The activist’s activist, Pete Seeger, left behind a legacy of standing up for social justice and the environment, and a collection of protest songs that still pack an emotional punch. Yesterday, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale, at a sold-out celebration performance of Pete Seeger’s music by local musicians, it was déjà vu all over again for me, and I suspect many of the mostly gray-haired Seeger fans. As heart-felt and enjoyable as the event was, the fact that the issues that Pete Seeger spent a lifetime addressing are still with us — only more so — is not good news for the weary.
But that’s exactly why we need to celebrate our ‘preaching to the converted’ moment, in solidarity with street theater peace activists, Raging Grannies, Matt Schwartz of South Florida Wildland Association (raising the alarm about fracking), Occupy Ft. Lauderdale, Broward Move to Amend, Pax Christi (economic and social justice and respect for creation), the National Lawyers Guild, (lawyers, law students and legal workers for change in the political/economic system), and SOA Watch, (ending oppressive U.S. foreign policy in Latin America), among others.
I draw a lot of energy from a love-in like this one; we all do, whatever our political leanings. The inconvenient truth is, we prefer to be with like-minded people and the more the merrier. It’s another form of confirmation bias, that is, our tendency to surround ourselves with people and information that confirms what we already believe. Uh-oh. It may be hard-wired into our species in service of the survival instinct, but it’s not working anymore..
I wasn’t thinking about this particularly when I landed hard last evening with a particularly unnerving episode of Years of Living Dangerously, but it’s coming up for me now as a major element of our difficulty as activists, and the challenges we will face.
If you’ve been paying attention to climate change, the Leslie Stahl segment in Living Dangerously carried few surprises, with the possible exception of actually hearing what ice sounds like as it begins to break apart. Terrifying. But it was the other report, about the stubborn (or I could say steadfast) denial of basic climate science by one large, well-funded religious sect, was especially disturbing for me, because 1. I am surrounded by and constantly reminded of this kind of thinking here in mega-church-land, 2. Florida is exceptionally vulnerable and denial now will be very costly later, and 3. I fear for my grandchildren, indeed, all grandchildren. So I have the deepest respect for climate scientist/evangelical Christian, Katherine Hayhoe, the star of an earlier Living Dangerously episode, for modeling a way of reaching out to those whose views differ from her own. The world we have created in ignorance will demand nothing less.
Pete Seeger would approve.