They are Peter and Paul now. Mary is gone. PeterPaulandMary. Now Peter and Paul. "Where have all the flowers gone." "If I had a hammer." Song after song with which the trio serenaded us. I know that the trio has been gone for many years, but the death of one of them is our death.
When we got the news, I started pulling up youtube videos of the trio singing. "It's the hammer of justice, the bell of freedom, a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land." Quite a change from listening to the health care debate.
I found myself feeling the loss -- not so much of Mary Travers, but rather the loss of our generation. Such high ideals we had. "All the world over, so easy to see, people everywhere just got to be free." We wanted to hear the oppressed and impoverished speak into our lives. We wanted to learn from them and work with them to build a new world. We built something all right: a bigger house for each of us than our parents would have ever imagined.
At least for each of us who has money and resources. Think again of the health care debate in the United States. The Sixties suggests that we would embrace health care for everyone, that we would care about everyone around us. But we have had 40 years to build something, and we have cared more about building a bigger garage and driving a bigger car than anything else. Once we railed against The Man. Now we are The Man.
I feel betrayed when I listen again to the two records of PP and M that we have. I believed them then; I still believe them now. But Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses alike have taken us down a different road than any PP and M sang about.
The ideals we held in the Sixties resonate with me at least partly because so many of them spring from deep Christian roots. But when I turn to the church, so many of my brothers and sisters there are busy fighting against any effort to build those ideals into our society. The protesters (who learned the ideals from the church) fell to the goddess of greed (or is greed a god?); and the church (who gave them the ideals in the first place) seems to have forgotten them.
I know that my rant is overdone. There are many counter-examples. Ron Sider's work with Evangelicals for Social Action is one. Ben Lowe has an excellent book, Green Revolution, in which he gives many other examples of Christians who have begun to remember who we are. Perhaps some degree of funk emanates from sitting and thinking of what we hoped to be and do, and knowing that Mary Travers just died. And perhaps reality is deeper and better than our many glimpses of failure.
Her songs remain, with Peter and Paul. And a wonderful youtube version of the trio singing "If I had a hammer" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. We were so young, and so wrong about so much; and so right about the fundamentals. Freedom, justice, love, peace. All good.