TEXAS POLITICIANS AND NUCLEAR TIMES AUSTIN A letter making well-taken points concerning the Observer’s Cuban comment has arrived from Mrs. Allene McWhirter of Alvarado, south of Fort Worth. “True, she wrotes, “Kennedy has not given nuclear weapons to other nations. He has not removed those weapons from the countries where his predecessors placed them, however, so he is an accessory after the fact. “True also, we retain control over those weapons in other countries; do we have proof that Khrushchev actually was turning his weapons over to Castro? .. “All nationalism is surplus in this atomic age. Kennedy’s action guaranteed him political survival, if Khrushchev was big enough to risk his own political survival by losing face. Since he was big enough, \(and I think there is no doubt that right now there are tremendous pressures from the extremists in Russia for him to do somestill survive. AUSTIN Pete Seeger is a minstrel, es distinguished from simply a singer of popular songs or from a folk song buff or even a concert artist. He likes to pick up his steel guitar and his long-necked banjo and head off across country. singing for people, trading and collecting songs, and bringing a message, often little understood and little heeded, of brotherly love and of the need for peace. Last week when he came to Austin on the behalf of University of Texas student peace and integration groups, merchants of hate were on hand to pass out handbills to his audiences which quoted from the annals of other haters, such as the House Un-American Activities Committee, suggesting that he did not fit into the narrow category of 100 percent Americans which the extreme right seems to reserve exclusively for itself. The effect of the handbills on the audiences mostly students was manifested after each performance, when admiring fans thrust them upon him to be autographed. The reaction was easy to understand. Seeger’s talent and personal appeal make him practically invulnerable to smears. This is doubly true in light of his recent victory over H.U.A.C. Only last May a U.S. court of appeals unanimously reversed his conviction of contempt of Congress by a lower court because of his refusal to answer questions by a subcommittee of H.U.A.C. in 1955. In an eloquent speech before the convicting court, Seeger said: “I have never in my life supported or done anything subversive to my country. I am proud that I never have refused to sing for any organization because I disagreed with its beliefs.” He is still blacklisted by the entertainment industry, but he does not mind. “I’m probably doing better now than if I hadn’t been blacklisted,” he told the Observer, smiling. “I’m playing primarily to college audiences these daysand they’re the best audiences you can have.” If those in Austin were typical, there was little doubt his statement was true. The students were packed in so tightly that the aisles were filled, and many people had to sit on the stage. “That’s the way I like to have it,” Seeger said. “If it’s a full house, you can get them to respond without any trouble at all.” S EEGER is 43, lean, ruddy faced, with serious blue eyes and a soft voice. He has thinning brown hair and strong hands, and when he “Will Kennedy agree to remove our bases from Turkey, as a beginning toward general disarmament? He will not; he is a politician, not a statesman, and I recognize in him cleverness but not wisdom. What benefit to his immediate political survival when every facet of foreign policy is based on pre-atomic power politics, moving us inexorably toward extinction?” It was, indeed, one element in our Cuban thinking, overt or suppressed, that Kennedy had to contend with the U.S. right wing; that he had to keep the country with him. Should a Democratic president so shock the people’s attitudes of military nationalism that he incur intense national disillusion in him, there would be a danger of suicidal conservative reaction in the country. Because of this, it is not fair to assert that Kennedy was motivated, on this score, alone or primarily by concern for his and the Democrats’ re-election. Nevertheless, citizens have to face a truth that Richard Rovere stated in a New Yorker piece on the Cuban begins to play, his body moves with the music. Unlike many musicians, his personality is very much a part of the performance; unlike, say, the work of the Kingston Trio, some of the vigor and color of his work is lost in a recordingwhich doesn’t mean a Seeger record is not superior to one of the Kingston Trio’s. On the stage, in the flesh, he is able to establish a bond with the audience very few performers can. Within minutes he has inveterate non-singers warbling confidently along with him on a refrain with as much enthusiasm as it is said Vachel Linsday’s audiences felt. It is difficult to say just what quality it is that so appeals to his audiences. His voice is not particularly remarkable, as he himself candidly admits. “I’m no virtuoso,” he says. “I just let the song speak. People have put their whole lives into writing these songs.” But “letting a song speak” is not as easy as it sounds. Handling a piece with just the right amount of restraint, or nostalgia, or humor, or sadness as is necessary to articulate the emotions of the folk from which the song came requires a sensitivityand a technical proficiencyborn of an intimate knowledge of music . . . and perhaps of people as well. Seeger was hesitant to be interviewed by the Observer, especially if it involved discussing politics and AUSTIN For Texas legislators, the presence of six Republicans from Dallas in the House of Representatives is the most significant event of the 1962 election. Indeed, it is an historic change that could liberalize the entire legislative process. It has been generally understood to mean that Dallas, as an area seeking special local privileges and rights, such as the second congressman to which it is entitled, will suffer many punishments in the Democratic legislature. It has not, however, been generally understood that the six Republicans from Dallas \(notice the rhythmic sound of that phrase; will make life miserable for every conservative Democrat in the House, and conceivably also for many in the Senate. Heretofore, the average voter has not had the foggiest glimpse of the true issues in the legislature. How many among them took the time to understand the nuances of that diffuse and cacophonous body’s multi situation. Had Kennedy made the mistakes Khrushchev made and then ordered the humiliating hackdown Khrushchev ordered, either he would have been impeached or he would have lost