Drop the gun

Pete Seger doesn’t remember all the words to his songs, but he remembers all the meanings. When he came out to Carnegie Hall the other night it was truly awe-inspiring. (I know. I hate the phrase too, but don’t blame the phrase blame that hacks who use it without warrant.)

Here is why Pete Seger is awe-inspiring:

He’ll be 90 years old in a couple of months - his grandson sang and played with him to make sure that the legend didn’t lose track of the words - so he’s been singing about peace and equity for about 75 years. He still gets excited. He still believes.

I’ve been thinking about people of real faith a lot recently, people who are committed to ridiculous causes ranging from God to protecting sea urchins, and their relationship to the real world.

In Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” a faithless nun in full habit explains to the protagonist that she does all the good she does, not so people believe in God, but so they have the comfort of believing that someone still believes. What an exhausting proposition.

I’m not saying Seger isn’t a true believer, but he and people like him fill the same kind of role. No matter how things turn out, no matter how poorly we treat one another or the Earth, there’s documentation that not everyone agreed. Seger represents what humanity aspires to making his message, his life, a footnote to how history’s atrocities could have been if a few more people had the courage.

How’s that for intimidating?

More than a decade on McCarthy’s blacklist left him unapologetic and po
ssibly stronger. Paying homage to his friend and sometime collaborator Woody Guthrie, while still taking the trouble to make a dig at the small-minded asses that edited this Land is Your Land he sang some of the angry verses with a moving raucousness.

If you don’t know, the song was intended as revolutionary and borderline communist. The message is: Stop letting THEM take up the land, it belongs to all of us.
Here are a couple of the verses your kindergarten teacher left out:
As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple Near the relief office - I see my people And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin' If this land's still made for you and me.
How do you sing that song (or Seger’s own “Where Have All the Flowers gone?” for that matter) regularly for arguably the most tumultuous 60 years of human history and not go on a shooting spree? An unflagging will, an unimaginable amount of energy, and legitimate faith.



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