On my way to work today, Tommy Sands‘ song “The People Have Spoken” came on the iPod. The whole song is well worth a read or a listen – click on the title on the left. It appears on his CD, Let the Circle Be Wide.
Two images spoke with particular power today. One line comes from the second verse:
Well I say the sun shines on all or on no one
And the whole final verse:
And don’t sing the songs of the wrongs we have suffered
Till first we can hear of the wrongs we have done
And together we’ll write a new song for tomorrow
It’s then, only then, that our day will come
Sands, a native of the County Down in Northern Ireland, has performed with his family of birth, his children Moya and Fionan, Pete Seeger, Vedran Smailovic, and a choir of Protestant and Catholic children among many others. Tricia and I had the privilege to see him in a solo concert in Cleveland more than ten years ago.
His deep commitment to peace shines through his music. He has played a key role in the peace process for Northern Ireland:
Ten years ago [this would be about 1990], Sands started an event called “The Music of Healing.” Musicians from both factions in Northern Ireland – Catholic and Protestant – met to play music together, to test and prove the bonding power of their shared music. Later, the musicians brought leaders from their parties with them; they would open these discussion sessions with music, “to create an atmosphere of neighborliness and humanity.” The discussions were often heated, but never dissolved. According to Sands, the Citizen’s Assembly which, in 1996, began to hold its “consensus sessions,” grew out of these musical exchanges. Led by Peter Emerson, a key thinker in the group, the Citizen’s Assembly looked for new ways of solving conflict and new ways of decision making – moving from “majoritarianism” to a concensus approach – a true democracy where instead of 51% of the people being happy, everyone is. Each voice – even minority voices – are heard, considered, and made part of the final decision. Instead of the up/down referendum, they used the “preferendum,” where representatives rank alternatives. Ex-prisoners from both the IRA and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) acted as referees or facilitators in fashioning solutions that took all points of view into account. Sands said it was his own son, Fionan, who came up with the idea that each party in the talks should be represented by one man and one woman. It was this Citizen’s Assembly which was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Good Friday Peace Accords, which remain a source of hope for lasting peace in Ireland despite continuing problems.
He has taken his search for peace on the road – working with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists.
Confronting the evil humans can do, the awful wounds we can inflict on each other, Tommy Sands remains a person of hope and peace. He sings:
The people have spoken, a new day is dawning
The people have spoken, and new day has come
May the day dawn soon.
See you along the Trail.