Could the right wing's guns in the culture war have been muffled?
When an archenemy of the right, Pete Seeger, died at 94, the right-wing guns were silent or as distant as summer thunder. Rush Limbaugh merely snarked about a moment of silence during the State of the Union.
I first learned of the menace to white Protestant civilization the folksinger posed in the eyes of the right on an evening in the 1970s at the house of friends. Two local friends and a visiting Texan strummed guitars and sang a Hank Williams song about the death of a black baby.
They projected a barrier-crossing feeling of common humanity as those educated, privileged white men sang a lament for the black baby's death written by the poet of blue-collar culture, Hank Williams.
The moment was shattered when I asked innocently if anyone knew "Blowin' In the Wind." The Texan's answer was like an unprovoked slap in the face, "We don't play communist songs."
At the time, I wasn't aware of Seeger's flirtation with Stalinist Russia, and so his rebuke came straight out of right field. Instead, I had him fixed as a prominent part of the historic 1963 March on Washington I had covered as a young Washington correspondent.
Many times during that long day, the Peter, Paul and Mary trio's songs were an entertaining part of the event, such as, "I got a hammer and I got a bell, it's the hammer of justice and the bell of freedom."
And the anthem of the movement, "We Shall Overcome," which impressed me even more than Dr. Martin Luther King's poetic speech I later learned was a Pete Seeger arrangement.
When people sing, and sing as the thousands upon thousands of the marchers did, it is a soul-stirring and impressive statement that all barriers are destined to fall before it.
Seeger was such an essential part of the inlay of the civil rights movement that I naturally took the Texan's rude remark to be racist, in the sense that segregationists of that time tended to equate integration with communism.
It is true that Seeger for a time supported Stalinist Russia, just as many left-leaning Americans did in the 1940s and 1950s, believing our wartime ally had created a paradise for the common man.