We might as well try: music break!

14 07 2012

Happy birthday, Woody Guthrie.

I wouldn’t have known it was Woody’s birthday today had it not been for a bit on NPR, which in turn made me think, Oh, I have to post that vid of “This Land Is Your Land that Fred Clark at Patheos/Slactivist (thanks Fred!) had posted:

I’m not sure why I listened to the song. I mean, it’s a damned fine song and sometimes think it would be a great national anthem until I remember I’m not so crazy about national anthems (that great scene in Casablanca aside), but I’m not really a Pete Seeger fan and, honestly, having heard it so many times before, did I really need to listen to it again?

Yes, yes I did.

By the end my chest had expanded and I was mouthing the words and honest-to-pete had tears in my eyes. I don’t know why I was moved—I rarely know why I’m moved—but moved, I was.

Not at the beginning, though.

I cringed Seeger’s earnestness at the outset—I almost always cringe at earnestness, and when I don’t, that’s only because I have to remind myself not to cringe—and winced when his “I’ll-say-the-lyrics-so-you-can-sing-along” scheme appeared to fall apart.

But ol’ Pete, bless ‘im, didn’t give up, and midway through he got his groove (and timing) down, and I thought, Goddamn, that man is committed. He’s earnest and committed and utterly unafraid of being caught out.

I’m almost always afraid of being caught out, so much so that someone else caught out feels like it ensnares me—hence the cringing and wincing. And earnest? I was an earnest kid, “painfully earnest”, as the phrase goes. Growing out of childhood meant losing the earnestness and distrusting it as a ploy whenever I find it in adults.

This is not the worst attitude to have in analyzing politics, but, as I tell my American government students, While you never can never be too cynical about politics, you can’t just be cynical. There are interests and fights and corruption and lies, but there is also love; there is no politics without love.*

*I know, rich coming from me, who stutters even when writing the word, but there it is.

Anyway, is Pete Seeger a cynic? Is he faking his sincerity? I honestly don’t know, but he does have the courage of his commitment, a courage which he uses to bring that entire audience along to sing that wondrous song.


Crossover ephemera

14 07 2012

True or false, they have a human value, which, meaningless though it may be to an economist, is important to the historian.

—C.V. Wedgewood, The Thirty Years War, on the horrors of the war

(Since I plan to use this bit again, it’s not, strictly speaking, ephemera, but the quote did “float up” and off the page.)