Daily prompt: Cliches become cliches because they’re all too true


We all knew it, didn’t we, if we’re old enough. Even if we didn’t sing along, we knew it, and hoped against hope that it was true.

From its roots in African American hymns of the early 20th century to its role as the unofficial anthem of the African American civil rights movement in the 50s, to its popularity at the sit-ins of the 60s prompted by Guy Carawan and ultimately adapted to its best-known version by Pete Seeger, this simple folk song has spread hope and optimism and determination for over a century. And a lot changed, because people got together and demanded it did.

And look at us now. Right back where we started, not legally and constitutionally perhaps, but in terms of bigotry, intolerance and sheer stupidity, we’re rushing downhill like a runaway freight train.

So what are we going to do about it? There is so much good in the world going to waste because we allow the media to accentuate the negative, and because we’re too concerned in our own affairs, and because we have allowed ourselves to become resigned to awfulness.

But when something catastrophic happens – hurricanes and wildfires and an earthquake – we see goodness in all its glory. And I do mean glory. The glory of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, rushing to the help of strangers, and giving wholeheartedly, not only goods and money, but time and energy and enormous effort.

I don’t believe for a minute that God sends natural disasters to punish us or teach us a lesson – no god that I might consider believing in would be so cruel – but I do believe there are lessons to be learned from these events nonetheless: that we do still have the capacity and the will to get together and say ‘we shall overcome’ and mean it.

So when are we going to do it for long enough to stop the stupidity?




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7 Responses to Daily prompt: Cliches become cliches because they’re all too true

  1. Tina says:

    A thoughtful post !

  2. Bravo, Helen, for your straight-talking response to the prompt. Recently I’ve been gluing my faith in the human race back together by listening to Joan Baez singing this, the most inspiring song of the ’60s, those heady, hopeful days when right-thinking people joined together to make positive change in the world. In 2010, Barack Obama joined in as she sang at the White House, and today we should all raise our voices again, and sing loudly, in unison. Perhaps then, we shall overcome… somehow.

    • Yes, but it’s my depressing suspicion that since the 60s, idealism has been swallowed up by greed and self-interest. I had hoped that the awfulness of Trump might have stirred a few better instincts, but he seems instead to have provoked a terrible resignation. I was pleased to see that Teresa May smacked him down over his tweets on the latest tube atrocity.

      • I was surprised that, with all the irons he has in his destructive furnace, he was so quick with his unhelpful response, but we must remember that he has ‘people’.
        Speaking of self-interest, when I was in retail, one of my suppliers said to me “When I was at University, so I was a socialist; it was the thing to be. I marched for peace, and for human rights. Now I’m a successful businessman, so those concepts don’t work in my favour.”
        Saying that didn’t work in his favour, either. I ceased trading with him, and all of his ilk – and although it was purely for ethical reasons, rather than financial gain, my business picked up.

  3. Pingback: Photographer Interview – Susan Mah – Salvadore (Mental Health/PTSD/Self Help) | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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