The hollering of history was deafening this week. Being a child of the 60s, this week could not pass without a salute to the significance of “Three Days of Peace and Music.” The year was 1969; the location was a patch of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel and 50 miles from a place called “Woodstock.”
The event started as a simple music festival to raise funds for a recording studio and rock-and-roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. Despite the relative inexperience of the promoters, they were able to sign a roster of top acts including Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Crosby, Stills and Nash. No wonder history was hollering!!!
The cast of musical characters an irrational rarity, the size of the event ballooned from an expected 50,000 to 500,000. Most remembered, however, was not the talent or the size, but the result. The result of this under-organized, over-populated Rock and Roll extravaganza was a nonviolent, mostly free (the overwhelming crowds simply swarmed the gates), 1960s youth counterculture at its best. With the Vietnam War simmering in the background, the Woodstock rockers simply wanted the world to “give peace a chance.”
Another “holler” came from a different part of New York when I heard “Lady Liberty” is closing. Actually, it is only the interior of the Statue of Liberty, which will be shut down on October 29 for a year of renovations. Contractors will spend $27.25 million to update stairwells, add new fire suppression systems and elevators, and rehabilitate restrooms.
To reflect on her magnificence, Lady Liberty stands 305 feet, 1 inch tall. Her skin consists of 62,000 pounds of copper, the thickness of 2 pennies. Originally erected in Paris, she was then disassembled into 350 pieces, put in 214 crates and shipped to America where her awaiting pedestal was the world’s largest solid mass of concrete at the time.
Broken chains at Liberty’s right foot suggest she is ready to step over them, leaving enslavement for freedom. For soldiers sailing to war through New York Harbor, she is among their last sight upon leaving home and one of their first upon returning. Jim Denison rightly recognizes “the interior renovation of our country’s most famous symbol of freedom is a metaphor for our times … if our interior is not strong, our exterior will soon decay and crumble.”
The history of these two events holler with the hope for “peace.” The first, a protest of war unearthed in a musical plea for peace, the second, a monument of freedom and democracy built on the aspirations of a country. The first reminds us that peace is more than the absence of war. The second reminds us that real honest-to-God, life-sustaining peace is always an “inside-out” proposition.
They both remind me that holy history hollers with the fact that peace comes from God. He blesses His people with it (Psalm 29:11) as we live the life He designed for us: “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” The best part of this peace is that nothing can remove it from us. Isaiah 54:10 states “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.”
I am child of the 60s and I admire Woodstock’s call to “give peace a chance.” I am a citizen of this great nation and revel in the words written inside Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But heaven hollers with the news that I am first and foremost a child of God, birthed in His freedom and bathed in His peace. Now that is a holler worth hearing!