It has been 50 years since Pete Seeger first recorded Turn! Turn! Turn!. To appreciate my song, you have to know about that one. Here's an video of Judy Collins and Pete Seeger singing it on Pete's TV show in the 1960s.
Judy did the most beautiful cover ever, in my opinion, but this was particularly special. Judy was Pete's guest on TV. She asked him to sing along on Turn Turn Turn. The whole thing seems unrehearsed. As Judy tuned up, Pete was doodling on his 12-string. They start and it's clear Pete has the capo set wrong. He adjusts and off they go until Judy flubs the lyric a bit. They carry on like nothing happened. Pete is ad-libbing a harmony and second guitar. The whole thing is just wonderful. It has a guileless quality that lets the light of the tune shine through. That glow matches my memory of how the song first struck me.
My opinion is that the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s eventually succeeded in its aims, though perhaps not in the way imagined by some of the participants. The civil war came to an end after 100 years, and Black Americans won the right to be treated equally under the law. This eventually lead, via many twisted paths, to reconciliation between most people born on either side of the racial divide. Not everyone is reconciled to that result even today, but outright racism is marginalized, and acceptance of a multiracial, democratic society is widespread. Update 2012: Well, maybe not. :(
The peace movement didn't fare so well. Protests in the US and elsewhere turned the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War. But that war ended in terror and blood, and set the stage for Pol Pot and a host of other disastrous outcomes. If those events had lead to a general retreat from war as an instrument of national policy throughout the world, then you might have been able to argue that the hideous nature of the killing fields could have been a painful but necessary price to pay for turning the world away from war. I'd have been dubious about that thinking even if the world had changed in that way, but it didn't. War, promulgated by neighbor on neighbor, powerful on powerless, powerless on powerful, enlightened on ignorant, angry on fearful and all their permutations plus many others continues unabated, as desperate and cruel as ever.
Looking at the stubborn survival of war in the 21st century could cause an old 1960s hippie (well, proto-hippie. I was 12 in 1968) to despair. But I have recently lost the luxury of despair. What to do then?
The best answer I've found is to listen to the old tune. The song says there are times and seasons for everything. It doesn't say there will never be war. It says there is a time for war and for peace. There's hope that balance might reassert itself. And hope is the cure for despair.
To everything ... there is a season To everything ... there is a season and a time ...
Streaming clouds of bits, and ad impressions an app for this or that obsession Screaming in your face TV loudly drowning out the voice of reason Red flags waving to catch the eyes of mad bull masses stoked with fear and anger Ancient hatred coal dug up set to flame to fire desires for power
The man said there was nothing new
Wireless hot locations social nets, mobile text and idle chatter People struggling to hang on to breath and heartbeat strong enough to matter There are those who turn to god for deadly answers mocking their religions There's bloody retribution laid upon the suffering heads of bitter children
Just wait till *they* grow up
But you know ... To everything ... there is a season To everything ... there is a season A time of war, a time of peace Pete Seeger said it wasn't too late (I swear it's not too late) I sure hope he was right. A time of peace (I swear it's not too late) A time of peace (Not too late)