The anointing of Pete Seeger as a great American hero most recently came to light with the naming of a school auditorium in Beacon after the renowned folk artist. This among other suggestions for bridges and paths.
Many of us know Pete Seeger as a kindly, avuncular man who sings beautiful and uplifting songs with sensitive and delicate banjo interpretations. And we also know and appreciate him as a fearless spokesman against atrocities perpetrated by the right. But when faced with the far greater atrocities perpetrated by the left, his response has been mostly silence.
What would you think of him had you lost family and community in the great government induced famines in Russia (1921), the Ukraine (1932-1933), China (1958-1964) and North Korea (ongoing) We are talking at the very least about 50 million lives in all, probably much more. And there are others.
A reluctant apology putting these atrocities on the same level as other historical injustices (inquisitions, crusades, witch hunts, slavery, segregation) is not an apology but a profanation. The occasion demands sustained exposure and assiduous documentation. It is one thing to be sympathetic towards socialism. It is quite another to ignore known atrocities on an unprecedented historical scale. This is not heroism. Could there be another side to the great artist and the learned academic?
I look forward to the day when all holocausts are met with the same horror and sense
Rather, dedicate them to the memory of the 50 million victims, those who died horrible deaths of starvation at the hands of their own government, self-proclaimed governments of the people, protectors of the poor. Dedicate the bridges, paths and auditoriums to the irony that these deaths were ignored by those whose self-proclaimed mission is the protest of injustice.