Thursday, February 27, 2014

Religious Freedom, or Bigotry and Discrimination?

Yesterday, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed a “Religious Freedom” bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community on the basis of religious beliefs (Arizona SB 1062, which became known as the anti-gay bill). The governor wisely observed that she saw nothing in the bill that had to do with religious freedom, stating that it “does not address a specific concern relating to religious liberty.” She reminded her constituents that the state had stood for religious values, but also stood in support of non-discrimination. It was a wonderful return to sanity after a long series of politically regressive legislation in various fields across the country. It is unfortunate that we have seen many people use the cloak of religious freedom to justify their own bigotry and hatred.

That Course Was Charted Before

I have witnessed first-hand the subtle, and not-so-subtle, use of religious values to justify hatred and prejudice. I am a product of public education, having entered public school in 1961 at the age of six, and continuing until 1973 when I graduated from high school. All of my public education occurred in “the heart of Dixie” as the state of Alabama proudly proclaims of itself. I saw the struggles for civil rights on television while listening to adults lament the sad state of affairs in which the government would impose racial integration upon the fine citizens of our state. It was no coincidence that a plethora of Christian private schools sprung up across the South in the 1970s when full integration of public schools was finally achieved, almost 20 years after Brown v.  Board of Education was decided by the Supreme Court.

I also witnessed the spin that Christian private schools put on their mission statements. Their primary claim was that “God had been taken out of the public schools,” citing the removal of prayer in schools and the teaching of evolution instead of creationism. Being a somewhat observant high school student, I couldn’t help noticing the actual progression of events that motivated the establishment of so many “Christian academies” throughout the South.

First of all, there is the matter of teaching evolution in schools. The landmark court case that established the ability of schools to freely teach accepted science was, of course, the Scopes Trial in 1925. It became clear from that time on that schools could not disallow the teaching of scientific theory on the basis of religious belief. By the time I entered public school, it was well established that science textbooks in public schools included the theory of evolution. Religious conservatives did not like this turn of events, but they were not motivated to create their own school system.

Next, fast forward to 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not force students to participate in prescribed public prayer. Religious conservatives were upset by the removal of prayer from schools, they railed against the notion, but they were not motivated to create their own school system. Even though many religious leaders were shocked by the Supreme Court decision regarding prayer in schools, and many were upset by the increasing "secularization" of society as evidenced by the ascendancy of science and the teaching of evolution in the classroom, there was little movement toward the establishment of church-based schools at the elementary or high school level.

Within a few more years, however, racial segregation was no longer allowed in public schools. It was a tumultuous time in the South, but it was also difficult across the country. My state became infamous for the image of Governor George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama to prevent the admission of black students.  In my hometown, integration was phased in from 1967 to 1971. Suddenly, religious conservatives became motivated to create their own private schools. They would claim a return to God and sacred values to be their raison d'ĂȘtre. The timing, however, was indisputable. It was, in fact, racial integration in public schools that spurred the sudden rise in private schools across the South.   

Can We Learn from the Past?

Today, we are seeing yet again the use of religion to justify bigotry and hatred. It is distressing to see religion joining hands with hate more readily than siding with justice. Religion, after all, is only as good as those who practice it. There is healthy religion which calls us to a higher path of love, compassion and social justice; and there is unhealthy religion which encourages us to stay where we are comfortable and cast stones at anyone who is not part of our particular group.

Thankfully, Arizona has backed away from legalizing bigotry and has not allowed hatred cloaked as religion to hold sway. There are yet other states which are considering similar discriminatory bills. Perhaps the time has come for good people to say no to the voices of hate. 



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Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Music: Rabindra Sangeet

Rabindranath Tagora
Portrait by Walther Illner
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Last summer I attended a presentation about Rabindranath Tagora at the Birmingham Museum of Art. I had read some of Tagora’s poetry, but was unaware of his vast contributions in other areas and had not heard his music until that day. His musical compositions, some 2,000 songs compiled in the Rabindra Sangeet have influenced Indian classical music and have been used in many films.

