[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg0wiOHc9tI]Pete Seeger (born 1919) hasn't been singing much the last few years. He's lost his voice. We saw him about three years ago at an annual gathering of the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the Spanish Civil War and there he for the most part played banjo, joining in a few choruses.
But yesterday Pete sang loudly and joyfully.
Pete and Bruce Springsteen and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger led the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday afternoon in a full rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," and--perhaps as a herald of the moment--added the radical verses often left out. Here's one:
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!
And here's one about economic hard times:
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.
It is, Pete, it is.
1988. Hard to remember how deeply into the PC (Political Correctness) wars we had fallen. Very deeply. This was of course moments before the Soviet bloc fell and yet anticommunism was still very much an animating force behind attacks on multiculturalists and scholars of race/class/gender.
"[E]ven though we are nowadays closer to the naivete of the 30's that saw Communism as '20th-century Americanism' than to the 50's view of it as absolute evil, there is still a taboo against mentioning [ties between a liberal and a radical]."
So complained Peter Collier and David Horowitz in an essay for Commentary in the January 1988 issue of that conservative magazine on McCarthyism as "the last refuge of the left."
Get struck, and struck hard again and again - only to find oneself accused of striking out in the first place. By 1988, McCarthyism is the last refuge of the left. Ponder it.
Tom Devaney hosted "A Murder of Ravens" at the Writers House last night - a celebration of Poe's 200th. Tom decided to invite lots of people to read and talk about "The Raven" and related topics. Both video (.mov, QuickTime) and audio (mp3) are available:
Daniel Hoffman came and read from his classic critical book, Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe.
I started teaching at the university level in '79 - that's 30 years ago. In that time I've received thousands of student evaluations through the institutional bubble forms. Sometimes the response I can discern from the forms helps me to make a course better the next time. Sometimes I can merely enjoy the positives. Sometimes I glance quickly and move on. I'm a huge supporter of students' response (I try to make it part of the course itself, to be sure--but that's another story) but not a fan of the bubble forms. Anyway, I got one recently for the fall '08 version of my modern & contemporary American poetry course (my favorite of those I teach), English 88, that positively stunned me. I like it. The comment says merely: "LOVE" (underscored three times) and to the right of that: "this class taught me how to read." Not literally, of course, but "to read" as in: really, really to read thoughtfully, well, freshly. Makes me happy and proud. That someone would associate love with learning truly to read and a college course. These are not normally three peas in the same pod.