Pete Seeger performs at a protest in New York, October 1975 (ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

I spent part of the long Independence Day weekend listening to an old recording of “Woody’s Children,” a folk-music program that premiered in 1969 and ran for several decades on New York’s WQXR. The particular program that I tuned into was first broadcast in October of that year, coinciding with the Vietnam moratorium. Not surprisingly, it consisted entirely of antiwar songs, a genre then at the height of its popularity.

I had missed the show the first time around. In October 1969, I was attending Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a freshly minted, Vietnam-bound army second lieutenant. At the time, I felt no particular affinity for antiwar activists or their music.

Hearing the program for the first time in July 2023 nearly brought me to tears. That said, much of the music itself, although decidedly earnest, has not aged well. Frequently maudlin and bluntly didactic, the lyrics tend to lack subtlety. Yet as a political testimonial, the entire protest genre holds up remarkably well. Even today, with the folk revival of the sixties a distant memory, it retains underappreciated relevance.

But fifty-some years later, the peace movement itself is on life support. Efforts to curb America’s appetite for war have simply failed. The draft-eligible Baby Boomers who marched against the Vietnam War in their youth tacitly embraced militarism once they reached the heights of political, academic, journalistic, and corporate power.

Read the full piece in Commonweal Magazine.

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