Two of the genres of Tagora’s music were puja porjai (prayer songs) and prem porjai (love songs). I have included one example of each in today’s Monday Music feature.  I have found an English translation to the puja porjai (a  prayer song)  Anando Dhara Bohichhe Bhubone  (Joy and Bliss Flows through the Universe).  For the second selection, all I can surmise is that this is one of the love songs from the Rabindra Sangeet, but I have not been able to find a translation. Both songs are beautiful to listen to.




Anando Dhara Bohichhe Bhubone 
Dino Rojoni Koto Amrito Rosho
Utholi Jai Ananto Gogone
Anando Dhara Bohichhe Bhubone
(Joy and bliss flows through the universe
Day and night so much ambrosia of life overflows
Through endless skies.
Joy and bliss flows through the universe)

Pano Kore Robi Shashi Anjali Bhoriya
Shoda Dipto Rohe Akhhoyo Jyoti
Nittya Purno Dhora Jibone Kirone
Anando Dhara Bohichhe Bhubone
(Sun and moon drink in this divine offering it
And stays glowing forever their eternal light
Everyday the earth is replete with the light of life.
Joy and bliss flow through the universe)

Bosiya Accho Keno Apono Mone
Shartho Nimogono Ki Kaarone
Chari Dike Dekho Chahi Hridoyo Proshari
Khudro Dukkho Shobo Tuchho Mani
Prem Bhoria Loho Shunno Jibone
Anando Dhara Bohichhe Bhubone
(Why are you sitting all on your own?
Preoccupied within yourself for what reason?
Look all around with an open heart.
Brush away your little sorrows
Fill your empty life with love
Joy and bliss flow through the universe)








Further References:





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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Night


      Looking to the night,
           sensory limits prevail.
           Acceptance brings peace.

                                      ~ CK









______________________
Photo: A night in the forest
Credit: Randi Hausken, from Baerum, Norway
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons  


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Friday, February 21, 2014

Recommended Recipes: Moroccan Chicken Pie

I tried a version of this recipe over twenty years ago. Our daughter was just a toddler, and I found the recipe, as best I can recall, in Parents Magazine. I liked the dish. It's unique combination of sweet and savory spices along with the light and delicate crust made for a truly memorable dinner, but unfortunately the magazine went out the door before I saved the recipe. Last year I took it upon myself to track down the recipe. I was sure that with the internet I would be able to find it. Unfortunately, after many internet searches under a variety of search phrases, I was unable to find it. I did find a recipe for Moroccan Chicken stew (tagine) that was excellent, but it wasn’t the dish I had made years ago.

I gave up my search for Moroccan chicken pie. Much to my surprise, however, just a couple of months later, the recipe found me! It was in January when our daughter was getting ready to drive back to grad school. She wanted to go by a clothing store to shop for a few things, so I strolled around the shop while she and my wife perused the clothing. Not many things are more boring to me than women’s clothing stores, but as I was strolling about, I notice on one of the shelves was a cook book. Cook books I find interesting. The title was Fireside Feasts and Snow Day Treats by Ellen Parnavelas, published by Ryland Peters & Small (London).

I took the book down and thumbed through the pages. It was a beautifully photographed collection of recipes characterized as “indulgent comfort food for winter eating and entertaining.” As I looked through the edition, there on page 74 was a recipe for Moroccan chicken pie! I looked over the ingredients, and it appeared to be very near the recipe I remembered – perhaps the exact one, who knows? I cooked it last week on Valentine’s day and it was a great success. It was served with some rice pilaf, then on Sunday we had leftovers with sides of barley and baked sweet potato. Both meals were exceptional! It was the taste I had been looking for, and my wife loved it as well. The fillo dough crust gives it a light touch, not the heaviness that you get from a chicken pot pie with regular pie crust. 

I bought chicken thighs for the recipe from Whole Foods because we are trying to use only humanely raised meat when we do eat meat. Another good thing about the package of thighs was that they were already de-boned, saving me a step in the cooking/preparation process. I did make some slight variations. Instead of making one large pie, I used smaller baking dishes to make three pies (and gave one to a neighbor).  I did not bother with cutting a circle of fillo dough to fit the pie pan. Fillo dough is tricky enough as it is. I simply sprayed the dish with cooking oil and then lay the fillo dough out, one sheet at a time, spreading each sheet with melted butter and letting it hang over the edges. After filling the dishes, I folded over the overhanging dough, as described in the recipe, to make the top crust (I also added a few pieces of fillo dough on top, still spreading with butter  as I went).

