Pete Seeger: Carrying On

Via Jody Rosen, at NYMag:

[F]or Seeger, showbiz was always a means to an end — a platform for his politics. He was uncompromising, ballsy; his demeanor was gentle, but his spine was made of steel. He was a blue blood second-generation Harvard man; he could have coasted through life. Instead, he stuck out his neck on every major social justice issue of his times, often at great personal risk. He was blacklisted and threatened with imprisonment. He stood up for his principles in defiance of the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, and the United States Congress, which held him in contempt when he refused to name names (or to plead the Fifth) in his testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Through it all, his message was the same: justice, peace, community…

In person, he was peach. When I was researching a book about Irving Berlin, I called Seeger up; he spoke to me for 45 minutes and sang “Blue Skies” over the phone. In the forties, he built a log cabin in Beacon, New York, overlooking the Hudson; he lived there, with his wife Toshi, for the rest of his life. (Toshi Seeger died in 2013, a few days before the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.) Seeger was a familiar figure in the towns of the Hudson River Valley, a kind of local saint. A few years ago, friends of mine moved from Brooklyn to Cold Spring, a few miles south of Beacon. When they opened up a business on Main Street, a mutual friend brought in Seeger to “bless” the place. He recited the Gettysburg Address, verbatim, from memory…

Also recommended: Jesse Wegman’s short NYTimes elegy, “Pete Seeger’s Last Night on Stage” — which involves Neil Young, Phil Ochs, and Kurt Cobain.

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69 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    some guy says:

    Seeger was always one of my heroes. RIP, Pete.

  3. 3
    efgoldman says:

    As is so often the case, Professor Pierce articulates it perfectly, and teaches some essential history at the same time:

    Music is the way America always has talked to itself, even on those occasions on which it was whispering because what it was saying was dangerous to say out loud. Music is the way to say things in this country you might otherwise wish not to be overheard. That was the language Pete Seeger spoke, year after year, demonstration after demonstration, cause after cause, war after war, for most of his 94 years,

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/p.....bit-012814

  4. 4
    some guy says:

    Scarlett Johansson has resigned from Oxfam rather than give up her spokesmodel position with apartheid manufacturer SodaStream.

    good on Oxfam for forcing the issue.

  5. 5
    Cervantes says:

    He was a blue blood second-generation Harvard man

    In his defense, he never graduated.

  6. 6
    Mike with a Mic says:

    So that reporter the congressman threatened… his uncle is a union boss, and a Gambino family boss. This should be fun.

  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
    some guy says:

    @Ash Can:

    Fuck you. SodaStream is evil and should be boycotted.

    Yes, it is that simple. Apartheid is evil. Apartheid should be boycotted. Anyone who purchases a SodaStream is an active accessory to a war crime.

    fuck you.

  10. 10
    Mike with a Mic says:

    @some guy:

    Apartheid accusations are just as stupid as Hitler accusations. Perhaps even more so. Most of us were alive in the time of that horror, and as such we should realize how crazy it sounds.

  11. 11
    raven says:

    @some guy: @some guy: He didn’t say simple he said it wasn’t that cut and dried. The article presents a bit of complexity about the issue.

  12. 12
    Ash Can says:

    @some guy: Hmm. This is a tough one. Your reply, or an actual researched piece of professional journalism in the Christian Science Monitor? Which to choose? Let me think about that for a bit…

  13. 13
    some guy says:

    every time you purchase a SodaStream you violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. every time you purchase a SodaStream you are an active participant in a War Crime.

    there is no middle ground, no “both sides do it” and no doubt, you are supporting War Criminals with your money. Scarlet Johansson is actively aiding War Criminals in their criminal enterprise. there is zero wiggle room.

  14. 14
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can: Actually, it is.

    Of course you can find Palestinian workers in the settlements who don’t want to lose what jobs they can find. Similarly there were Jews in Hitler’s death camps who did what they had to do (Bahnhofskommando, Goldjuden, etc.). I did not and do not criticize any of them. But the fact is, those Israeli settlements are illegal — their existence is a war crime — and our collaborating with them in any way only makes the “facts on the ground” a lot worse for the welfare and national aspirations of the Palestinians as a whole.

  15. 15
    some guy says:

    @Ash Can:

    fuck you. it may take longer than it did in South Africa, but eventually the apartheid regime in Israel will have to deal with an international boycott of their illegal occupation.

  16. 16
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can: You needed “an actual researched piece of professional journalism in the Christian Science Monitor” to discover that oppressed people exist between a rock and a hard place?

