A Merry Minuet by Glenn Schuckers

“They’re rioting in Africa. They’re starving in Spain./There’s hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain./The whole world is festering with unhappy souls./The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles./Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch./And I don’t like anybody very much!/But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud/For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud./And we know for certain that some lovely day/Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away./They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran./What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.”

   Those words were written in 1959 and sung by a group known as the Kingston Trio. It was pretty popular then. So popular that in 1968 two other college students and I, who had formed a trio ourselves performing in bars and around college gatherings, included it in our rather limited repertoire. There was one guitar player, Jim Rosenberger, a banjo player named Bob Seabury and myself. We were not that good but our fee for singing was so low that places seemed glad to have us sing. Jim went on to become an industrial arts teacher near Beaver, PA, Bob joined the Air Force and was killed in a training flight over Texas after flying  B1 Bombers over Viet Nam, and I embarked on a teaching and farming career for the next thirty some years. The lyrics came back to me as I thought about the current state of affairs.

   The late 1950’s and then on into the ’60’s were one of the most tumultuous periods in our history, second only maybe to the period leading into the Civil War. Americans were being killed in a war in southeast Asia and the American people were fed a daily diet of lies about it. There were protests  on college campuses and in cities and towns across the country. There was racial strife that was so severe that portions of cities were shut down in the late  60’s. I can still vividly recall driving into New York City in 1968 when all the lights were off in whole parts of the city. It was, both literally and figuratively, a very dark time. 

   But look at those lyrics again. We have only to change a few details here and there to describe the world today. Some Russians seem to hate Ukrainians,  Palestinians hate Jews, some people in America seem to hate others just because of their political party. 

   The world, including America, seems to have an element of hate fostered by people who feed on it. They spread their hatred of people and ideas without any regard for those who may be injured by what they say or do. They may shout the words into a microphone, write their hate in pamphlets or these days on an internet site where thousands or even millions will be harmed.

   They may go to places like schools, churches, theaters and even shopping malls with the intent to kill or wound as many people as possible and then in a final act, kill themselves. They may do it because they hate a certain group or race or  religion or class, or they may just do it because they are mentally unbalanced and want  others to see the product of their hate.

   Where does it all come from? Men, from the time they first became rational thinking beings, have had the power to hate. We have what is called free will and that free will allows us to do a lot of things.

   We gather together to worship, we gather together to put out a fire, to save a drowning child and to perform the millions of things  people do every day to save others in acts of love.

   But we can also hate. 

   What to do about it? That’s like asking what to do about  a fever  or a disease. We can sometimes find medicines for a fever, we can invent an inoculation against a virus, we can take measures that keep us physically well, but the sad reality is that we cannot, so long as men have free will, inoculate ourselves or our society against hate.
  The unrest and hatred of the 1960’s gave way to a period of relative calm, only to see hatred raise its ugly head again in this century in the form of racial, social  and religious bigotry. 

   We will always have those people among us who will use hate to gain power. They seem to come along every generation or so only to be conquered by the powers of love, reason and calm.

   What we need to do now is not to confront evil with evil, force with force, but let love overcome hate, let virtue overcome vice, let non-violence overcome violence. Maybe it is best  to ignore those who spew hate and are willing to destroy all we believe in to get their own way. Hatred and bigotry will not endure forever. Think Jim Crow and segregation. It has happened in the past and I, for one, have faith that it will happen again.  Shalom