"This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender"
These are the words inscribed on Pete Seeger's banjo. I first learned of them from my friend Danny Maloney in Elmira, NY and they have stuck with me ever since. To me, those words encompass non-violence. Another folk hero carried a similar message on his instrument. Woody Guthrie's guitar was emblazoned with "This machine kills fascists." Guthrie's declaration always makes me a bit uneasy with it's verb. Rather than death for the evils in the world, Seeger sought to use music and community to force surrender. His concept didn't give away any power, but instead of lethal force, he wanted to see hate changed. One can imagine that if hate surrenders, it turns to love. A metamorphosis rather than truncation. Lasting change over brief relief. This is the lesson Mr. Seeger leaves us with.
His "machine" was one that created music, and in turn buoyed movements, created activists and grew community. I imagine that is what is doing the surrounding. The machine itself is not surrounding hate, but what that machine creates is encircling the evils of this world and forcing them to change. Such a simple machine, and such a powerful tool that was wielded by an expert heart.
Danny wrote a beautiful song to celebrate Pete, and based it around these concepts. Danny's tribute to Mr. Seeger does a better job than I can of celebrating the man and his mission, so I share it with you here.
Let us all remember that if we come together and surround hate, it will surrender, and all the better if we have a sound track. Thank you Pete Seeger for creating immortal inspiration.
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