Pete Seeger is a true American hero in my mind—a man of immense moral courage & a patriot in the deepest sense of the word. One of Johnny Cash’s finest moments was when he defied the blacklisting of Seeger & had him as a guest on his show—& stated his opinion for the cameras, in the midst of the late 60s turmoil—that Seeger was one of the most patriotic men he knew. I agree.
But more important: Seeger’s message. I’m not a Christian, nor even a “believer” in any religious sense of the word, but I must say I’ve never found the phrase “love your enemies” to be particularly ambiguous.
Regarding this, I found the following excerpt from Gustave Gilbert’s interview with Herman Göring during the Nuremberg Trials to be both illuminating & chilling:
Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
We may not all have the fortitude of someone like Pete Seeger, but we can all in small ways try to “surround hate with love & force it to surrender.”