The Eve of Destruction

In 1965, singer-songwriter Barry McGuire released his song the “Eve of Destruction” with lyrics that seem as applicable today as they were 55 years ago. China is sailing an aircraft carrier formation with jets and bombers flying over Taiwan. Russia is massing 80,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. Iran is enriching Uranium to near bomb-level concentration, Syria is a mess from proxy-wars, and Myanmar is approaching civil war. Climate refugees from hurricanes and droughts are streaming from Central America northward while U.S. politicians and trolls use the victims of a tragedy to score petty points.

The more I study ancient history and the so-called “progress” of civilization, the more it seems to me that most technological advances serve primarily to enrich a tiny minority of people or the technologies only improve the efficiency by which humans can kill each other, or both. A major part of the funding to build our beloved Washington National Cathedral came from the DuPont family which made its money producing explosives for use in warfare – a case of bad money getting washed to produce something good.

Most of what passes for “Christianity” today is a personal salvation appeal preached in mega-churches by mega-rich pastors. “Just give your money to [my] church, and Jesus will save you from your too-many-to-count sins.” Religion has become a purely personal thing. The Internet and mass media have capitalized on global personal anxiety, delivering a daily diet of anxiety-producing misinformation. Government has been panned as the boogeyman responsible for everyone’s problems. All the demons have been let out of Pandora’s box.

I fear for our country, for humanity, and for the fate of our planet. My constant prayer is for God to save us from ourselves and the harm we cause to others. I hope that soon, people will see that we need each other more than we try to hate each other. I hope that soon, people will understand the futility of lies and speak truthfully. I hope that we can teach our children that a community of love and forbearance is better than the same number of fearful people no matter their wealth.

Have we learned anything from the pandemic? Can we play nice now? Or have we cycled around on the merry-go-round to repeat the mistakes of the past? Perhaps we should revisit Pete Seeger’s song from a decade before “Eve of Destruction,” “Where have all the flowers gone?” Ironically, Seeger’s song was based upon an earlier Ukrainian poem written between WWI and WWII.

Eve of Destruction, Barry McGuire, 1965

Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say?
Can’t you feel the fear that I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy

But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’
I’m sittin’ here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation

And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

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