This is Part 3 of my Trilogy of Hope +1 series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

In my world there is no hope if there is no song. Therefore, returning home from the cranberry bogs, I dug my 12-string from the closet, too long silent amid the rush of building a Net Zero life and learning a new community. We heard via the neighborhood Facebook page that someone was pulling together a candlelight gathering down on the highway by the public library in our small town. They were saying they didn’t know what else to do but gather people—-so come on down and we’ll figure it out as we go along. I was sure they needed songs so I started pulling together a new collection for this new time. I’ve got all the old stuff in the file.   You know: timeless stuff like “The Times They Are A-Changing,” “If I Had A Hammer,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.” These will always work, but we need some new material for this new day. Peter, Paul and Mary got a lot of us going back in another eon of resistance. Peter is the lone serving member. He’s still writing, leading songs and standing up and so must we.

As I started reaching out to parents in our neighborhood, still struggling to keep in conversation with their children in this new age of elevated hate speech, I found this absolutely transforming piece “The Children Are Listening.” It is just one of a whole body of work Peter and others have contributed to Operation Respect, a dynamic movement you need to know about, if you don’t already. Listen as Yarrow sings it with a group on this video and follow the lyrics I have printed below:

Lyrics for The Children Are Listening by Peter Yarrow

REFRAIN:
The children are listening, the children are listening
If we say something cruel and harsh, they will do the same.
The children are listening. The children are listening,
If they grow up to be bullies, we’ll have ourselves to blame.

Miracles can happen even on the darkest days
When we fear that all is lost and that hope has gone astray
Sometimes we drop our weapons when the price we pay’s too great
When the damage to the ones we love is greater than our hate.

Well it’s time to come together across the dividing lines
For our children who are suffering from the pain of these our times
It’s not just ridicule and taunts,or bullying by their peers
Grown-ups rage and hate-filled words are ringing in their ears.

REFRAIN

Bigotry and hatred still hang heavy in the air
They poison children’s hearts and minds and leave them in despair
But if we can beat these demons that have kept us so far apart
Love and true forgiveness will begin to heal our hearts.

Well the healing won’t be easy because the pain we’ve caused runs deep,
The injury that we have sown we fear one day we’ll reap,
But if we plant the seeds of peace and with one voice at last,
We join our hearts in peace and love, this painful time will pass!

REFRAIN

There’s no doubt that increasingly the world has grown unfair
And for some just plain survival, takes more than they can bear
But when we attack each other, we play the enemies game,
And fail to see that across the line the suffering’s much the same

Well we can defeat the enemy if we recognize it’s face
Let the hatred that divides us, finally be erased.
Let’s finally stand together with our voices loud and clear
And let a song of healing be the one that children hear.

REFRAIN

Wow, right? Sing this song and pass it around. Everyone needs to know this one. Watching the video, I thought of another song I discovered several years ago when a certain christian pastor in the south was burning the Quran.   We kept vigil with our Muslim brothers and sisters in front of our church and invited people of all faiths to gather with us. We took turns reading lines from the sacred texts of our wondrously diverse religious traditions. I shared this song. It was the beginning of on-going conversations with our local Mosque.

Rev. Alfred Neimoller, a Lutheran pastor during the Holocaust wrote these words. When he was just beginning his career, the Nazis were beginning their horror and he actually preached the superiority of the Arien race as Gospel. At some point, he had a moment of conscience, repented and reversed and began speaking out against Hitler. He was arrested and spent the last few years of the War in the death camps. After the War, he traveled, wrote and spoke these words often:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

In 2008, Ellen Bukstel and Nick Annis composed words and music from Neimoller’s witness. The title is By My Silence. Listen as they sing it on this video and follow the lyrics I have printed below:

Lyrics for By My Silence by Ellen Bukstel and Nick Annis

I’m not a communist so when they came for the communists I held my tongue,
Minded my own business like a good neighbor
I trusted that justice was done

I didnt ask what was their crime
It was their sadness, wasnt mine.
I didnt care where they were sent.
By my silence I gave my consent,
By my silence I gave my consent.

I am not Jewish and so when they came for the Jews
I had nothing to say,
Branded with stars like cattle in box cars
and then…taken away.

I didnt ask what was their crime.
It was their sadness, wasnt mine.
I didnt care where they were sent.
By my silence I gave my consent,
By my silence I gave my consent.

I didn’t care when they came for the Unionists,
Came for the socialists, they took the powerless.
I’m not a terrorist. I’m not an immigrant.
I’m native born faithfully ignorant.

I didnt care what was their crime
Until their sorrow turned into mine,
Until their sorrow turned into mine.

I was ok I was a citizen and I was free,
I didn’t care now there’s nobody there
No one to speak out for me!

At the time I believed
Itd never happen to me.
I didnt know what it meant
For my silence to give my consent,
For my silence to be my consent,
By my silence…give my consent.

Are these words any less timely than during the Holocaust? Read them. Sing them. I’m learning them and preparing myself to show up more often with my guitar. If I can help get them sung where you are, let me know. We must keep singing together, arm in arm. The last I give you is another from Peter Yarrow just composed and performed the first time October 29 with his daughter Bethany. Now Bethany Yarrow has taken it to Standing Rock to sing in unity with the people of that place and the protectors of sacred water and those who stand with them. May it bless, keep and bind them and us, as we head into a long cold winter of resistance. Lift us up. Please.

Lyrics for Lift Us Up by Peter Yarrow

Lift us up. Make our stand.
Let love triumph in our land.
Lift us up. Make us strong.
Give us courage to right the wrong.

America, our hopes and dreams are truly all at stake.
Let not the hate divide us. Let not our spirit break.
Let not our courage falter. Let not our bravery fail.
Let unity bring victory. Let love prevail.

Lift us up. Make our stand.
Let love triumph in our land.
Lift us up. Make us strong.
Give us courage to right the wrong.

Lift us up. Make our stand.
Let love triumph in our land. In our land.
born faithfully ignorant.

I didnt care what was their crime
Until their sorrow turned into mine,
Until their sorrow turned into mine.

I was ok I was a citizen and I was free,
I didn’t care now there’s nobody there
No one to speak out for me!

At the time I believed
Itd never happen to me.
I didnt know what it meant
For my silence to give my consent,
For my silence to be my consent,
By my silence…give my consent.

John-Pitney-Main-blue

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