Tom's Corner - Set the spark off and we'll all be blown away

Tom's Corner

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Sometimes its hard to equate the growth of the human race the world over with the growth in technology that increasingly links us together.

Tonight in Tom's corner, our Tom Van Howe wonders, despite all the material and technological advances in our lives, if anything ever really changes.


Let me read you the words of a song:

They're rioting in Africa,
They're starving in Spain.
There are hurricanes in Florida.
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans,
Italians hate Yugoslavs,
South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don't like anyone very much.

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man has been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day,
Someone'll set the spark off and we'll 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.

That song, called the "Merry Minuet," was written by one Sheldon Harnick, who went on to write the music for "Fiddler on the Roof." He wrote it in 1955--a year later.

It was recorded by and became a hit for the Kingston Trio.

Harnick is 92 years old now and still lives in Chicago.

The song embodies an old French saying that goes "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

The song is now sixty years old. And sadly, the world is still festering with tragically unhappy souls. If you substitute the names of a few different countries here and there, the song offers up a pretty solid picture of our world today.

1955 was the year that the United States staged its first intervention in Iran, propping up the dictator Muhammed Reza Palavi, better known has the shah of Iran, who for the next 25 years tortured, imprisoned or killed his political adversaries.

It's when the fear of nuclear war was so great that school children all over the United States, me included, were trained in useless "duck and cover" drills. We'd seen the movies of what the atomic bomb could do--and even as fifth and sixth graders we knew that hiding under our desks in the event of a nuclear blast was a silly exercise in futility.

Now, nine countries have under their control more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States has a submarine, the Kentucky, cruising the world's water that carries 200 missiles with nuclear warheads--that all by itself could annihilate most of the world.

And now, 60 years later we have a candidate for president who actually asked, a month or so ago, why, if we have so many nuclear bombs, don't we use them.

In 1955, World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower was our president. That year he authorized the delivery of $216 million to South Vietnam, in its war with the north. No one, of course, cold have known where that would take us.

We don't know how many billions of dollars we've pumped into the middle east over the last 15 years. Billions can't even be accounted for. We essentially lost it.

Although the song "Merry Minuet" was written as a so-called comedy song, as the decades go by, it's lost its humor. Because, after all this time, we still worry that some lovely day, someone will set the spark off and we'll all be blown away.

In this corner, I'm Tom Van Howe.

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