Right On: Peace on Earth, goodwill to men

Photo by RomoloTavani iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

OPINION — The familiar words in this column’s title can be welcomed by those of any faith as well as those with none at all. We hope for peace while knowing there is too much bloodshed around the world today.

Writing on Christmas Day in the midst of our nation’s great Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned words that were later immortalized in a familiar Christmas carol. These verses from his poem could have been written today:

I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat, Of peace on earth, good will to men.

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.’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Even those who share Longfellow’s confidence in the eventual triumph of good can nonetheless have very real cause for present fears. As individuals we can feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of sectarian violence.

I’m reminded of the words of another familiar song: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” There is no better time than now to order our lives so as to find inner peace and then do all we can to share that peace with family members and those around us.

Family often takes center stage in our minds in the holiday season. Sentiments like “there’s no place like home for the holidays” resonate in many hearts, even for those who know they will not be home. For them, words from another familiar carol ring true: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

Goodwill to men seems to come more naturally at this time of year as hearts are softened. The season’s burst of charitable giving comes as we recognize anew those around us who are in need, those we perhaps should have noticed all year long.

Our nation exceeds all others in voluntary charitable giving but with some soul searching, each of us could do a little more.

Sadly, we live in a time of intense political strife. Rarely have political views been so polarized, leaving few voices in the center.

While I frequently disagree with others, I bear no personal animosity toward them. I respect their opinions and have found much to admire as I read them. Almost always their hearts are in the right place.

All of us will be better served to separate political differences from matters of basic respect for others as human beings and fellow citizens.

Abraham Lincoln set an admirable example when addressing the nation in his first inaugural address. Slavery divided the country with Southern states threatening to secede. At the close of his address, Lincoln extended an olive branch:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Thinking of those better angels, I echo Tiny Tim’s words in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”: “God bless us, every one.”

Merry Christmas!

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • desertgirl December 21, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mr. Sierer.

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