Peace in Our Time?

I remember watching watching television news of warships passing through the Suez canal. I’d like to claim it was the 6 Days War in 1967, but I would have only been 1 year old. It was more likely the Yom Kippur War in 1973, but the point remains:  For my entire life the Middle East has been “war-torn” to the point that some kids probably think that’s a part of the name. “War-Torn Middle East.”

President Trump appears poised to flaunt a faux peace plan, to appease his base in time for a re-election run. This transparent show reminded me of these lines from Elvis Costello’s “Peace in Our Time:

Out of the aeroplane stepped Chamberlain with a condemned man`s stare
But we all cheered wildly, a photograph was taken,
As he waved a piece of paper in the air
Now the Disco Machine lives in Munich and we are all friends
And I slip on my Italian dancing shoes as the evening descends
Costello reminisces on England’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain,  appeasing Hitler and claiming a false victory that was going to save Britain from Nazi attacks.  To quote Forrest Gump, “And just like that, 50 years later we’re all buddy buddy with the Germans and Italians.”
Listen to Costello’s throat catch at :30 seconds.  This “Tonight Show” appearance is seventeen days before I saw him in Dublin, Ireland September 29, 1984.
My first rock concert. He stormed off stage ten minutes into that show, returning after another 15 minutes complaining about throat problems that could only be solved – his doctor told him, so he claimed to appease the increasingly disgruntled audience – if everyone packed tight around the stage to provide some heat and steam.

And, so it came to pass, mere months after entering the Pallottine Father’s Seminary seeking absolute truth, that I found myself staring up Elvis’s nostrils from fifteen feet away as he sang this lament in encore, an ode to mob capitulation to fascism.

And the bells take their toll once again in victory chime
And we can thank God that we’ve finally got
Peace in our time
It was the middle of the 1984 Presidential election campaign. My hero at that time, Ronald Reagan, was running for re-election against a motley field of Democratic contenders that included astronaut John Glenn. We’ll skip the verse about McCarthyism in the mid 1950’s and head straight into the lines that dropped my jaw to the floor. Anti-American sentiment? Someone dares question Saint Ronnie?
They`re lighting a bonfire upon every hilltop in the land
Just another tiny island invaded when he`s got
The whole world in his hands
Oh, but listen again! In his American performance he pointedly rewrites the lyric:  “They’re lighting a bonfire upon every hilltop in England…”  He couldn’t sing to the American people what he sang to me in Dublin! Censored by NBC again? Or doing what it takes to get his larger message on air? He could not implicate America on Johnny Carson’s show, even if Joan Rivers was substitute hosting!
Reagan had invaded Grenada in October of 1983, ostensibly to prop up a Democratic regime and save 600 American medical students attending the <cough> highly acclaimed <cough> St. Georges University medical school.  It was not long since he had “freed” the American Hostages held in Iran, and he could not have a repeat hostage crisis.
But the invasion of Grenada — a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela — on October 25, came two days after U.S. military barracks in Beirut, Lebanon were bombed at a price of 307 deaths, 241 of those being US Marines.  Forrest Again: “And just like that, the American people’s attention were focused on 7,600 forces fighting valiantly in their own hemisphere to bolster freedom and liberty.”  Pay no attention to the man behind the body bags coming out of Beirut.
We use the phrases “October Surprise” and “Wag the Dog” now with casual abandon, but the heir apparent to the O.G. purveyor (Richard Nixon) was none other than Ronald Reagan. He had swept into office on the promise to release American hostages held in Iran.  And though it remains noted a “conspiracy theory” that Reagan had negotiated with the Ayatollah Khomeini to hold the hostages until the day after his inauguration (making him the great liberator) , I’m sure official confirmation will eventually leak.  Just as it did against Richard Nixon who, in the earliest example of Republican treason against the United States, negotiated with North Vietnam to postpone peace talks until he could get elected.  
Of course, I did not learn this until long after I left Ireland, having abandoned hope of finding absolute truth in religious institutions. But that night. That song.  Costello dripped the first acid onto my iron-clad faith in American rectitude… the gift of an outsider’s view, delivered by someone not raised in the echo-chamber, by jingo!
And the Heavyweight Champion fights in the
International propaganda Star Wars
There`s already one spaceman in the White House
What do you want another one for?
Yes, Ronnie was also proposing the “Star Wars” Missile Defense shield to save us from Russian ICBM’s at that time, and it was clear that Elvis shared the widely held opinion that this militaristic fiasco would never exist or work. But why, oh why, would America want to replace a certifiable, dog-wagging, October-surprising, propagandizing madman with astronaut Glenn?
And the beat goes on, the bell takes its toll, as we once again approach an election with a madman in the White House waving putative peace plans, and assassinating Iranian government officials in pursuit of a second term. And it feels like this song is due another verse, with apologies to Elvis Costello.

There’s a bloated orange man, with a tiny baby’s hands on TV
In bed with Ukrainians, assassinating Iranians, still evading missing tapes of Russian Pee.
Tweeting 10,000 lies of what he’s done then denies, he squats astride a golden throne
Defecating solutions, Desecrating Constitutions, he lobs his base another bone.
He’s got some balls, to take that stage, once again
In a Nuremburg knock off,
And we can thank Jared, that we’ll finally walk off with peace in Palestine.

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