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What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

There’s an Elvis Costello song that’s been on my mind recently. It’s the piece that shares it’s title with this column this week. 

In 1979, when Costello released the song, “(What’s so funny ‘bout) peace, love and understanding?” America, Great Britain, and the rest of world were on the brink of a new decade and a new era. The disco party of the 1970s was coming to an end. Punk rock was an already established response to the over produced and overly commercialized songs of the disco age. Yuppies, conspicuous consumption, and the Reagan (and, across the pond, Thatcher) years were upon us. There was plenty for punk to rail against. But the peace and love speech of the 1960s were considered old. Cliche. Hokey even. There wasn’t any real nostalgia for the hippie era yet. 

But Costello and his band, the Attractions, while clearly a part of the New Wave that would sweep the 1980s, weren’t necessarily ready to throw the hippie baby out with the bathwater yet. So, they wrote the song, and the lyrics have resonated with me since I “rediscovered” it as a young man. 

As I walk through this wicked world

Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself, “Is all hope lost?

Is there only pain and hatred and misery?”

And each time I feel like this inside

There’s one thing I wanna know

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?

And as I walk on through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away

Just makes me wanna cry

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding? 

It’s simple. Catchy. And, as we navigate a world dominated by social media political fights and television attack ads and question the future in an America that seems more sharply divided than it has been in generations, the words may be worth considering. Before we laugh at and share a mean-spirited meme, and contribute to the ongoing hostility – as most of us, myself included, have been guilty of – maybe we should stop. Take a breath. Ask ourselves what we can do to be better, and to be a better example, and ask ourselves, what can we do to add more of “the harmony, sweet harmony” in a world that sorely needs it. Let’s all ask ourselves, and our friends, what we can do to contribute to a little more “peace, love and understanding?” 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com 

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