Despite Pharrell Williams’s hit song, this has not been a “Happy” summer due to world and domestic events. This has caused me to think of some songs of my youth.
There is the Kingston Trio’s “Merry Minuet” which had the lyrics, “The whole world is festering with unhappy souls,” and “What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.” Think Gaza, the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), Sunnis and Shiites, Russians and Ukrainians, to name a few.
Then there is Tom Lehrer’s “National Brotherhood Week” with a goldmine of applicable lyrics,
Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.
That one’s for Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, NY,
And, of course, there is the memorable verse:
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.
These lyrics are applicable today to ISIS, China’s crackdown on religion, and the ever-present India-Pakistan conflict. The last lyric has never been more applicable with the confluence of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and the increasing social acceptability of anti-Semitism.
On the foreign front, the lead item is the beheading of photojournalist James Foley by an ISIS terrorist. (Don’t you just love how the media becomes so politically correct when it comes to terrorists, from ISIS to Hamas, by labeling them “militants?”)
This event has demonstrated that ISIS, whose goal is a worldwide caliphate under Sharia law, is a force to be reckoned with. As repeatedly pointed out, it has territory, financial resources, materiel, disciplined troops, and sophisticated command and control. It also has Western adherents flocking to its banner. Foley’s executioner has been identified as a former British rapper.
President Obama labelled ISIS al Qaida’s JV. Well, the JV has exceeded any goals that Osama bin Laden may have had.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel refers to ISIS as a threat of a “dimension that the world has never seen before.” Eric Holder calls it “more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called ISIS “an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated.” NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin notes, Dempsey’s “use of the word ‘defeated’ was in contrast to Obama, who talked only of ‘containing’ the Islamic State when he approved limited airstrikes.”
Speaking of the commander-in-chief, the president was roundly criticized for playing golf after delivering a condemnation of Foley’s execution. The contrast between his behavior and that of British PM James Cameron, who cut his vacation short, and the juxtaposition of pictures of a jovial, golfing Obama against Foley’s grieving parents, led even some Obama supporters to deplore the optics.
NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd mocked Obama by recasting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address into an Obama “Golf Address” in defense of the game and his playing it. It starts, “FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground….” When Dowd goes after the transformative president, you know there is bad juju going down.
Domestically, the lead story is about events in Ferguson. The killing of a black teenager by a white police officer has led to nights of rioting and looting, recalling the ‘60s riots in Harlem, Newark, and Watts. International human rights paragons like Russia and Iran are sarcastically pointing fingers at the United States.
Many people have made up their minds about the guilt of the officer, possibly including the president and the Attorney General, prior to all the facts being known, reminiscent of the justice dispensed by Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen, “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”
Once again, the cry of “No justice, no peace” is heard in the streets. There is a difference between justice and law, as pointed out in a quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.” Justice is subjective. What is just depends on your point of view. The law, not perfect to be sure, is supposed to be applied objectively to the facts, with no regard for the nature or standing of a party.
Ferguson has brought race relations again to the fore, with 35 percent of respondents in a recent poll saying that race relations are worse since Obama was first elected. Only 10 percent say it has gotten better.
One small silver lining in the storm clouds is that Gaza has been taken off the front page. I found some black humor in a picture sent by a correspondent showing a participant at a Kurdish rally holding a sign, “There is a humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan but nobody cares because they can’t blame Israel.”
But against all logic, the Iranian Army Chief of Staff did, blaming Israel for creating and supporting ISIS.
This all evokes memories of Barry McGuire’s Vietnam era hit:
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction.