“When I sing Amazing Grace,” Seeger writes, “I usually remind audiences that the words were written by a man who had for ten years been captain of a slave ship, but in his thirties he quit and started the antislavery movement in England. He turned his life around and gave us hope that we can turn our country around.”
Seeger’s life is a lesson in citizenship. He wasn’t one for baudy or crass behavior, bloviating or pandering. No wink-wink, you-know-that’s-politics.
In His Own Words is a collection of essays and letters Seeger stored in his barn for years, sobering words that show us what social responsibility and civility look like, too rare in this grim new America.
Pundits and politicos coin new words every day. Word Spy, the word lover’s guide to new words that feeds my linguistic cultural-curiosity, introduced me to the word pluto-populism. They define it as a political movement in which a wealthy individual offers ideas and policies that appeal to the common person.
Word Spy offers this example:
Why has this happened? The answer is that this is how a wealthy donor class, dedicated to the aims of slashing taxes and shrinking the state, obtained the footsoldiers and voters it required. This, then, is “pluto-populism”: the marriage of plutocracy with rightwing populism.
—Martin Wolf, “Donald Trump embodies how great republics meet their end,” Financial Times, March 1, 2016
Pete Seeger walked alongside people, not in front of them. His steady voice is a calm counterpoint to the current chaos spawned by a pugnacious billionaire. His message is simple ~ it’s not enough to do good work, you have to do it with the right spirit or it is no good at all.
“If the world survives these dangerous times, the folk process will go on, and music and poetry can help us teach love and common sense to foolish people who think that money and power are the important things in life.”
Thank you, Pete, for singing out in a world where the din of deceit, division, and demagoguery is deafening. Your words are sweeter than wine.