    Aside: You made a comment the other day about Ford’s pardon of Nixon. I have a question about that which you can address if you like. Thanks in advance if you do.

  17. 17
    some guy says:

    @Cervantes:

    the CS Monitor story followed roughly the same contours Nice Polite Republicans took on their story tonight. hee.

    trust me, the SodaStream=War Crime story is only gonna keep getting bigger before the SuperBowl.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    I just watched a documentary on him tonight. About 80% of it I knew already but was very surprised to hear the reason he joined the Communist Party (At Harvard he was involved in a lot of progressive groups & he said they were arguing what to do about Hitler, while some groups wanted no involvement the Commies wanted to stop fascism everywhere. The commies were in favor of civil rights. The commies were pro-labor unions “I was in favor of all those things so I joined the party”). That is so practical.

    The spine of steel thing is dead on, he always did exactly what he thought was right no matter the cost. Toshi had a great quote too “Sometimes I wish Peter chased women in stead of chasing causes, then I could have divorced him without feeling guilty!” They they all laughed. We lost another giant & the world is a poorer place.

  19. 19
    Ash Can says:

    @Cervantes: I’m no fan of the current Israeli government. In fact, I think it’s the biggest threat to any of the nations in the Middle East — including Israel itself — that there is. But for Palestinians who need decent-paying jobs right now, what? Raze the SodaStream factory and hope a Palestinian version springs up in its place overnight?

    Furthermore, looking at the longer term, it seems to me that a viable Palestinian middle class would be a lot more difficult to keep suppressed than a permanent lower class. Is a West Bank factory entirely, completely, black-and-white bad if it contributes to this kind of change? Obviously, there’s no guarantee that this will be the end result. But talking about a situation as complicated as this in absolute terms strikes me as naive.

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ash Can: It sounds to me like this carries echoes of the complete divestment vs Sullivan principles investment controversy in South Africa.

  21. 21
    eemom says:

    @some guy:

    You’re an asshole. Yes, it is that simple.

  22. 22
    Ash Can says:

    @Cervantes: Interesting information. Thanks. I was speaking from how I remembered attitudes at the time firsthand.

  23. 23
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can: You keep calling the situation complicated. That’s up to you.

    Incidentally, bear in mind (I think it’s even reported in the article you cited) that Israeli labor laws are not enforced in Israel’s illegal Jordan Valley settlements. Virtually all Palestinian “workers” there are paid much less than the official minimum wage. There’s a reason Palestinians keep saying they feel like slaves.

    Sodastream per se is not the target. The system of exploitation is the target.

  24. 24
    Cervantes says:

    @eemom: Trenchant.

    Puerile, but trenchant.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ash Can: Are you old enough to really remember the reaction to that? I was just ten and beginning fourth grade – I remember thinking that being an investigative reporter must be cool, but not really know what the job was. I didn’t older than me; maybe you were just more mature (wouldn’t have been difficult).

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ash Can:

    When I read articles like that, it makes me wonder if a two-state solution is not the right solution, and the best solution is to make every Palestinian an Israeli citizen. That ended up having to be the solution in South Africa, and it seems pretty obvious that the Israelis and Palestinians are interdependent to a much larger degree than, say, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Jesus. Leave words out much? Let’s try again: Are you old enough to really remember the reaction to that? I was just ten and beginning fourth grade – I remember thinking that being an investigative reporter must be cool, but not really knowing what the job was. I didn’t think you were older than me; maybe you were just more mature (wouldn’t have been difficult).

    The sad thing is I was sober while mangling that.

    ETA: Fuck me, I just can’t type tonight.

  28. 28
    Ash Can says:

    @Cervantes:

    Sodastream per se is not the target.

    Exactly. So why make it the target? That’s the oversimplification.

    The system of exploitation is the target.

    Again, exactly. And the apparent fact that some Palestinians are evidently benefitting more than others from private industry in Israel — along with the fact that so far no amount of negotiations, foreign intervention, boycotting, elections, treaties, agreements, etc. have done anything to resolve the situation — pretty much indicates that the problem is…

    complicated

    …yeah.

  29. 29
    Ash Can says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I sure do remember it. I was in high school.

  30. 30
    Ash Can says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m inclined to agree, if a two-state solution means little more, from a practical standpoint, than cutting an impoverished Palestinian nation adrift.

