Peter Yarrow, from Peter, Paul and Mary, granted me an interview last week, which was printed in the Ithaca Times. But following an extended conversation about Occupy Wall Street, Yarrow sent me a note that he wanted to share in an email correspondence. He welcomed me to distribute and quote from. I found it quite moving, and thought Ithaca Post readers might enjoy it. LZF
A very personal note to my friends and allies:
I am hoping that Occupy Wall Street remains peaceful and builds into a true American “spring” in which many of our problems as people and as a nation are aired in an atmosphere of thoughtful, respectful, national dialogue and self-examination, an examination that I believe is desperately long overdue for our country.
Such a dialogue must transcend partisan boundaries as “what is wrong” is, in many ways, not even on the table of much of our political discourse.
Our nation has, we have, a bruised heart. We, in this glorious country, are truly hurting in ways that are simply not discussed – in some ways not seen and many ways misidentified.
We fail to reflect on what we have done that has been a painful mistake, reprehensible, or morally wrong. We fail to come to terms with the injury that this denial has created in our national psyche – and our personal psyches as well. The results of our faulted actions (and all nations make mistakes and fail themselves) lie in the road like the victims of a hit-and-run driver. We are that driver. And there is no investigation as to the identity of the driver who speeds on, hiding in fear and crafting ever better ways to deny any guilt whatsoever.
We are pitted against one another, deeply divided, partly because many of us are trying to justify what our country did years ago, actions that others have never found acceptable or justifiable – let alone consonant with an honest view of what a just and moral America is about.
Many of us continue to drive on at blinding speeds, defending our mistakes and accusing anyone who points to them as being disloyal, un-American, or seditious.
Many of us congratulate ourselves as being “the best” as an act of faith, and see doing so as loyalty to our country. Those of us who do so build a wall of anger to shield them/ourselves from the kind of inquiry and self-examination that I truly believe, OccupyWallStreet, if it is allowed to grow and mature, will inspire.
I pray that this will be the case.
We need to look at ourselves, honestly. This is what the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, it seems to me, is basically about.
When I sing “The Great Mandala” these days the parallel to our times is stark. In the song, written at the time of the Vietnam War, a youth goes to jail for refusing to “kill”, to go to war. He goes on a hunger strike. Thousands chant, “Kill the traitor. Kill the traitor”.
Why do they want to kill him? Why do they hate him? Because if he is right, they are, indeed, guilty of something horrifically wrong. So it goes, then and now.
At last, the man dies, and I sing, “ Tell the people they are safe now. Death has gagged his accusations”.
SAFE: Yes we have been safe from honest, national, self-reflection and scrutiny for decades in many, many, ways. We, as a nation, do not admit to wrongdoing. Very, very, seldom do we say we are sorry. That is a grave, historical, fault and it needs to change. A great person admits h/h faults, mistakes, admits to the injury h/h has done. A great nation must do the same
SAFE: Yes, we have been safe from seeing that we are no longer a country that is categorically guided by a basic set of good, caring intentions. Not in terms or our policies, and not in terms of the way we treat each other. We are faulted, we are hurt and wounded, we are angry, we are resentful, we are greedy, we are ungenerous in many, many, many ways.
To heal, we need to see this and face the fact of it. We need to forgive ourselves by acknowledging directly and courageously what we have done. We will heal by making amends and changing our ways in the future. Avoidance of who we have become will not allow us to ever become whole again. We must face ourselves and learn to love each other for the right reasons – not for our wealth, our power, our fame. We must love each other for what we intrinsically are. For our service to one-another, our generosity, our caring, our mutual respect, our providing for those who are needy, sick, hungry, disabled. And that, THAT transformation will ultimately heal us. THAT will come from honesty, from humility.
That honesty, that humility, may, just may, emerge from Occupy Wall Street. If we let it.
We must not let our anger, our insularity, our cynicism, and our hubris lead us on our personal or national path any more.
When the young man dies, because he has successfully starved himself, the crowd cries, “We are free now. We can kill now. We can hate now. Now we can end the world. We’re not guilty. He was crazy. It’s been going on for 10,000 years”.
Will we, our nation, be that crowd whose socio-pathology prevails when the youth dies? Or will we be a nation that has the capacity to see ourselves honestly, glories in our virtues and gifts, but begins to take stock of what we have done that is reprehensible, illegal, dreadful, un-American, deeply faulted.
If have the courage to look at ourselves honestly and truly, and reflect on who and what we are, not in the service of self-exoneration, but in the service of healing our souls, then we can once again truly love each other. We can accept our faults, mistakes and failures, and renew our hearts.
Is this possible? Perhaps not for many, or even most, of us. Most of those who are filled with anger and hate will go to our graves defending its legitimacy. But enough of us may have the courage to see ourselves and say “No more”. It happened during the witch hunting days with Joe McCarthy. The nation caught in a full national pathology, reversed its course. Sanity prevailed and the light shone through. It could happen again. That period was as dark as this period, and perhaps more so, in many ways.
It happened when the Civil Rights Movement took hold over a fifty-year period and changed our country forever. We reversed ourselves. It could happen again.
And it can, and must, happen for the children and youth who have not yet been psychologically mutilated by the cruelty that has emerged in our society and is haunting their every day in school. They cannot and must not be taught to hate and fear. The must be taught to accept one another, love one another and become the new members of an American civic society that casts off this shawl of dishonesty and self-righteous justification of what has become patently wrong with us and cripples us in our effort to become a whole nation, a healthy nation, once again.
But we need the national dialogue and we need to let it emerge in its own way and at its own pace.
That is why Occupy Wall Street is so essential, so important, and can become such a significant crossroad for us all.
Thank you for being there.
Peter Yarrow, one-third of Peter, Paul & Mary, will perform at the State Theatre Saturday, October 22, at 8:00 p.m. The local neo-folk artist Joe Crookston will open.