My Pandemic Playlist #6: If I Had a Hammer
by Peter, Paul and Mary
This morning a woman stopped me on the street. She told me, quite plainly, that she had given up all hope. “Maybe there’s a single thread of it left. But that’s it. And that thread can no longer hold me up.”
I tried to give her a half-dozen reasons of why not to sink into her despair. But she’d have none of it. After two years of living in isolation, a lost custody battle, a friend slain by Covid and now a week of Buffalo, Alito, and the landlord jacking the rent by 20%, she saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t try to dissuade her. That would be cruel when I, too, couldn’t see much of a light either on this particular gloomy morning.
“Hey,” I said to this total stranger, “let’s get on a plane and head to New Zealand! I hear they’re happy down there. Or Iceland! We can be at JFK in 40 minutes. Or how ‘bout that fruit stand over there? We could eat a peach or a pear. A pear always reveals the truth! A peach could hold eternal happiness!”
She looked at me as if I were mad, and perhaps I was, but I’d reached my limit of listening to the overwhelming cacophony of resignation that surrounds me and you and all of us these days. Sometimes, as that kid said in Risky Business, “sometimes you just gotta say, ‘what the fuck.’” And head out to JFK and get on the next plane going anywhere. This life needs to get shaken up — and fast! Even if the next flight is to Bakersfield.
At that moment I realized I’d left in one ear one of my buds from my little square iPod (now discontinued by Apple, this week, forever) —and here, in this last remaining iPod shuffle on Earth, was just the song she and me and all of you needed to get us to stand up, snap out of it and start singing and acting right now like our lives depended on it — because, like it or not, we’re in the best and biggest fight of our lives — and there’s so damn many of us and that’s why we CAN NOT lose now!
I gave her the buds so she could hear Peter, Paul and Mary sing Pete Seeger’s and Lee Hays’ “If I Had a Hammer.” And then I said rather loudly so she could hear, “If you sing along, all trouble will disappear!”
And then I just started belting it out…
Hammer! Bell! Song! Justice! Freedom! Love!
And then she joined in!
And on these crazy streets of New York City, it probably looked like the sanest thing anyone had seen all year.
(I dedicate this song today to the hundreds of thousands who marched in the 400 rallies on Saturday, to the victims of white supremacy in Buffalo (also on Saturday), and to anyone who needs a song to sing right now about the love we share with all our brothers and sisters, everywhere.)
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