  31. 31
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ash Can: I did not realize you were older than me; you come off so youthful online.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ash Can:

    It’s the East Germany/West Germany problem — despite the difficulties of reunification, it was far more practical to have West Germany’s stronger economy absorb the East Germans than it was to try and prop up a failing East German state. But obviously the Zionists and Likudniks would have a HUGE problem with the country becoming majority non-Jewish.

  33. 33
    Cervantes says:

    @Ash Can:

    So why make it the target?

    Actually, it made itself a target by participating in a system of exploitation that perpetuates a war crime. (What, by the way, is your take on war crimes? Do they have pros and cons?)

    You’re asking why focus on Sodastream or Scarlett Johansson? This is not a serious question. Do you think we should instead focus on unknown products made by unknown manufacturers represented in the media by, say, my face? Wouldn’t work.

    Anyhow, if one is really interested in the strategy and tactics of the BDS campaign, yes, one can make a study — provided one does not want to simply avert one’s eyes.

  34. 34
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It makes me wonder if […] the best solution is to make every Palestinian an Israeli citizen.

    Israel is not a democracy, nor is it a secular state. Arab (Christian or Muslim) “citizens” of Israel do not have the same rights as Jewish ones. In your best solution, would Israel repeal all its laws that privilege Jews? And how would Jewish Israelis cope with demographic change? What happens if or when (Muslim or Christian) Palestinians are a numerical majority of the population?

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: FWIW, I think ScarJo is in the wrong here, but some guy is still being an asshole.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    Israel is not a democracy, nor is it a secular state.

    Israel is absolutely a democracy. If your definition of a “democracy” is one where every citizen is allowed to vote, the US didn’t meet that definition until 1965, and Switzerland didn’t meet it until 1971. Other countries, such as England, Denmark, and Norway, have official state religions (look it up, I’m running out of links) and yet manage to govern in a reasonably secular way, so having Israel keep Judaism as its state religion is not an unsolvable problem.

    In your best solution, would Israel repeal all its laws that privilege Jews?

    Did South Africa repeal all laws that privileged whites?

    And how would Jewish Israelis cope with demographic change?

    Not well. There would be some very ugly incidents of violence against the new Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent (or, rather, there would continue to be such incidents), and some kind of peace and reconciliation commission would probably be required. But, again, there were very ugly incidents here in the US when African-Americans demanded their full civil rights and we managed to (mostly) get through them, so I don’t think that’s a good excuse for delaying the rights of Palestinians.

    My question for you is, How you do picture Palestine moving forward as an independent country when it’s cut into two pieces, has an almost entirely corrupt government, and no industrial or agricultural base to speak of to start from?

  37. 37
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    some guy is still being an asshole.

    How so? For language used in this comment? Because if that’s the criterion …

    Or is it something else? (I’m not paying all that much attention, I confess.)

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: No, simply because he(?) responded to a suggestion that the issue might be more complicated with a “fuck you.” No counter argument, no explanation. In my view, unless one has a history with another commenter, one should respond to a reasonable response with something other than abuse.

    From my recollection*, some guy has very strong views regarding the Middle East. He is not tolerant of other views. Any situation in the Middle East, in my opinion, is complicated. Complications should allow for nuanced views. some guy does not.

  39. 39
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne: By way of response, let me quote a friend of mine (Prof. Yosef Grodzinsky, Tel Aviv University, 2002):

    Whenever I criticize the policies of my government, people say “But what do you want? After all, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” This is supposed to end all discussion, as the defense of democracy presumably always prevails. Yet it seems to me that this objection is an easy way out. […]

    Any rational discussion of democracy recognizes a dialogue regarding the difficulty to balance democratic values with other needs, most prominently, security. Some of these difficulties arise in the context of immigration policies in many countries, others were revealed to Americans in 9/11. In the Middle East, the current crisis being no exception, issues regarding the right balance between constitutive principles arise constantly. […]

    [In the case of Israel, these constitutive principles are:] The desire to be democratic … The desire to be Jewish. … [And t]he desire to be secure — the Ben-Gurion doctrine. These three principles … are not always in agreement. And while in principle, any of these could be modified, even eliminated over time, this has not yet happened. Thus these principles must somehow be balanced. To understand the nature of Israeli democracy it is very important to examine this balance. Sadly, in pretty much every instance of a conflict among these three principles, democracy lost.

    Yosef goes on to explain — but if you’re starting from the Wikipedia-based premise that “Israel is absolutely a democracy,” I really don’t see the point of proceeding here. Let’s just draw a veil over the entire question and say that you may well be right; I’m quite happy to do so.