his authority as President. As Khrushchev has said, “Both sides were ready” for all-out nuclear war. Had the blockade resulted in combat, with our invasion of Cuba ensuing, the war would have been over in a few hours, and not only would there have been no more Castro, here would have been no America and no Russia, and the deaths from radiation would have continued for perhaps as long as there was life on earth. ARE WE to be proud and grateful that it was Khrushchev, instead of Kennedy, who backed down? This would be taking tricks in bridge while the house burns around you. If such a confrontation arises again and the. U.S. antagonistRussia, or China before longrefuses to back down, we must expect of our Presi other things non-musical. “I try to let my music say what I’ve got to say,” he said with a frown ; “In fact, I probably talked a little bit too much tonight on stage, instead of leaving it to the music.” THERE is no doubt that his music packs a wallop. Folk music is a notorious vehicle for satire, whether it is the gentle irony of a Negro spiritual or the biting lampoon of a student song. While playing in the University Y.M.C.A.which has recently come under fire for being host to controversial speakers and student groupsSeeger sang a lampoon he said he had learned from a student group at a midwestern college whose “Y” was having similar problems. Another modern “folk” song dealt with a little Negro student being kept out of an Arkansas school. Another, more sorrowful than satiric, bore on the horrors of nuclear war at Hiroshima. Another, sung in Spanish, was taught to him, he said, by a fellow who volunteered to fight against Hitler and Mussolini “before it was popular to do so”during the Spanish Civil War. For his closing number he chose the impressive hymn of the Negro student revolt, “We Shall Overcome.” The audience joined in, and when the song was finished, they gave Seeger a standing ovation, as they had the preceding night. C.D. farious disputes? Very, very few. Even readers of the Observer had to burn candles over long reports of various issues to keep up. Consider 1963. The six Republicans from Dallas will be voting, often en bloc, for the very same things, and against the very same things, the conservative Democrats have been voting for and against as long as the Observer has paid any attention to the legislature. The dramatic political difference will be the availability of a comparison between the voting records of the six House Republicans and every other member of the House. How is it going to sit with Democrats that their elected representative is voting, say, “93 percent with the six Republicans from Dallas”? You could tell them he voted against the natural gas pipeline tax, for the across-the-board sales tax, against the federal income tax, and for a tax on childbirth, and who could remember’? But now ! Gentlemen, beware. dent, Kennedy or’ a Republican, that he be willing, utterly and unqualifiedly willing, to be a political sacrifice to the survival of the species. One must join in Mrs. McWhirter’s conjecture that Kennedy, the shrewd Boston politician, has not sufficiently reflected upon the real possibility that he will be driven to such a choice during his term of office. Like the permeations of radiation, the menace of nuclear war has finally accomplished actual moral domination, not only over national and world politics, but also over provincial politics. If such seriousness must be demanded of Kennedy, and it must, then, in a representative democracy, it must also be demanded of every politician responsible for helping shape public values and opinion. Senator Yarborough, on Sept. 6, called for a military blockade of Cuba, and his reaction to the blockade was approving. But what has Senator Yarborough done to tell Texans who listen to himand they are legion what nuclear war would really be like? Precisely and at least because he has done nothing, if the Cuban crisis had resulted in such a war he would have borne a heavy personal responsibility, as would almost every other member of the United States Senate. Senator Tower, on Oct. 30, approved the blockade, and though declining to advocate invasion “unless it appears absolutely necessary,” called for “further action” and stressed that the Republicans’ goal “is not coexistence but victory over communism.” In many more cases than not, Republicans are complicitous in the new quite literally suicidal thinking expressed by billionaire H. L. Hunt in a letter in the Austin Statesman Oct. 4: “Coexistence with anti-God forces is impossible.” Vice-President Johnson, on Oct. 3 in Albuquerque,’ said a blockade of Cuba could bring on World War III. The point was politically advantageous to make then. What does he say now? That the United States has made no commitment that would fortify communism in this hemispheregobbledygook that can be taken as a repudiation of the President’s pledge not to invade Cuba. Politics is being played with the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Republican candidate Ross Baker charged Houston Congressman Bob Casey with opposing the blockade before it happened and saying after it happened that it should have been instituted sooner. He had him cold, so Casey said his record had been slandered. Casey won, but who cares? Both these men have contributed to the probability of violent human death on a scale never before known or imagined. To spare one’s friends in this matter would be to betray the species. Congressman Henry Gonzalez of San Antonio, while approving the blockade, said he would have preferred to have heard the President say the government had received “communications from the first beach-head commander that he had blown up the first base and was blowing up others.” This statement was more irresponsible, more nationalist, and more suicidal than anything Tower or any other leading Texas politician said. As though one man’s bravado had anything to do with the prospect of the mass annihilation of hundreds of millions of children, women, and men ! THIS IS a time when men and women of all politics and faiths must act and speak on this question only and always in the name of our common humanity. Citizens must expect a very much higher standard of humanism and candor from politicians than we have enjoyed, and politicians must expect of citizens a very much higher standard of informedness and understanding than they have enjoyed. R.D. THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 November 16, 1962 Songs That Speak for Themselves Memo to Legislators
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