It takes a worried man …

It was 1959 when I heard the vinyl [Live from the Hungry “I”] a live concert by the Kingston Trio. This is a must listen for any performing artist who needs to catch one’s breath between songs.


My favorite song was “Zombie Jamboree” from the Trinidad Calypso Song Festival. Some things never go out of style like “Walking Dead”.


But the song that emerged from the depths from deep brain cells was the “Merry Minuet”. 


‘Titled the Merry Little Minuet, it came straight from the “Hungry i” café in San Francisco, a “mecca” of folk music in the late 1950’s. Performed by the Kingston Trio, it was songwriter Sheldon Harnick’s tribute to the troubles and tensions of the world a half century past:


They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain,

There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain


This 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

And I don’t like anybody very much


But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud

For Man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud

And we can be certain that some lovely day

Someone  (North Korea) 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 will be done by our Fellow Man


Update those lines for 2006! Just change a few of the ‘who-hates-who’ entities. Then add enough verses to enable more peoples, clans and nations—and the non-ethnically-profiled—the opportunity to ridicule, hate or harm whomever they don’t like very much.


Iran and Africa will still be in the new lyrics. And we can add Islamic radicals and the Middle East in general. France seems obsessed with hating itself at the moment, as do the new factions of the former Yugoslavia. Thanks to 21st century terrorism, many more potentially fickle fingers are now on the nuclear trigger.


In the lyrics of his song, Harnick verbalized humanity’s great conundrum. We want to live in peace. But we just don’t know how. We don’t even agree how ‘peace’ should be defined.


There is a reason why we don’t ‘all just get along.’ The great lyrical team of antiquity, Isaiah and Jeremiah, wrote to the same puzzle of human peace vs. troubles and tensions:


O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself,

It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

Their feet run to evil

And they make haste to shed innocent blood;

Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;

Wasting and destruction are in their paths.

The way of peace they have not known,

And there is no justice in their ways;

They have made themselves crooked paths;

Whoever takes that way shall not know peace.

(Jeremiah 10:23, Isaiah 59:7-8)


While Harnick’s satirical lyrics were sadly cynical, the poetry of Isaiah and Jeremiah was actually inspired—make that thankfully inspired. If there were no hope for the future, we people on earth would certainly be a tragic troop of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren….”(See link:


World Troubles and Tensions

A commentary by Randy Stiver

United Church of God pastor, Columbus and Cambridge, Ohio


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