The question is in the rhetorical song “(What’s so funny ’bout) peace, love and understanding?”
Written by iconic rocker Nick Lowe and first recorded by his band Brinsley Schwarz for a 1974 release, Elvis Costello made “(What’s so funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” famous with the release of Armed Forces, his 1979 album.
This isn’t a history of 1970s rock and roll. It is, however, a lesson in a long-established pop culture question more of us should ponder.
We bring it up for other, more important, historical reasons that many of us, as Americans, celebrate each January.
And that is the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a giant in our nation’s civil rights movement, who was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. The words and music Lowe wrote a half a dozen years after Dr. King was slain keep the spark of Dr. King’s spirit alive.
“As I walk through. This wicked world. Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity…” are the songs opening lines.
They, and the lines that follow, set the song’s tenor for the inescapable, stirring chorus: “There's one thing I wanna know:What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?”
They are not exactly Dr. King’s “I have a dream …” words, but they not only evoke similar sentiments as Dr. King’s momentous 1963 speech, but also should stir the same introspection among Americans as that historic moment in Washington, D.C.
Sadly, we live in shameful times when some of the most vile views of our country, our people and the world are given legitimacy by the White House, by members of one of our two major political parties and by some media outlets.
Truth is under so much constant attack that it should be an endangered species. Social media has not only made it possible, but also made it preferable for some in our polarized nation to find words and others to validate their views, no matter how ugly. The facts be damned.
But back to Lowe’s song and his depressed feelings from decades ago when he penned the following for everyone to sing forever: “I ask myself is all hope lost?Is there only pain and hatred and misery?”
The answer to those two questions, at least publicly in the words and deeds of a relative handful of Harford County people, is a resounding “No.”
When many others were doing whatever it is they do on a wintry January day off, courtesy of the federal Dr. King holiday, some were honoring his legacy.
Members of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths gathered at the Temple Adas Shalom in Havre de Grace in the spirit of Dr. King for a “Journey to Peace.” They gave life to his preachings and his teachings about people living together respectfully in love and in peace.
The activities that brought people of various faiths together in Harford County for an afternoon’s celebration of his principles on the day set aside to honor Dr. King’s birthday are incredibly important.
They’re so important because they prove, as Dr. King preached, that some people have learned to look past the color of another’s skin to see the quality of that person’s character.
When the fleeting ugliness we’re living today passes, and it will, we will clearly see that neither is all hope lost, nor is there only pain, hatred or misery.