Wobbly, the Rough-And-Tumble Story of an American Radical

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 28. "AMNESTY BY CHRISTMAS"
SACCO AND VANZETTI BURN. RIOT POSTPONED

AFTER more than four years' confinement in the Cook County Jail and Leavenworth, my final release meant something more than just going home again; it was rather an adventure in rediscovery. First came the realization that I could walk or ride in any direction without restraint or reprimand. I could turn down any street or stand on any corner and just loiter and look and marvel that others could do likewise. I could breathe clean air again, listen to the casual voices of men and women. I could listen to the laughter of children or stare hungrily into the faces of passers-by, and it was all my own business and nobody's else. That was but the beginning of my rediscovery of freedom—the freedom that other people took for granted.

This reappraisal and intensified appreciation of American values started with my first glimpse of green Kansas hills from the open prison gate. How different they looked when not seen through a black foreground of iron bars! Even the thought that I was looking at a conventional "bourgeois" city in the heart of capitalist America did not disturb me. "Main Street," with its tempting shop windows, looked mighty good to me. That too represented freedom.

It dawned on me with increasing awareness that Kansas was my native state, that I was one with its people—that I was rooted deeper than I thought in its rich black soil. There was a feeling of guilt associated with all this. As a rebel I had long scoffed at such "scissorbill" sentiments. But it was wonderful just the same to look out over that sweet horizon and to recall that my people had been among the pioneers who helped to reclaim it from the wilderness. Kansas' horizons stretched so far that even the grim out‐

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