Okay people, time for a wake-up call. Pete Seeger is gone now. I thought about eulogizing him with a Top 10 list of his songs, but it seems more appropriate to reinforce the reality check that even if it was appropriate to be using a 94 year old man as our moral compass for positive action (and God knows if there was a man in this country worthy of that, it was him), it’s now officially time for us to do it ourselves.
Today we must stand on our own. Today we must re-commit to what we feel is important. We can’t wave a wand and stamp out prejudice, inequality, environmental irresponsibility, poverty and violence, but neither can we take that as an excuse for apathy. Every day is time to stand up for what’s right.
And it’s time for some younger folks to take the baton from Pete. I’m so grateful for his tireless commitment to justice, but it wasn’t his job to carry that mantle into his 90s. I’m reasonably certain he would have been content to eschew his kudos (many of which he eschewed anyway) in order to inhabit a world in which he didn’t HAVE to stand up against injustice.
But now it’s up to the young, who have energy and principles and are not strapped with the outdated assumptions of the past. One of the recurring thoughts I have about prejudice is that I look forward to the point in history when the memory fades. Not the memory of past injustice, mind you – we must never lose our collective conscience and responsibility towards those who have been oppressed in the past. What WILL be good to forget is what it was like to ACCEPT these things. My daughters are not old enough to comprehend a world in which people simply accepted that women shouldn’t be able to vote. They’re principled enough to be outraged about it, but there’s no debunking needed because there’s nothing in their consciousness that would make them ever consider that to have been a legitimate limitation. As we move towards a more just world, more and more of these outdated notions will fade into the annals of quaint but no longer relevant history alongside the world being flat. In the meantime, though, we have work to do.
We all have different definitions of “standing up,” of course, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. For some this involves being aggressive, while for some it’s about being resolute but calm and patient. To me this is a matter of style, not substance. Were MLK and Gandhi ineffective activists because of their comprehensive nonviolence? Does ranting and raving establish genuine righteousness? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, then I appreciate you somehow stumbling upon my blog and promise to write something entertaining about pro wrestling as soon as I’m able.
What’s significant (and what we all recognize inside us if we take an honest look) is whether we are actually working towards what we believe in. I wrote about the “pillow test” recently (essentially just imagery for whether we’re acting in a manner that gives us a clear conscience) and indeed, that is often all we have to guide us. There is some overlap between the actions that are most positively recognized and those that are the most genuinely righteous, but they are hardly identical. If I had to quantify it, I would say that of my own most principled actions (the things of which I’m most proud and that most reflect my most idealistic beliefs) probably a third are obvious, a third are under the radar (limited to some folks in the “inner circle”) and a third are so far under the radar that even the most direct beneficiaries are unaware. You could accurately say the high road is lonely sometimes, but it beats the heck out of partying with the lowest common denominator.
The song “Time Is Now” was written a few years ago with these thoughts in mind, and I’ve never been able to “let go” of the song because to me it hasn’t gotten and less relevant. I chose to open the Ripples album with this song and chose to distribute solos around the group, featuring Zach Brock on violin and Erica von Kleist on flute. Most importantly I chose to use four vocalists (in order, Jess Best, Erica Bryan, Garth Taylor and Claire Randall) who, aside from singing their butts off, are all big-hearted and young. The song was written in the voice of principled youth (indeed, that once was me, minus the singing well part) who refuse to accept a status quo that may never have been valid and now is no longer even coherent. Today we must remember that the time IS now.
Time is Now © 2008 Noah Baerman
I feel bold and hopeful today, I’m going to stand up
The tide’s turned and now I have a say, I’m going to stand up
I’m going to speak and demand the truth
I’m going to harness the power of youth
I’m going to stand up, my time is now
I may be young but this much I know, I’m going to stand up
We can’t sustain the old status quo, I’m going to stand up
You know I’m not disrespecting you
But you’ve got to make room, this is my planet too
I’m going to stand up, my time is now
I’m too young to remember the olden days
When oppression and greed were accepted ways
You can blow me off and call me naïve
But I know we can change from this world of war
Where we pillage the earth and neglect the poor
You can think what you want, but I believe
You don’t have to take it from me that we should stand up
‘Cause Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi told us to stand up
I’m calling out to the human race
This ball of blue will be a much better place
When we all stand up, our time is now