Wednesday, April 2, 2008


As the first Sunday of the month approaches
A day when I'll stand
for Peace
perhaps with my wife
perhaps with some friends
perhaps all alone

For an hour
On the green
Of a little town called Bethlehem

I think of a question
I'm always asked: "Why do you do it?"

I have many answers for that
But sometimes
I think of my grandparents
who moved here
to America
from Germany
In the years between
The First and Second World Wars
And this song comes to mind:


(One of the four housewives, who in May 1966, made a personal demonstration, and prevented a load of napalm bombs from being delivered on time, made a statement as to why she had done it. I have simply tried to put the statement into meter, rhyme, and music. — Pete Seeger)

My name is Lisa Kalvelage, I was born in Nuremberg
And when the trials were held there nineteen years ago
It seemed to me ridiculous to hold a nation all to blame
For the horrors that the world did undergo
A short while later when I applied to be a G. I. bride
An American consular official questioned me
He refused my exit permit, said my answers did not show
I'd learned my lesson about responsibility.

Thus suddenly I was forced to start thinking on this theme
And when later I was permitted to emigrate
I must have been asked a hundred times where I was and what I did
In those years when Hitler ruled our state
I said I was a child or at most a teen-ager
But that only extended the questioning
They'd ask, where were my parents, my father, my mother
And to this I could answer not a thing.

The seed planted there at Nuremberg in 1947
Started to sprout and to grow
Gradually I understood what that verdict meant to me
When there are crimes that I can see and I can know
And now I also know what it is to be charged with mass guilt
Once in a lifetime is enough for me

No, I could not take it for a second time
And that is why I am here today.
The events of May 25th, the day of our protest,
Put a small balance weight on the other side

Hopefully, someday my contribution to peace
Will help just a bit to turn the tide
And perhaps I can tell my children six
And later on their own children
That at least in the future they need not be silent
When they are asked, "Where was your mother, when?"

I'm there for the same reason
As the woman in the song
As the writer of the song
I'm standing there
In case anyone asks
"Where was I, when?"

A little Pete Seeger story:

"About two winters ago, on Route 9 outside Beacon, one winter day, it was freezing—rainy and slushy, a miserable winter day—the war in Iraq is just heating up and the country's in a poor mood," Cronin said. "I'm driving north, and on the other side of the road I see from the back a tall, slim figure in a hood and coat. I'm looking, and I can tell it's Pete, He's standing there all by himself, and he's holding up a big piece of cardboard that clearly has something written on it. Cars and trucks are going by him. He's getting wet. He's holding the homemade sign above his head—he's very tall, and his chin is raised the way he does when he sings—and he's turning the sign in a semicircle, so that the drivers can see it as they pass, and some people are honking and waving at him, and some people are giving him the finger. He's eighty-four years old. I know he's got some purpose, of course, but I don't know what it is. What struck me is that, whatever his intentions are, and obviously he wants people to notice what he's doing, he wants to make an impression—anyway, whatever they are, he doesn't call the newspapers and say, 'I'm Pete Seeger, here's what I'm going to do.' He doesn't cultivate publicity. That isn't what he does. He's far more modest than that. He would never make a fuss. He's just standing out there in the cold and the sleet like a scarecrow. I go a little bit down the road, so that I can turn and come back, and when I get him in view again, this solitary and elderly figure, I see that what he's written on the sign is 'Peace.'"

John Cronin quoted in a New Yorker Magazine article (April 17, 2006) by Alec Wilkinson "THE PROTEST SINGER; Pete Seeger" (

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