Some Lyrics Never Grow Old

A tune from my long-ago youth has been running through my head lately. I suppose it’s from watching unionized state workers storming the Wisconsin capitol last week and Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahranians, Libyans and others in assorted Middle Eastern capitals taking to the streets.

I know my 11 aging, regular readers know the song. It came out in 1960 or thereabouts. I first heard it on a Kingston Trio album, but satirist Tom Lehrer also recorded it and some have credited him with writing it. It goes like this:

“They’re rioting in Africa (whistling)

They’re starving in Spain (whistling)

There’s hurricanes in Flo-ri-da

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


But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud

For man’s endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud

And we know for certain that some lovely day

Some one 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

We’ll be done to by our fellow man.”

It seems to me there’s just too much truth in that satirical ditty. A half century after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet empire, we “STILL DON’T LIKE ANYBODY VERY MUCH!”

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker dislikes unionized public workers so much that he’s going to take away their right to collective bargaining: in Wisconsin, the home of the LaFollettes and their Progressive Party that did so much at the beginning of the 20th century to give workers bargaining rights. Man! That goes beyond dislike and into the realm of sacrilege.

Wisconsin Democratic legislators dislike Walker and an end to collective bargaining so much that they’ve fled the state, taking up residence in unknown locations in Chicago. Imagine that: “unknown locations in Chicago.”

We don’t dislike Russians anymore. How can we when they’re investing in NBA franchises, buying into the great American secular religion, sports?

So now we dislike Muslims. We dislike Muslims so much that since 9/11 we’ve spent a decade and a fortune in taxpayer funds practicing “shock and awe” on three Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and the border regions of Pakistan.

We dislike foreigners as well, including President Barack Obama. Fifty-one percent of Republican primary voters believe that Obama was not born in Hawaii, despite birth notices published in two Honolulu dailies and assurances by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle that Obama was indeed Honolulu born.

Or if you want to see and hear palpable dislike, watch Fox News or MSNBC. O’Reilly, Hannity, Palin and Beck on Fox; Matthews and Maddow on MSNBC. Dislike, nay, hate at times, seeps out of their mouths every night of the week.

Some things never change. There’s still strife in Iran and rioting in Africa. The capacity of various world leaders to end it all in a mushroom cloud persists.

And, of course, natural disasters continue to bedevil us, maybe more so in the age of global warming: earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand, hurricanes in Flo-ri-da and Louisiana. The list is long.

Some satire is timeless.

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