Turn, Turn, Turn
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
Words from Ecclesiastes; text adapted and music by Pete Seeger
We received a wonderful Chanukah present the other day, a children’s book called Turn! Turn! Turn! It is an illustrated adaptation by designer Wendy Anderson Halperin, of words from the Old Testament and music by Pete Seeger.
This present rekindled for me emotions, as I am sure it does for others, as I remembered things past; youth, family, naïve images of peace and tranquility. There is poignancy for us now too as we move towards the holidays at the same time that we struggle over the range of issues that will shape the destiny of humankind: peace, saving the environment, jobs, and health care reform.
This season progressives are debating whether we have been betrayed by Barack Obama; who is the biggest scoundrel — Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe; how to revitalize the peace movement; and whether to finally break with the Democrats.
But then “Turn, Turn, Turn” reminds us that “to everything there is a season.” The song suggests that the ebbs and flows of history are not bound by calendars, dates and times, and heroes and villains. A “season” is defined by its historic projects.
And these historic projects, the words suggest, include “a time to reap,” “a time to build,” “a time to break down,” “a time to cast away stones,” and “a time to gather stones together.”
Our projects, our seasons, entail defeats and victories, tears and laughter, but the seasons go on and encompass “a time to love” and “a time to hate.” And in the end the song declares, “I swear it’s not too late.”
So if we are inspired by the song, as we were in the 1960s, we remember that the struggles for peace and justice are not about individuals, political parties, and calendar deadlines but about the continued commitments which we have made to create peace, save the planet, put people back to work, and provide secure health care for all.
[Harry Tarq is a professor in American Studies who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical, where this article also appears.]
- Find Turn! Turn! Turn! on Amazon.com