One of the three small pies I made (about two servings)
Instead of the fresh coriander, I used about a teaspoon of ground coriander which I had on hand in the spice cabinet. The other change I made was to omit the garlic and cilantro, out of personal preference. My cooking time was reduced to around 20 minutes because I was using smaller dishes.



Here is the recipe as given in Fireside Feasts and Snow Day Treats by Ellen Parnavelas:


Moroccan chicken pie

Ideal for large gatherings or buffets, this is best when made in advance giving the flavours time to mingle. The filling can also be made into individual pies or pastries. Serve with a grated carrot salad and plenty of buttery couscous.

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 40 g/ ½ cup raisins
  • 35 g/ ½ cup flaked almonds
  • a large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 270 g/9 ¾  oz. ready-made filo/phyllo pastry
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
You will need a 24-cm / 9 ½ inch round baking dish or tart pan, greased

Serves 4-6

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, until just soft. Stir in the spices and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken and stir to coat in the spiced oil. Add 190 ml/ ¾ cup water and the raisins. Season generously with salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard the bones. Return the meat to the cooking juices. Mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning. The mixture should be very moist but it should not be soupy. If there is a lot of liquid, return to the heat and cook to reduce slightly. Stir in the almonds, coriander/cilantro and lemon juice. Set aside.

To assemble, place 2 sheets of filo/phyllo on the work surface. Using the baking dish, cut out 2 circles of pastry to fit. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel and set aside. Line the sides of the dish with the remaining pastry, positioning each one with an overhang and not quite reaching the middle. Continue until the edge is covered with overhanging sheets of filo/phyllo. Brush the dish with melted butter and top with one of the pastry circles. Brush with more butter and top with the remaining circle.

Transfer the chicken mixture to the filo/phyllo -lined dish, spreading it evenly. Fold in the overhanging filo to part-enclose the filling, crinkling it as you go. Brush with melted butter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until just golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.



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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Progressive Christianity: A New Avenue for Faith


There are many surveys showing a decline in church membership among mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. There has also been a similar trend among Catholics, to such an extent that if "former Catholic" were a denomination, it would be the second largest in the country. It is a trend that has been going on for some time in spite of countless efforts by denominations to foster church growth. Even so, we are seeing numerous examples of new expressions of faith that may be indicators of what is in store as we find our way in a post-Christian society. The "emergent church," the Wild Goose Festival, the CANA Initiative, and Progressive Christianity are just a few examples of different ways that people of faith are coalescing to find different ways to celebrate and demonstrate their faith.

What Is Progressive Christianity?

Fred Plumer
Last September, Fred Plumer, a minister in the United Church of Christ, gave the Fall SPAFER* Lectures.  The topic of his lectures was “Progressive Christianity – What Is It?” While Plumer cited statistics indicating a wholesale decline in church membership throughout the Western World, the refreshing thing was that he came with no program to implement for jump-starting congregations. Instead of programs, he offered insights into a meaningful way of life based upon the teachings of Jesus.

His “new paradigm” of progressive Christian spirituality is based on an old paradigm of the early Jesus movement which was, Plumer said, “a Gnostic-type of movement.” Progressive Christianity assumes things change, offers a path rather than a belief system, is more interested in love than fear and is more interested in the common good than in personal salvation.  The emphasis is upon the wisdom path in which one follows Jesus rather than worships Jesus, practicing rather than preaching, learning to live in gratitude for life, and discovering inner wisdom.

Alongside the declining numbers in mainline Christian Churches, Plumer cited a growing hunger for spirituality. By following “the Jesus path,” Progressive Christianity offers a spirituality rather than an institution. On the Jesus path, “the primary goal is to discover that we are all sons and daughters of the Father/ Creator/ Sacred Unity.” Plumer spoke of a spirituality that can trust the path, living without fear. It is a path in which we do not judge another, forgive even the unforgivable, live with a generous heart and celebrate with joy.