    My question for you is, How you do picture Palestine moving forward as an independent country when it’s cut into two pieces … ?

    You have a habit of making assumptions about what other people’s questions must mean: if you say X and someone asks about it, they must mean not-X. This is … unnecessary. I asked about what you said might be “the best solution.” I have not said anything about what I think should happen, nor do I have any plan to do so — not least because I do not know.

  40. 40
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    No, simply because he(?) responded to a suggestion that the issue might be more complicated with a “fuck you.” No counter argument, no explanation.

    Thanks for clarifying. I did not see here any comment from some guy that contained only abuse but, as I say, I was not paying all that much attention.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    Let’s just draw a veil over the entire question and say that you may well be right; I’m quite happy to do so.

    I may just have a more expansive definition of “democracy” — IMO, Iran is also a functioning democracy in the Middle East. Just because we don’t like the results of that democracy doesn’t make it not a democracy.

    And if the argument is that Iran is not a “real” democracy like Israel because it’s controlled behind the scenes by a small cabal of religious fanatics … well, I’m still not seeing the difference.

    You have a habit of making assumptions about what other people’s questions must mean

    I’m asking for your counterargument. If you don’t have a counterargument, then it’s not really much of a debate, is it?

  42. 42
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s not really much of a debate, is it?

    Yes, of course, you’re right about that.

  43. 43
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    And this is why you annoy and frustrate people: are you saying that there is no debate about whether there should be a one-state or a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, or are you saying you don’t feel like debating it?

    I was hoping for some kind of intelligent conversation about world affairs, but if you don’t have an opinion either way and can’t keep up your end of the discussion, why insert yourself?

  44. 44
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: You and I have discussed things and disagreed. I have not called you an asshole (perhaps stunningly detail oriented) : I don’t use abusive terms lightly. As a matter of fact, I try to use the rule of interpreting any comment in the most positive light possible – most people commenting here seem to be decent, well-meaning folk who deserve the benefit of a doubt. some guy, through the nature of his response and my recollection of his posting history*, forfeited that benefit.

    *My recollection, of course, is not perfect. It is, however, mine.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: Cervantes is an interesting person. He(?) is very frequently interested in the debate itself – the whys and wherefores of one’s opinion or position. It gets weird when one has, for example, simply decided that the GOP no longer deserves a benefit of a doubt as I have, but does not explicitly state it in a comment.

  46. 46
    some guy says:

    “Oxfam believes that businesses such as SodaStream that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support,” the group said, adding that it was “opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01.....&_r=0

  47. 47
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    And this is why you annoy and frustrate people: are you saying that there is no debate about whether there should be a one-state or a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, or are you saying you don’t feel like debating it?

    I’m saying neither of those (there are other possibilities).

    I was hoping for some kind of intelligent conversation about world affairs, but if you don’t have an opinion either way and can’t keep up your end of the discussion, why insert yourself?

    As I said, I was curious about a statement you made, so I asked a question about it. If this is not something you can tolerate, and it, er, annoys and frustrates you, then I apologize. It won’t happen again.

  48. 48
    some guy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    fuck you.

    and if you have bought, or intend to buy, a SodaStream product, fuck you even more, asshole.

    asshole

  49. 49
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    As I said, I was curious about a statement you made, so I asked a question about it. If this is not something you can tolerate, and it, er, annoys and frustrates you, then I apologize.

    What is annoying and frustrating is that you demand answers to your questions but refuse to answer questions in return. It’s, frankly, quite rude in a space that likes to debate. You’re like my cat who demands baths from the other cats but refuses to reciprocate.

  50. 50
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    You and I have discussed things and disagreed.

    Certainly.

    But about the case at hand … I know many activists. They work hard and, when there is a tiny victory, they celebrate. They need to celebrate tiny victories in order to go on at all. In the course of their tiny celebration, to be told that, you know, actually, there are Complications — as if this profundity has never occurred to them, ever — and then on top of that to not engage the moral argument — well, I can see why that would be somewhat vexing. Perhaps you can, too.

    Anyhow, thanks again for clarifying your earlier comment.

  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: I haven’t ever purchased a SodaStream product. I do not intend to do so. You still are being an asshole. Try fucking persuasion. Or don’t. If you cannot advocate for your causes without being an asshole, you should rethink advocating for your causes. Assholes aren’t persuasive.

  52. 52
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne: Really? Show me a “demand” that I have made.

