IF I HAD A HAMMER…..
You remember that wonderful song, written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949 and made immensely popular by Peter, Paul and Mary over a decade later. “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land…I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out a warning, I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters…all over this land…”
Like so many songs that pop into my head at three o’clock in the morning, this one popped in and has refused to pop out. And that’s okay. I always loved it. No more than now – maybe because I’m older and wiser and more aware than I was as a kid of how important it is to act. And how easy it is not to. How easy it is to weigh the pros and cons, let somebody else worry about it, allow our self-interests or fear of losing power, of losing face, of looking foolish…take over our lives; for allowing pragmatism and expediency to obliterate our passion for doing the right thing. It’s so easy to wait…and see. To shrug. To shake our heads. To bow out.
But “qui tacit consentire videtur.” Silence means consent. And that’s true – not only for the enormous issues we wrestle with today – global climate change, gay rights, reproductive rights, immigration rights…stronger gun controls. Or the many issues we wrestled with in the past – the abolishment of slavery, the struggle over civil rights – but for the smaller day-to-day “issues” that we “allow” – so that our names will not be on a document – or on the lips – of those who could “blame” us, “not “hire us,” demote” us…” or refuse us their “vote.”
We are citizens of this country of ours. Of this world of ours. We are all we have. And that’s enough. If we act.
Silence means consent. If we don’t take a stand on climate change, gay rights, reproductive rights or immigration rights – that means that whatever is decided by whomever – is “okay” with us.
Of course, it’s hard to decide. To act; To take a stand. It always was, it always will be. So what do we do? Here are three questions I ask myself in any number of situations when I’m tempted – for a moment – to “bow out.” They help a lot. Maybe they’ll help you. Even today.
1. What am I doing here? living in this particular country at this particular moment…
2. What difference will it make that I was here? Will anything have changed? Will it be better? Or worse? Or just stay the same?
3. What will I say about myself afterwards? (Not what will “they” say; what will I say…)
And then I sing those last few lines of that old song…”Well, I got a hammer, And I got a bell, And I got a song to sing, all over this land. It’s the hammer of Justice, It’s the bell of Freedom, It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters…all over this land.”
Corny? Maybe. But it works for me.. Take a listen…