We learn to experience the Sacred Unity by nurturing deep compassion for others, by practicing non-judgment and forgiveness, and by learning to see the divinity in all of life.  Plumer advocated reviving Christian practices of time spent in silence and reflection, finding space that removes us from the chatter, and finding community.

Fred Plumer highlighted Eight Points of Progressive Christianity which are also found on their website at www.progressivechristianity.org :

By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to
- Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
- Believers and agnostics,
- Women and men,
- Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
- Those of all classes and abilities;

4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;

5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;

6. Strive for peace and justice among all people;

7. Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;

8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

Fred Plumer at the Fall 2013 SPAFER Lectures
Photo by Jim High

~   ~   ~  ~  ~

*SPAFER (Southern Progressive Alliance for Exploring Religion) sponsors academic lectures twice a year to hear scholars and leaders in the field of religion. Past speakers have included Marcus Borg, Martin Mary, Barbara Brown Taylor, Wayne Flynt, and John Dominic Crossan, among others. This year (May 2 & 3) Thomas Moore will be speaking on "A Religion of One's Own," and later in the year, Brian McLaren will be the featured speaker. We have been fortunate to hear from a range of speakers from academia as well as from the field of faith practice. (Refer to the SPAFER website for details of upcoming events, including Thomas Moore)


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Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Music: Leningrad Cowboys

Sweet Home Alabama

These guys are zany! I just discovered this group a couple of weeks ago. We heard the Red Army Choir perform at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi (they sang the Daft Punk song, "Get Lucky"), but it is delightful to hear this collaboration with the Leningrad Cowboys -- It's like something from the mind of Mel Brooks! As a son of the South, I'm also glad to see Lynard Skynard bringing the world together with "Sweet Home Alabama." 

Here is what I found online about the group:
 
The Leningrad Cowboys is a Finnish rock and roll band famous for its humorous songs and concerts featuring the Soviet Red Army Choir. Currently, the band has eleven Cowboys and two Leningrad Ladies. The songs, all somewhat influenced by polka and progressive rock, and performed in English, have themes such as 'vodka', 'tractors', 'rockets', and 'Genghis Khan', as well as folkloric Russian songs, rock and roll ballads and covers from bands as diverse as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, all with lots of humour.





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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Snowfall


     Softly falling snow:
          quiet blanket of beauty
          brings transient calm.

                                  ~ CK








________________

Photos: Near Springville, Alabama
Credit: Joe Songer at Al.com 


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Southern Snowfall


Stopping by Publix on a Snowy Evening
(with apologies to Robert Frost)

Whose shelves these are I think I know
He lives in a corporate village though;
He will not mind me stopping here
Among his aisles well-stocked for snow.

My little truck will have to suffice
Parked out on that sheet of ice
Between the store and busy street
In weather that comes but once or twice.

It gave a little sputter out there
As if to show machines can swear.
Other sounds include the sweep
Of people's footsteps as they hoard their share.

The shelves now look empty, wide, and deep,
But I have milk and bread to keep,
And videos to watch before I sleep,
And videos to watch before I sleep.

                                        ~ Charles Kinnaird              


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Photo: Vulcan Park, Birmingham, Alabama January 2013 - a rare snowfall (photo by Miss Sophie)
          (Found on Pinterest)


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Crossing the Threshold


I am thinking of a time in my life when I crossed a threshold. It marked a new day and my life was not quite the same afterwards. Reading the poem, “Threshold,” by Robert Morneau, which came to my email box by way of Inward/Outward took my mind back to those days in which my life took on a new direction. My original intent was to write about that time and to discuss my gratitude for being able to cross over into a broad place. Life unfolded in a wonderful way as a result of my crossing of that threshold.

However, it is my assumption that anyone reading this post has had his or her own experience of crossing the threshold into a new day. Instead of hearing my story, think instead of your story. When was it that you crossed over to a new day? What were the circumstances that led to your crossing of that invisible line, “that threshold into a new horizon  that forever changed your destiny?” Take some time to remember your own story. Feel free to share it in the comments below – I would love to hear your story – or just treasure the thoughts within your own heart. However you choose to do it, let this be a time of remembrance and gratitude. Listen to Robert Morneau’s words below and rejoice in that day that was and which also is to come.


Threshold

An invisible line surrounds us.
Though unseen it’s as real
as one that is drawn in the sand.
Cross it,
and we are in a new realm
entanglement in a love affair,
blessedness of God’s life and grace.

Mary crossed the threshold with her “fiat,”
Abelard and Heloise in their embrace,
the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence.

Each of us decides—perhaps each day—
to cross or remain behind that invisible line,
that threshold into a new horizon
that forever changes our destiny.

                                                ~ Robert Morneau
(From The Color of Gratitude and Other Spiritual Surprises)


________________

Photo: A New Day Begins
Credit: Nigel Howe
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Music: Early Morning Rain

This is Peter Paul & Mary at the top of their game appearing on the BBC TV program, "Tonight in Person." The year was 1966 and they are singing a song written by Gordon Lightfoot, "Early Morning Rain." Dick Kniss is the upright bass player off to the side. A self-taught musician, he played bass for PP&M for over 40 years and was sometimes called "the fourth member of the trio."





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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Bird-feeding


  
With careful purpose
     a safe space is created;
     our worlds briefly touch.

                                ~ CK

  












_______________________

Photos: Clockwise from upper left: birds eating seeds (Finland), goldfinches, red-bellied woodpecker, sparrows, mourning dove at feeding table, hairy woodpecker
All photos are Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons





Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Poem from Winter


Winter View

The winter sky is calm and gray
As a cold mist glistens the ground.
The crooked grief of dormant trees
Weighs lightly on the seasoned, rugged limbs.

The lone mournful cry of a killdeer
Lobs across the hills
And a wistful but gallant mutt of a dog
Traverses the wet pavement.

My heart lies in wait
Surveying the scene.
Inward sight casts hues of longing
On sky and tree.
My soul throws mournful colors
On sound and sight.

My spirit breathes
With the cold mist
And gives thanks to the earth
For gifts that await. 

                                         CK


 __________________

Photo: Winter Tree near Ellerton Abby
Credit: Christine Johnstone, contributor to The Geograph Project
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Music: Mr. Tamburine Man

 I love the informality of this peek at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. Pete Seeger introduces Bob Dylan using one of the fables Dylan spun about himself back in the early days of his career. Seegar then sits down in a folding chair by the small stage while Dylan performs "Tambourine Man." As I watched this view from the early days, I realized that Dylan was better at the harmonica than I thought he was and he gave quite a dynamic performance.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger


A couple of years ago I wrote a blog essay titled, “How Pete Seeger Taught Me about Forgiveness.” It was one of those blog posts that continued to get hits month after month, then with the news of Pete Seeger’s death at the age of 94, my blog site was inundated with hits. I was glad that so many who were searching the web for information about the folk singer were finding an essay that was so personal and had such meaning to me. That story, which you can read here, related how Seeger’s example helped me as an adult to learn an important life lesson.

A Lifetime of Influence

The fact is that Pete Seeger was influencing my life before I even knew who Pete Seeger was. As a kid, when we were at school or at church and someone decided we all ought to sing a song, someone would usually come out with, “If I had a Hammer.” On the radio, The Byrds were “Turn, Turn, Turn.” At youth camps and retreats we would sing, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I knew all of these songs without knowing who Pete Seeger was or that he had written those songs. He had an important message to share about what it meant to be alive, what values were important for us to strive for and hold on to. Those values and lessons were being instilled into our minds and into our culture by way of the songs that the folk singer wrote. 

The first time I became aware of Pete Seeger was when I was in the seventh grade and he was a guest on The Smothers Brothers Show. Having been blacklisted from radio and television since the 1950s, that was his first national broadcast TV appearance in my lifetime. I remember him singing "Guantanamera." He also sang a song in protest of the Viet Nam war, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," which was censored from the telecast, but Seeger was allowed to come back on a later date to perform it again. His call for peace struck a deep chord with me since I had been living in the shadow of Viet Nam since I was  11 or 12 years of age and would continue to do so until the draft was ended just before my eighteenth birthday. The ideal of peace in our time would remain with me to this day. 


