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Marc Ash: I Have a Hammer

I Have a Hammer

By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Editorial

Sunday 01 January 2006

I remember sitting on the floor of the Rockland County Center for the Arts building in New York, on a spring day in 1964. Eight years old. My mother, bless her soul, was the director of that small non-profit community art center. We had gathered to sing along with a local folk musician, and we sang "If I had a Hammer," and as we sang I remember thinking kid thoughts ... "Yeah, if I had a hammer, I would sound out a warning about danger, and I would hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, I would."

The years flew by, and I came to understand that the hammer was not wielded by me or my brothers and sisters, but at us. And that realization led to years of rage within me.

In August of 2000, the Democratic party held its convention in Los Angeles. I lived within walking distance of the auditorium. I had a studio in an old run down wood and brick garment loft above, but not very far above, skid row. The years in downtown Los Angeles were the hardest of my life. When I moved to what was a largely abandoned and aging industrial district, packs of stray, feral dogs roamed the streets. It was "the other side of LA."

The Democratic convention brought with it a passion for political awareness. It was clear that broadcast news was a show, and that show had come to define the center of American political thinking. I was developing web sites for anyone who would pay me. I wanted to develop a news site that would force the hand of the commercial broadcasters. I registered the name TruthOut.

TruthOut as a project did not get off the ground right away; it lacked a lightning rod. That changed on December 13th, 2000. The decision by five Republican Supreme Court justices to intercede on behalf of George W. Bush, effectively installing him as President of the United States, rocked the world and fired TO from the mouth of a cannon, ready or not.

Teach Your Children Well

It's five years later, and all of my hopes for TO have been exceeded. We reach a quarter of a million readers a day and are particularly well read on Capitol Hill. We have, currently, twenty-three TruthOuters and no commercial money or large donors. In fact, you support TO.

All told though, I can't overestimate the importance of being exposed to passionate social thinking at an early age. What did Pete Seeger mean? Striking that hammer, ringing that bell to warn of danger seemed so simple, so noble, that spring forty-one years ago. But the danger surrounded us then as it does now. Vietnam was just becoming a place on the map that most Americans could point to, John Kennedy dead not a year, African-American civil rights workers fighting for their lives in the south.

Dr. King had it right - he rang the bell of freedom, struck the hammer of justice, and sang about love between his brothers and his sisters all over the land. We growing up in that time watched and learned and hoped for the day that we might in some small way, some day, answer the calling. I say "we" because I'm not the only one.

I think one cannot be both silent and free.

We've got a hammer and we've got a bell, and we've got a song to sing, all over this land.

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

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've 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

-- Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes, 1949


You can send comments to t r u t h o u t Executive Director Marc Ash at:

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