One Toke Tom has made it a point to keep as far away from politics as he possibly can in his writings. This story is not meant to be about politics at all. It is just a reaction to the look of desperation on the face of a mom, a dad, or that of their child faced with horrors beyond anything I can imagine. It is not about what to do about a humanitarian crisis. I have no idea except to wonder why we can’t do something to help. But it’s not about a group of people. It’s about the look of fear in the heart of that mom, dad, and child and I wish I could do something about it. But I don’t know what. This song has a long history which, it appears, has come full circle. I posted this when I first started this site and today seems like a good time to revisit it. If you have seen it, thank you. If you haven’t, here is a song that is meant to break your heart.
I began writing this song several years ago. Years later, I finished it with the help of singer/songwriter friend Buddy Mondlock and recorded it late one night in the studio at my home. It’s a song inspired by the sorrow of people who had to leave their homes out of fear. It’s a song about moms and dads and their children who fled their homes, not because of politics or religion, but to find a safe place to live their lives. A safe place to live and raise a family is something a lot of us take for granted not realizing we are a lucky few.
The first thing that set me off occurred years ago as people from Haiti were fleeing a horrible revolution. They left home on makeshift rafts, badly patched up fishing boats, and anything they could get to float, hoping to reach America’s shores to seek asylum in the U.S. They were met by a host of American ships doing all they could to keep them from landing or setting one foot on shores where asylum could then be claimed. It didn’t seem like the country my dad told me about.
Our people with long poles were pushing barely floating rafts away from shore. Where on earth did they think these people were going? Their rafts and boats were already nearly sinking. I was livid. My folks taught me better. We were supposed to help people in trouble, not make it worse. So I did what any songwriter would do without the means to actually do something about it. I wrote a song. Well, part of a song. Life got in the way, and I never finished it.
Several years later the evening news was telling me about a group of Mexican children being held at the border because of their legal status. I don’t think they had any, but treating children like they were adult criminals got my blood boiling again. I was brought up to believe that kids were pretty helpless on their own, and it was our responsibility, as adults, to make sure they were treated well and given all the love and comfort we could muster.
About the time we started breaking up families at the border and sending them to God knows where, Buddy gave me a call, and I offered him our couch as he traveled between gigs. It’s always great hanging out with Buddy. Of course, being songwriters, we ended up getting out our guitars, and I had to give Buddy the pieces of the song I had been working on for a decade or more. I doubt if it took 15 minutes for him to add some words, help me put it all together, and there we had it, “Please Don’t Send Me Home.” A song for refugees.
To say we were “One Toke Over The Line” would be an understatement of enormous proportions as we stumbled up the stairs to my studio. I was in no shape to do anything as I fumbled to turn on my recording equipment and set up a couple of microphones, and Buddy did his best to sit down in a chair and pick up his guitar. I needed a copy of what we had just written, and this was my one chance to get it. I was in no shape to sing and play while trying to record it myself.
As I said, we were way over the line, and by morning, everything could have been forgotten. Somehow I managed to get the song recorded. One take is all we had in us and, somehow it ended up being beautiful. I have always loved Buddy’s singing and playing, and somewhere in the fuzzy magic of the moment, he nailed it. So the music in this video was done in one take by a couple of guys who should have known better but didn’t.
The more I listened to Buddy’s rendition of the song the more I loved it. The outrage I felt about how we were breaking up frightened families and treating them like they were criminals sent me back up to my studio. I started looking for images I could use to illustrate the story the song was telling. Not an easy task when you aren’t there with your camera and can’t afford the network footage you would like to use. However, thanks to some new online sources I was able to put together a music video that, I hope, tells the story.
I was blessed to be born where I was and raised by a poor school teacher and his working wife. Our town was a small one on the outside of Cleveland. We didn’t have much money, but we had a house full of love. As a grown man I have had the privilege to have traveled to a lot of places on the planet and seen some of the best and worst of how people live, mostly based on where they were born. Had I been born in the worst, I would have left and pleaded to the heavens and the people trying to throw me and my family out, “Please Don’t Send Me Home.”