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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Debating the Life of Pete Seeger

From the Associated Press

A priest friend of mine used the occasion of legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger's, recent passing to tie him to the "100 million victims of the communism he advocated."

In response to his Facebook post, I wrote the following:
Fr. --: Whatever his professed ideology, Pete Seeger left the CPUSA around 1950 (about 65 years ago) and denounced the party afterwards.  In 1982, he [supported] Poland's Solidarity movement.  He apologized for “thinking that Stalin was simply a 'hard-driver' and not a supremely cruel misleader” (such humility is rare these days).  He even wrote a song entitled “Big Joe Blues”, which blasted Joseph Stalin.
Please don’t let his past affiliations - many people with a conscience had such affiliations back then – distract you from the good that he had done.  
A friend of the priest joined in the discussion and wrote that Seeger "never gave up his support for Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry."

Now that , in my view, does tarnish Seeger's legacy.  Of course, I am admittedly ignorant of the nature and extent of his (supposed?) support for Planned Parenthood, but I do know that he had supported abortion rights (I haven't seen evidence suggesting that he ever disavowed his pro-choice stance). For those who, like myself, are pro-life, this fact should temper - though not necessarily erase - our praise of him.  Here's the second half of my response:
Like Archbishop Iakovos, Seeger stood side-by-side with MLK, advocating for civil rights.  He was recognized for his dedication to the fight against hunger and poverty, and was involved in other praiseworthy causes (such as the cleanup of the highly-polluted Hudson River).  
He preached justice, peace, dialogue, and interracial harmony.  He helped to revive America’s beautiful folk music.  I’m sorry, Fr., but you’re trampling on a patriot’s grave.  
Perhaps I'm naive in hoping that he was merely confused in his support of abortion rights - not recognizing that abortion results in the death of an actual human being, not simply the destruction of a clump of cells.  I would like to think that he would have repented of his stance on abortion, much like how he eventually turned away from his support of the Soviet Union.  Only God knows what was in his heart.  Abortion views aside, I cannot help but admire the more praiseworthy aspects of his life.  Rest in peace, Pete Seeger.