I Heard the Bells

It was a lovely Christmas weekend with family and rest and recharging, and as I contemplated going back to work, a sort of melancholy settled over me. 

I found myself thinking of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem that was reworked into a Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow wrote the poem in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War, and despite its optimistic conclusion, the poem’s penultimate stanza remains the money quote:

“And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

In the final stanza, Longfellow asserts that the living God will see to it that “The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.” But almost 160 years after it was written, hate is still strong and still mocks the call for peace.

Sometime between Nov. 1 and Thanksgiving Day, the air becomes filled with the familiar songs of the season, singing joy to the world and tidings of comfort and joy. Come Dec. 26 the songs are all packed away and forgotten, and we go back to the nihilism and back-biting and hate-thy-neighbor norm.

And there’s the reason for my melancholy: I’d so much rather press for peace and good-will on earth, and it’s frustrating to see how much power is wielded by the forces who prefer to see us at each other’s throats.

One of these days it would be lovely to see people rise up and just say “no” to the bottom feeders who spend their days building weapons to kill as many people as possible in one fell swoop, who concoct arguments to convince us that certain people deserve to have those weapons trained against them, and who stand by silently while the hate mongers rage away.

How many “nos” will it take to achieve peace on earth? I say we try and find out.

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, Dejah and Summer, and Blackberry, an insistent cat. Author of It's Going to Be All Right, Echoes of Freedom Past, Full, Refuse to be Afraid, Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes, A Bridge at Crossroads, The Imaginary Bomb, A Scream of Consciousness, and The Imaginary Revolution.

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