A bit over a half century, Barry McGuire released his “Eve of Destruction” song. It fit those times. With lyrics like “handful of Senators don’t pass legislation,” “the eastern world, it is explodin’ violence flarin’, bullets loadin,'” and “if the button is pushed, there’s no running away,” we can get a snapshot of the world as it seemed to be in 1965. A half century later, there are enough similarities in that song to our own time to make it appear that what was then — is now.
The other day the news carried stories of how Hawaii is prepping its citizens on what to do if a North Korean nuke drops into their neighborhood. The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it’s been in decades. The Mid-eastern world is aflame, much as it has been for as long as anyone can remember. “You don’t believe in war but what’s that gun you’re totin”?” Perpetual war seems a normal part of our contemporary existence. We’ve got violence flaring both here and abroad as individuals and nations move to arm themselves against potential aggressors.
“Marches alone won’t bring integration.” We may be more segregated today than we were in the 1960s in schools, the workplace, and in housing. And the marches continue. “Think about the hate there is in Red China! Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!” Red China may be gone but it’s been replaced by regimes that didn’t exist when McGuire wrote his song. A black person traveling through the rural South today, still is at risk. When one looks at the hate displayed in shootings and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, Baton Rouge, Charleston, South Carolina, it’s clear that the racial climate in America isn’t that much better now than it was in the 60’s.
“I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation.” Whether it is “fake news” or “alternative facts,” it does seem like the truth is much harder to pin down than it ever was. News channels and social media sites have created narratives that satisfy particular groups by reinforcing ideas that these groups want to believe. Rational evaluation and thoughtful discourse is difficult to find. Truth is now what you want to believe. As a people we’ve become polarized socially, politically, and geographically. Anyone with an idea that we don’t like becomes an enemy. And through it all we maintain our self-righteousness and assured belief that ours is the only truth. “Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”
“And you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”