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Being a folksinger, Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger loom large for Cook, though he shines light in the fact the latter endorsed Communist Russia (and by extension its tyrannical failings) just to stand against the problems of flawed America. And it’s in this moment that Cook is truly poignant in underlining some of his lyrics, that what we’re going through as a species isn’t about right or left, but actually about right or wrong.
Bringing healthy skepticism even to his own held beliefs — he notes he used to be extremely religious until he hit a deadly logic flaw about us not supposedly being in a position to judge God, yet judge Him we do as perfect — Cook’s marvellous book, song by song, leads into wonderful, captivating ideas and places, including the fact that he almost killed himself after 20 years drinking, wondering why he was so bent on self-destruction when, really, he had everything going for him a person could ask.
And it’s as an experienced addict Cook recognizes how much our civilization is acting exactly like one: full of denial and desperate, bad-logic negotiation for just one more fix with a lot of yelling about minding your own business when, in fact, we’re all undeniably connected in the business of humanity.
But, magically, Cook chooses healthy skepticism over accusatory cynicism — asking us to think about who most benefits if we, on these lower decks together, can’t even manage to get along.
Which brings us back to the music, and the point of the song Say Can You See: the most directly activist song he says he’s ever written, yet it doesn’t condemn, it summons to one fire.