Pete Seeger, Hope, & Animals

pete_seeger_the_power_of_song_400x300Yesterday, I attended Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration (and benefit for the Clearwater) at Madison Square Garden.  The music and spirit of Seeger (and the Weavers) were a huge presence in my house during my childhood and remain so to this day.  To attend this event with multiple generations of my family was a blessing beyond words.

What does this have to do with animals?  Nothing and everything.  Pete Seeger has fought the power for a long time.  Summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955, he pleaded not the Fifth but the First Amendment.  He declared that he had the right to discuss (and sing about) politics with whomever he pleased.  In 2003, as the nation prepared to invade Iraq, an 84 year-old man stood by himself on a cold, snowy street corner in Beacon, New York holding a hand-painted sign that simply said: “Peace.”   As Bruce Springsteen observed, Seeger’s life and work has been all about driving a “stealth dagger into the heart of our illusions about ourselves and our country.”

As I listened to all the wonderful performers and watched Seeger himself, voice now gone but still out front leading others in song, I thought about the animal advocacy movement.  Whether it be unions, civil rights, peace, or the Hudson River, the causes Seeger has championed often offered little reason for optimism.  But he and countless thousands of others fought on.  Today, progress — great progress — has been made and continues to be made as the struggle(s) continue.

Similarly, the animal cause presents a bleak reality that can and does routinely fill those of us who care with despair.  But progress has been made — even if one only looks to the number of people who now care about these things.  And I believe (because I have to) that great progress is in the offing.  The obstacles we face are no greater than those we and others have faced on other fronts.  That’s the message of last night’s celebration.

We *shall* overcome.  You can take that to the bank.  Our job is to do what Springsteen said of Pete.  We have to “outlast[] the bastards.”

–David Cassuto