By Hypnotica Studios Infinite from Toms River, New Jersey, USA (Grateful Dead) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

May 5, 2017; Portland Press Herald

America is still mostly xenophobic and racist. That’s the nature of America, I think.—Jerry Garcia

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia died in 1995, but his legacy lives on. In 2002, Dan Pritzker, heir to the wealthy Chicago family behind the Hyatt hotel chain, bought Jerry Garcia’s guitar, “Wolf,” for $789,500 at auction. Now, he has decided to put it back on the auction block, with all proceeds to go to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC tracks hate crimes and hate groups, including the white supremacist groups that have gained additional recent notoriety.

“As extremism moves from the fringe to the mainstream, we have a lot of work to do,” SPLC president, Richard Cohen, said in a statement.

Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey’s auction house said, “[Pritzker] called me three months ago to say he was concerned about the divisive things that are going on in the country and wanted to do something meaningful.”

If we had any nerve at all, if we had any real balls as a society, or whatever you need, whatever quality you need, real character, we would make an effort to really address the wrongs in this society, righteously.—JG

The timing of the sale is notable in that a much-anticipated documentary about the Dead, Long Strange Trip, is due to be screened in theaters for one night on May 25th. The sale will take place six days later, during a May 31st concert at the Brooklyn Bowl. The movie, which will be released on Amazon Prime on June 2nd, is a joint project of Amir Bar-Lev and Martin Scorsese.

This seems a fitting continuation of a path for an instrument associated with the world’s flow of peace and love. As Garcia put it, “Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”—Ruth McCambridge