In my humble opinion

Peace on Earth

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 12/15/21

During my interview with Santa last week, he uttered those familiar words and it got me thinking.

What? it happens.

In a Utopian society, the concept of peace on Earth is a given, but every …

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In my humble opinion

Peace on Earth

Posted

During my interview with Santa last week, he uttered those familiar words and it got me thinking.

What? it happens.

In a Utopian society, the concept of peace on Earth is a given, but every example of a Utopian society that I’ve ever encountered has been one of fantasy or science fiction or both. We can imagine it, write about it, even sing about it, but apparently we’re incapable of putting the notion into practice.

As far as “good will to men” is concerned, it seems that humankind is heading backwards, rather than evolving into what George H. W. Bush once suggested should be a “kinder, gentler nation.”

Every day, disturbing headlines abound. Rampant racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, and just-plain-mean seem to be the new normal, and a few twinkly lights and plastic mangers on your neighbors’ lawns can’t hide the ugly truth, in my humble opinion.

 Frankly, I’m disappointed in us as a species. Even though Christmas is just days away, newspaper headlines around the world illustrate the point all too clearly. “Diplomats warn Russia of massive consequences if it invades Ukraine” and “Michigan woman faces prison after attempt to hire assassin through fake website” are just two examples of today’s top stories. I stopped reading after skimming an article which states that “Nobel Peace Prize winners warn of growing disinformation threat looming over the planet as a whole.” Sigh.

“Peace on Earth, good will to men.” Honestly, I had no idea that those words originated in a poem penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who has been called the “most famous poet of the 19th century.”

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“Hmmm,” I muttered to the dog, “that doesn’t even rhyme, and I thought it was from a Christmas carol.” Dharma pawed at the computer screen, so I continued to read.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a carol based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by American poet Wadsworth, the Google explained. Reading further, I learned that the song tells about the narrator hearing Christmas bells during the American Civil War, despairing that “hate is strong and mocks the song.” After much anguish and despondency, the carol concludes with the bells ringing out with resolution that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep,” and that there will ultimately be “peace on earth, good will to men.” Again… rhyme much? LOL.

“Hmmm,” I said aloud, but the dog had moved on to a rawhide candy cane, ignoring me altogether. “I don’t remember Bing Crosby warbling about that!” More typing, more reading and more learning stuff I didn’t know yesterday revealed this: Composer Johnny Marks wrote the familiar arrangement, which was then recorded by Crosby, who (only) used verses 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the original poem.

As we all know, the holiday song became a hit, and Marks’ composition has since been used for over 60 notable commercial recordings by pop artists. Are commercials the true meaning of Christmas? “Probably not,” I said to the dog, who blithely continued to chew, seemingly deaf to my chatter.

More tippy–tapping on my keyboard yielded this from Wikipedia.com: “The true meaning of Christmas is a phrase that began to appear in the mid-19th century when a shift toward a more secular culture resulted in a national backlash.

“Christians began to see the secularization of the celebration of the birth of Christ as a shift toward Santa Claus and gift exchanging replacing the celebration of the advent of Christ and giving to the poor and needy without expectation of receiving anything in return.”

The phrase is especially associated with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, in which an old miser named Ebeneezer Scrooge is taught the true meaning of Christmas by three ghostly visitors who review his past and foretell his future. Perhaps the Victorian classic should be required reading. I think we could all use a refresher. Peace on Earth, Y’all!

Fun Fact: Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863. “Christmas Bells” was first published in February 1865, in “Our Young Folks,” a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields. References to the Civil War are prevalent in some of the verses that are not commonly sung. The refrain “peace on Earth, goodwill to men” is a reference to the King James version of Luke 2:14.

Missed my chat with Mr. Claus? Check it out online at https://riverreporter.com/stories/hangin-with-the-fat-man,50403.

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