It was my privilege to finally see the folk singer in person back in 1985 when he came to do a benefit concert at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama. My wife and I attended and it was quite a memorable event. Pete Seeger would have been around 65 and he gave a dynamic performance. I still remember how he turned the entire audience into a choir singing in parts the refrain to "Wimoweh" while he bellowed out those high notes. 

His Social Vision

Many people have been writing this week about the remarkable life that Pete Seeger lived. PBS aired a re-broadcast of “The Power of Song” a beautiful documentary of Seeger’s life.  Arlo Guthrie shared some personal reflections about him with Time Magazine:

Pete had a real vision of what the country was about. He came from a long line of Puritan stock. His family had been in the country a very, very long time, and he had a sense of history. He wasn’t just a scholar of music; he was also a political scholar and a historical scholar. He loved the idealism of a nation founded on the principles he thought were important, and he spread that wherever he went.
I think to be asked about his religion, or about his beliefs, or about his political thoughts, was such an insult to him, because it was insulting to every American. He had a way of taking these personal events in his life and moving them forward so that they included everyone. If it had just affected him, he wouldn’t have said anything; he wouldn’t have written about it; he wouldn’t have made a big deal. But because it affected everyone, he was involved. I think that’s one of the things that motivated him about the environment, the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement. Sometimes he was right; sometimes he was wrong, but he was right most of the time. And he set out to make the country in what he imagined it was meant to be, what it could be. Whatever was going on, he was there because he had a sense of how it impacted everyone. It was not just personal. It was America.



Here is a brief excerpt from a tribute, “Remembering Pete,” by Rich Warren, host of The Midnight Special on WMFT radio in Chicago:

Pete Seeger, singer of folksongs, became the icon of American folk music against his will. He insisted the song was more important than its singer, and the listener was more important than the performer... Pete Seeger: idealist, iconoclast, and inspiration. He welcomed the friendship of anyone who loved music; his humble cabin in Beacon, New York became a gathering place of song. Pete lacked the gorgeous voice of his contemporaries such as Theo Bikel; he may have lacked the banjo and guitar finesse of the many he inspired to take up those instruments; but it was his spirit and his presence; his complete conviction and caring that always carried the day, the movement, and his popularity.

Coincidentally, in the January edition of The Oxford American is an article by Daniel Brook about the Highlander Folk School, a grassroots education center that once existed near Monteagle, Tennessee. It was there that Pete Seeger taught Martin Luther King his version of “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.” 

"An Inconvenient Artist"

Pete Seeger was blacklisted in the wake of the Communist scare during the McCarthy days of congressional hearings back in the 1950s and early 60s. Unable to appear on television or the radio, the folk singer began a career of touring college campuses. Ironically, he had a greater influence there than he might have had if he had remained in the broadcast media. He was highly instrumental in the folk revival that swept the college scene and gave cohesion to the student protests for peace during the 1960s. He was a strong and constant advocate for important social causes that included civil rights, peace, and environmental responsibility. The man who had been feared as a communist sympathizer when he was younger was honored with the National  Medal of the Arts at the age of 75. Upon granting the award, President Bill Clinton called him "an inconvenient artist, who dared to sing things as he saw them." Pete Seeger was a truly remarkable man. May his inspiration and influence continue in the years to come.   

From the film documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song:

“Once upon a time, wasn’t singing a part of everyday life? As much as talking, physical exercise and religion, our distant ancestors wherever they were in this world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes, or walking long journeys. Can we begin to make our lives once more all of a piece? Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And when one person taps out a beat while another person leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.”

                   ~Pete Seeger





For further reading:


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    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    Saturday Haiku: Winter Storm


      On a winter’s day
           nature casts her icy net,
           brings a fierce sabbath.

                                  ~ CK










    _____________________

    Photo: Birmingham News photo, "when a snowstorm brought travel to a halt."
    Credit: Joe Songer at http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2014/01/birmingham_winter_storm_qa_for.html



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