Pete Seeger and the HUAC

Pete Seeger is an American legend. But it wasn’t always so. Pete just turned 94.

Spadecaller posted the video on YouTube. He also wrote the following history behind “Where have all the flowers gone?”

On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Pete Seeger and seven others (including playwright Arthur Miller) for contempt, as they failed to cooperate with House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their attempts to investigate alleged subversives and communists. Pete Seeger testified before the HUAC in 1955.

In one of Pete’s darkest moments, when his personal freedom, his career, and his safety were in jeopardy, a flash of inspiration ignited this song. The song was stirred by a passage from Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel “And Quie Flows the Don”. Around the world the song traveled and in 1962 at a UNICEF concert in Germany, Marlene Dietrich, Academy Award-nominated German-born American actress, first performed the song in French, as “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” Shortly after she sang it in German. The song’s impact in Germany just after WWII was shattering. It’s universal message, “let there be peace in the world” did not get lost in its translation. To the contrary, the combination of the language, the setting, and the great lyrics has had a profound effect on people all around the world. May it have the same effect today and bring renewed awareness to all that hear it.

Click HERE for the transcript of Pete’s testimony before a sub-committee of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Pete is an American patriot. He stands for the very best of the American character. He has never been intimidated by the likes of Senator Joseph McCarthy whose accusations turn people of courage into quivering jelly. He wrote and sang the songs that still stand up to the bullies who assassinate the character of others by means of innuendo and association. His joyful resilience exposes the demonic (the twisting of the good) character of public manipulation, mass hysteria, scapegoating, and the misplaced patriotism that marches to the drumbeats if war.

Happy birthday, good Sir! Your voice still echoes around the world.

Rep. Allen West: Joseph McCarthy Reincarnated?

Do you believe in reincarnation?

Rep. Allen West

I didn’t until I read this story of FL Rep. Allen West (22nd District, FL), pictured here, acting like Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose search for closet Communists dominated the era of American politics now remembered for “McCarthyism”.  Click Rep. Allen West says 81 House Members are Communists” – ABC News to read  the story and see the video.

Rep. Keith EllisonClick Rep. Keith Ellison (5th District, MN) for information on the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I know Keith, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. When Keith left the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, I succeeded him as its Executive Director. Keith is always breaking new ground, but becoming the first Muslim member of Congress who is also a hidden member of the Communist Party isn’t part of his ground-breaking. It’s a lie. He is profoundly religious. If being one’s brother’s or sister’s keeper, caring for the poor, makes him a Communist, as Senator Joe McCarthy, once thought…well..McCarthy’s and West’s claims say more about them than about those they fear and love to hate.

U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy

Rep. West’s allegation that 81 members of the U.S. Congress are Communists, leads me to re-post this social commentary previously published by Minnesota Public Radio in September ’09, a year after the crash on Wall Street.

SORROW FLOATS

 Gordon C. Stewart, 9.10 09

“Sorrow floats.”  Perhaps the line from a John Irving novel in which “Sorrow,” the stuffed family dog preserved by a taxidermist, floats to the surface of the lake after a plane crash, helps explain what is happening in America.

Erin McClam’s “5 weeks on the brink: Reliving meltdown of ’08,” (September 5, 2009) recounts the series of chilling events that almost led to a national crash just one year ago.

Something dear to the American family died last year.  Most of us lived in the illusion of economic and financial health until the day it was rushed to the emergency room for a government rescue.

Since then our memories of the pre-September ‘08 world have taken the turn that families often take at funerals where the eulogies bear little resemblance to the reality of the deceased. We’re quarreling over what was real and what is mythical re-construction.

Following the plane wreck that takes the lives of the Berry family parents in The Hotel New Hampshire, the stuffed family pet bobs to the surface of the lake, floating among the wreckage.  Sorrow floats.  So does the thing we lost in September-October 2008.

What died was the assumption that an unregulated free market system was the best way to organize an economy, the natural partner of democracy.  The market almost crashed.  It didn’t because the government intervened before a reoccurrence of the crash of 1929.  Sometime between mid-September and October 7, when Congress passed its bill to stabilize the financial markets, the myth of the virtue of deregulated capitalism died.  It was stuffed by the taxidermy of government intervention, but it still floats.

When a conviction or a myth dies, it doesn’t go away.  It continues to bob to the surface.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Berry family, Sorrow is much easier to love after it is dead.  Sorrow – obese, lethargic, and persistently flatulent in its old age – no longer waddles through the dining room to foul the air.  The real life Sorrow gives way to the stuffed Sorrow, a thing of nostalgia that lives on…even after it’s dead, and long after the plane has crashed.

Sorrow floats every time fear sounds the alarm of “socialism.”  Sorrow floats every time we shout each other down in town hall meetings.  Sorrow floats every time nostalgia forgets that it was only by government intervention that Sorrow is still around.  The stuffed Sorrow floats every time we forget the greedy obesity that led to the deaths of Lehmann Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns, not to mention insurance giant AIG and all the banks that had taken the plunge into a market of deregulated derivatives and mortgages that led to the epidemic of home foreclosures, bankruptcies, pension fund disappearances, and job losses.  Sorrow floats a year after the crash when the mind forgets and nostalgically remembers a system we thought was working in our interest.

Old convictions die hard. The economic forces that grew fat over the years when government was viewed as the people’s enemy will stoke the fires of anxiety and anger, taking advantage of the Sorrow that still floats to remind us of something that we love more in retrospect than we did when the day it died of its own obesity.