“Outlive the Bastards”



It was a rough week.  I was certain our National Treasure, Mr. Pete Seeger, was going to live forever.  It is comfort to know that his words and music will always be with us.  The man set a gold-standard example of walking the talk by LIVING the talk.   My favorite quote about Mr. Seeger is a tribute line delivered by Bruce Springsteen at the May 3, 2009 Clearwater benefit concert: 

“Pete, you outlived the bastards.” 

You see, Pete used his birthday as a grand excuse for a concert to raise money for a cause very close to him, the sloop Clearwater.   Back in the 1960’s Pete thought that if he could get folks to come out on the Hudson River so they could see for themselves how pollution was affecting the environment, they would clean up “all the shit in the river.”  The quotation marks in that last sentence are mine, but if my memory serves, that is exactly what Pete said at the concert that night as he talked about the genesis of Clearwater.  G-man and I attended this show, and how could you not?  The price of a ticket was the year of Pete’s birth:  $19.19.  And you sure got your money’s worth of since there were about forty performers that night; humbled performers who knew that Pete never took the easy way as an artist.   He was a man who stood up to the bullying tactics of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and wasn’t recognized until many years later for having that leonine courage of his convictions.   If we’re truly honest how many of us can say we would have been able to do the same? 

Despite my sadness at Seeger’s passing I feel a renewed sense of responsibility for the generations who will follow me.  Pete lived a full and vigorous life until his death this week at ninety-four.    It’s time for others to take up where he has left off.   Despite his heroic, ongoing effort there is plenty of opportunity in this broken world for us all to pick up a little bit of the slack.  So let’s all try to outlive the bastards, and give a damn. 

Because even a little help matters to someone, somewhere, sometime.  



6 thoughts on ““Outlive the Bastards”

  1. Sometimes I really miss the 60s and the whole counterculture movement. I’m not nostalgic for Kent State or the Viet Nam war, although we kinda have that situation anyway in other places. And speaking of which, where are all the student protestors? Apathetic, entitled slugs who’d rather play with their smart phones. Seriously, remember hippies and communes? Where are the Timothy Learys and Joan Baezs of this generation? Ah, I guess we may never pass this way again.

    1. I’m surprised and disappointed by the apathy of people regardless of age. Despite the appearance of connection via social media there is this weird isolation and a deeper type of cynicism. I think a certain amount of folks are spending all their energy just getting by, and it wouldn’t surprise me to think this keeps them from getting involved in activism on a bigger scale. I think of FDR at times …. folks during the Depression had little time or energy for activism. But they didn’t need Facebook either. Today you can’t compete in a job search without access to a computer and the internet.

      I hate when people say solving some problem or issue is “complicated.” That always feels to me like code for “let somebody else deal with it.” Maybe I’m just naive. But I like to be practical. The unemployed need work. Children need education. The hungry need to eat. Why can’t we do these things?

      1. “It’s complicated” sounds to me like “I have no intention of shaking up the status quo because I still want to be part of the 1%”. I think we’re in an age that’s too busy feeding the desire for instant gratification to think ahead, or think about other people. It’s never been possible to have as much stuff as the average person has today. There’s also little sense of ‘community’ anymore. People barely know their neighbors, let alone have a sense of belonging in their town. Maybe we’re all too disconnected (despite social media) from those around us to care. I don’t know, just some random, disjointed thoughts on my part.

      2. Yeah. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. But we can’t lose hope and we can’t give up. Even the smallest stone in the pond can send out a lot of ripples.

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