The first few times this title came up on my C-Span directory, I rejected it out of hand: its hosting organization is a right-wing think tank I usually abhor. But sometimes they get something right, and sometimes there is nothing else on, so I tuned in….
… to one of the most amazing roadmaps to twentieth century left-wing intellectual culture that I’ve ever heard. Oh, I’ve heard most of it before, but in little snippets. It has often been delivered by either adherents or attackers who can’t resist the cheap shot, the snuggly rhetorical reference, the cozy wink.
This man is a true professor. He cares that you learn, and he’s willing to tell you there’s important stuff you haven’t read, or need to read again. And hemakes points that illuminate Tom Schade’s attempts to widen the lens through which we shaped our grief — or not — over the death of Pete Seeger, by providing the scholarly and cultural context into which the Almanac Singers launched their musical darts and grins.
I’m a red-diaper baby myself; my mother and I cried together over the loss of this artist who sang the soundtrack of our sixty years together. If it weren’t for Pete, I wouldn’t have heard of Woody Guthrie, and if I hadn’t heard about Woody Guthrie, I wouldn’t now be joyously in love with a woman — a musical one, I might add — living with the same Huntington’s Disease that took down Woody and his mother. Their courage to me now is strictly personal
But their message was a two-edged sword to the denomination I love. So please, take the time to listen to Professor Siegel. What he says matches snippets I’ve seen in many uncurated congregational archives and UU letters and sermons from the eras on which he reports. He’s resurrecting thinkers, researchers, scholars, debates that laid our cultural foundations, way back in the time of World War I. In fact, when I made a study of literature, many’s the historian who noted that the Great War shattered the intellectual realm as thoroughly as it mowed down all those young men and national borders.