' dreams of streets paved with gold.
And they came across the ocean, just for that new life to unfold,
but they came to find that dreams are blind as they stepped out to the cold.
And they got off on the island where they gave them a new name
and they herded them like cattle, and they saw it's just the same.
And they searched throughout the sweatshops, hoping that new life could be found,
and some watched from the prisons as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Now Big Bill Haywood, he was making his big plea.
He was calling for a general strike, he said, "let's get up off our knees!"
And the Army, they were moving in and they weren't going to say please
to the men, women, and children, they saw inflicted with disease.
And the troops, they opened fire, just swatting them like flies
but they couldn't kill the feeling 'cause it's never going to die.
And the sang, "God be damned, if you'll ever bring us down!"
And their hearts, they all were bleeding as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

While halfway 'round the world a senseless war was being born,
the seeds of propaganda planted the calm before the storm.
And some, they weren't so blind, they said, "don't fight the rich man's war!"
And in the end, no tears were shed 'cause dead men never mourn.
And the living, they were forced to stand there, lined along the graves
while they spoke about the hero whose only guide was untold faith
and they sang unto the nation, be it ever brave and proud.
And the world, it kept on turning as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Now, A Mitchell Palmer was just acting for the rich.
When he saw the workers organized, he clinched his mighty fist,
he told, J Edgar Hoover, that son-of-a-bitch,
to go out and arrest any man you think might be a communist.
So he went around the city, just following his list,
and by the end of the week, there wasn't anyone he had missed.
And he sent them 'cross the ocean, for they would not give up their vows.
And their hands, they all were empty, as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

Well, the years, they were passing and depression soon set in
and people they were hungry and lacking for a friend
and the men in the government did not know where to begin,
some were saying from without, the others from within.
Meanwhile, all around the land, the people were alarmed
'cause the babies, they were dying in their mothers' tired arms
and they said, "Not in America was this to ever have been found!"
And no one dared to look away, as they lowered Brother John into the ground.

© 1982 & 2010 Steven Clotzman - all rights reserved