One evening this past week Bruce and I and 1,600 quasi or verified hippies of all ages gathered with Arlo Guthrie, his son, daughter and grand daughter to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant. You remember, the song about littering that became a call to resist the draft and end war.
Arlo and members of his family sang familiar songs from the Guthries as well as from others of the 60’s. Many were known and the crowd sang along. A few were lesser known and while we couldn’t sing along, we listened and knew the meanings of the lyrics were timeless.
Partially expected, Arlo sang This Land Is Your Land, including the usually unsung end versus. He paused to reflect on this song and the meaning it had for his father as well as himself. With a gentle smile he said he recognized not everyone then, or now, could appreciate the power of song in general. The power of this song in particular.
At the end of the show during what in essence was a small encore, Arlo sang a song based on a short poem of sorts his father had written and he had put to music. He spoke passionately about the continued movement to end war and reminded us all that everything we do consciously and conscientiously to that end is paramount. We may not understand or believe it possible, but the sentiment, the passion, the resolution, the conviction and unceasing effort to bring an end to violence, hate and war does not live momentarily in 1,600 people singing it together in a theater, but spreads with and by the wind as soon as the doors are open.
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you
My peace is all I ever had that’s all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black and red and white and blue
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you
My peace, my peace is all I’ve got and all I’ve ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more than anything I own
I pass my peace around and about ‘cross hands of every hue;
I guess my peace is justa ‘bout all I’ve got to give to you.
Lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Music by Arlo Guthrie
In these unsettled times it is difficult to know what to do, what to believe. It seems naive to some to believe that the sentiments in a song can spread across the world and make a difference. This song reminds me that I am a vehicle of peace and love or violence and hate. I choose peace and love. I will always stand up for both, believe both are possible, work towards peace and love as long as I live. It’s all I’ve got.
On the Saturday morning news, as a reporter on CNN was reporting on the situation in Paris, you could see something caught her eye just out of view to the side of her. You could tell that whatever distracted her caused her to hesitate just for a breath. As she finished her report she looked briefly in the direction of her distraction and said that someone had wheeled into the streets of Paris a grand piano and was playing John Lennon’s Imagine. You could hear it softly in the background of her reporting.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
Someone opened a door and wheeled a grand piano out so that a song could travel on the wind. Reminding us. It is up to us. We can go forward in hate and fear or we can forward in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, in hope and peace.
Saturday after the attack on Paris a blogger from India posted a poem that reminds us of what I see as a truth. We are selective in our outrage and grief. Tragedy matters to us if it is done to people like us. In John Lennon’s world, in Woody and Arlo Guthrie’s world, in Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr’s world, it matters when violence, hate, war, terrorism strikes anyone.
“It is not Paris we should pray for.
It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut,
reeling from bombings two days before Paris,
is not covered in the press.
A world in which a bomb goes off
at a funeral in Baghdad and not one person’s status update says” Baghdad”
because not one white person died in that fire.
Pray for the world
that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.
That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker
and the person running from the very same thing you are.
Pray for a world
where people walking across countries for months,
their only belongings upon their backs, are told they have no place to go.
Say a prayer for Paris by all means,
but pray more,
for the world that does not have a prayer
for those who no longer have a home to defend.
For a world that is falling apart in all corners,
and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.
Karuna Ezra Parikh
Many of us are quick to toss out quotes like:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
“Nonviolence is the first article of my faith.
It is also the last article of my creed.”
“Finally, brothers, rejoice.
Aim for restoration, comfort one another,agree with one another,
live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
2 Corinthians 13:11
“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Kindness is a mark of faith, whoever is not; has no faith.”
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it.
And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
“If we have no peace,
it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
– Mother Teresa
“Humanity is but a single Brotherhood: so make peace with your Brethren”
The Qur’an 49:10
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence,
it can only be attained through understanding.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We will only be mighty when we turn our enemy into our friend.”
Rabbi Sydney Mintz
“There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”
– A.J. Muste
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“It is possible to live in peace.”
“Peace is every step.”
– Thich Nhat Hahn
“Nothing is more precious than peace.
Peace is the most basic starting point
for the advancement of humankind.”
– Daisaku Ikeda
“Peace may sound simple – one beautiful word –
but it requires everything we have,
every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal.”
– Yehudi Menuhin
and on and on and on. None of them say for white people only. Or for Christians only. Ikeda and the Qur’an both remind us Peace is for humankind.
For me, the time is now to open the door. Time sing, shout, march, protest, work for, believe in peace. For all people all over the world. We have one world and we are one race. We are human beings. It is time to bring peace to the world and stop hate and fear.