  53. 53
    some guy says:

    The sources stated that resident Mohammad Mahmoud Mubarak, 20, was shot and killed while working.

    The family said Mubarak, and other workers, were conducting repairs on the main Ein Senia road when soldiers, stationed on a nearby military tower, opened fire at him. The army alleged the slain worker carried a gun.

    The Israeli army alleged that the slain Palestinian “was armed”, and “opened fire at an Israeli military post between Atarot and Halamesh settlements, north of Ramallah.

    Eyewitnesses denied the Israeli claims, and confirmed Mubarak was working, and did not carry a weapon of any sort.

    The slain Palestinian was a flagger directing traffic while repairs were being conducted on the road.

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    Really? Show me a “demand” that I have made.

    The funniest part is, you don’t understand why this is funny.

  55. 55
    some guy says:

    Earlier this month, “The Avengers” and “Her” actress signed on as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream International Ltd., and she’s set to appear in an ad for the at-home soda maker during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

  56. 56
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: I try to be a pragmatist. I celebrate the minor victories. And the major.

    On this particular issue, I back the boycott. Note that I said above that I thought that ScarJo was wrong. This does not meant that I think that no other opinions on this question are valid. Hence my problem with some guy’s “fuck you response. I may disagree, but that does not meant that an alternative view is invalid

  57. 57
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: Link?

  58. 58
    Cervantes says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    The funniest part is, you don’t understand why this is funny.

    Trust me, that’s not the funniest part.

  59. 59
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Sure. And maybe your explanations can make a difference.

    Thanks again.

  60. 60
    some guy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The repairs are part of many projects funded by the USAID in different parts of the occupied West Bank.

    Soldiers handed over the body of Mubarak to his family later on. He is the nephew of Hamas legislator Ahmad Mubarak, from the Al-Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah.

    Ramallah governor, Dr. Leila Ghannam, stated that Israel is ongoing with its crimes against the Palestinian people, encouraged by the silence of the international community.

  61. 61
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: Nah. I have a legally trained mind that works best with metaphors. Precision with ambiguity is my milieu. I can’t fix anything. I can, however, put together a great cocktail party.

  62. 62
    some guy says:

    but, yes, let’s all become polite and civil supporters of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and [unambiguously ambiguous “democratic” ???] Palestine.”

    absolutely. democracy. sexy. whiskey.

    Johansson had served as a global ambassador for Oxfam since 2007, raising funds and promoting awareness about global poverty. In her role as an Oxfam ambassador, she traveled to India, Sri Lanka and Kenya to highlight the impact of traumatic disasters and chronic poverty.

    Oxfam representatives did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

    quote: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....92426.html unquote

  63. 63
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: I asked for a link. You are a graduate student at a degree granting university, are you not? A link with your blockquotes is not too much for me to ask, is it?

  64. 64
    some guy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    what does a barrister charge these days for using the Gazoogle?

  65. 65
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: With whom do you think you are conversing with this?

  66. 66
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: Dude, if you are trying making a point, the internet says it is on you to make it. Do it. Come on. Say it. Just do it. What do you want in the Middle East. My concept of incremental change leading to a two state solution does not hold water for you. What does? How many people need to die to get here?

  67. 67
    Sherparick says:

    @some guy: Its a little more complicated than that. Scarlett Johannsen is Jewish (her mother married a Dane), and she opposes the boycott (although many Jews do not – see Corey Robin at Crooked Timber or at his own blog: (http://coreyrobin.com/2014/01/.....w-oh-wait/)

    The Nation is always a good place to read about the Flame wars between Zionist liberal Jews and gentiles and Anti-Zionist Jews and liberals. http://www.thenation.com/blog/.....ism-mounts It usually does not take long for the ad hominem attacks to start, and I won’t repeat them now. As a former Zionist liberal gentile who has now come to conclusion that thanks to Israeli right-wing and settlement movement, the end result will be a single state of Palestine in about 30 years or so, I have reluctantly concluded that the BDS movement is an incredibly effective tactic for getting the Israeli Government’s attention and in a weird way, Scarlett Johansson has done them a great service. But I don’t think Scarlett Johansson is an awful person for her choice at the moment. Giver her ten years, and like me, and Corey Robin, she may change her mind.,

  68. 68
    Cervantes says:

    @Sherparick:

    But I don’t think Scarlett Johansson is an awful person for her choice at the moment.

    Same here. In fact, I have no opinion about what sort of person she is. It does not matter.

  69. 69

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