Surround Hate and Force It to Surrender

Remembering the great American folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger, who died three years ago on January 27

By Jonathan Rose

Pete Seeger was a global icon—an inspiration to lovers of music, the environment, and freedom—but he balanced his worldliness with his deep rootedness in the Hudson River Valley. He was always willing to show up and help a local cause. So Pete readily agreed to come play at the Garrison Institute’s opening ceremony, joining Philip Glass and spiritual teachers from many faiths.

Pete came back a few times after the Institute’s opening ceremony to play for our Climate Mind and Behavior gatherings, which bring together leading thinkers, researchers, and doers working on shifting environmental behaviors. The evening Pete played in this video, Van Jones spoke on the Politics of Hope. Pete was a huge Van Jones fan, and although he was getting on in years and had taken to staying home in the evenings, he stayed out later than usual because he wanted to meet Van.

Philip Glass with Pete Seeger at the Garrison Institute

Pete’s banjo had a motto emblazoned on it: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” It was a response to his mentor Woody Guthie’s statement, written on his guitar: “This machine kills fascists.” Pete didn’t believe that any killing was justified.

In this video, Pete plays the song “Quite Early Morning,” singing important words for our current political and cultural moment.

“You know it’s darkest before the dawn, this thought keeps me moving on. If we could heed those early warnings, the time is now, quite early morning.”

If he were alive today, Pete would tell us that it’s time to surround hate and force it to surrender.

Jonathan Rose is cofounder of the Garrison Institute and the creator of its Climate, Mind and Behavior program. He is the author of The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life.

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