If I had a Hammer


If I had a Hammer

When Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes wrote this folk song over seventy years ago, they were attempting to promote a Communist event being held in New York. The song was banned in some quarters because of the event where it was first sung. If you read the words today, would you think that this is a ‘protest’ song.

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, ah-ah
All over this land

Of course, Pete also had a bell to ring and a song to sing in subsequent verses. His hammer was used to communicate, danger, warning, love.

My colleague comments that if you have a hammer today, everyone else is a nail. If we think about it we walk around filled with anger and want to spill that anger on everyone in sight. We take our hammer and apply its force to whomever is handy. Her concern is that today, after two years of pandemic, lock downs, masks, inoculation requirements, school and business closures, everyone has a hammer. And we go around looking for a nail. And trust me, if you are looking for a fight, you will find it.

I wonder if life isn’t complicated enough without adding to the problems at the lowest possible level. When my neighbor and I walk around the neighborhood, yes with dog GIGI, we go out of our way to talk to everyone we see. Just a chat. How are you? Isn’t that a cute dog, or baby, or did you see that new house going up down the block? Charlie is having his sewer replaced. Did you get your gas bill? WOW! How is the redo going on your house? Tell me about your trip back east. Was the airport chaos? And that is on one day, in about half an hour.

These are just people. They probably have different views on politics, masks, pandemics, that we do, but we never bring them up. We have found that there is more to talk about than just what we read in the paper. At the lowest level, (or perhaps it’s the highest level), we talk about things that are fun, interesting, and affect each of us. Things we can change, fix, and oftentimes laugh about. (I carry pepper spray when I walk GIGI at 5AM because coyotes have been seen in our neighborhood. My neighbor is certain that the spray will work, because I will never see a coyote. His wife is so concerned about coyotes that she had him install a gate in their driveway. It’s about three feet tall. I’m sure any respectable coyote will go right over it. But that’s a discussion for another walk.)

I’m sure David and I carry hammers somewhere in our psyches, but we keep them well under wraps. It’s a lot more fun to see smiles on people’s faces than anger in their hearts. If you must, hammer out love. I’m sure Pete would approve.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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