News & Politics

"Whatever Happened To Peace On Earth?"

Willie Nelson's song does not confuse peace with passivity or promote acquiescence to violence in the guise of championing democracy.
Peace on Earth and goodwill toward ...? Last year at this holiday time, Willie Nelson was sitting at the kitchen table with his wife Annie, reading the newspaper accounts of the war in Iraq. The season of contradictions was upon the country music master. "Babies dying . . ." he observed, watching pictures of Iraqi children and their mothers in the vortex of war. "Mothers crying. Whatever happened to peace on earth?" he asked Annie.

Annie Nelson is a passionate activist, an intellectually gifted mother of two teenaged boys with a sharp sense of timing. She knows the power of the moment: "Write it down," she said to Willie. A song was born.

"Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth" is provocative, even hard-edged. It insists that we consider the paradox of a culture where many are sincerely desirous of peace, as contrasted with a government which crushes those aspirations, ruthlessly pursuing war while capitalizing on public disbelief or indifference.

"Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth" will not let us have our holidays both ways as we attempt to contort our consciences to balance the blatant immorality of war with the clear teachings of the Prince of Peace.

As you read the lyrics below, you see Willie does not confuse peace with passivity or promote acquiescence to violence and lies in the guise of championing democracy.

Those who have just celebrated the birth of the Christ know His Gospel was straightforward: "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God." Peace is the God-like spiritual value to heal a temporal world wracked with war, torture and deceit.

Yet how many of those who say "Jesus is the reason for the Season" act as though the Sermon on the Mount was delivered by victorious partisans of Capitol Hill (or the White House) as they self-righteously mix God and Patriotism in a toxic cauldron of war? We are all vulnerable to self-justifying pietism when it is wrapped in garlands of tinsel, evergreens and poinsettias. But you won't hear our flag-coccooned government resolving for peace in the New Year. Whatever happened to Peace on Earth... and to us?

This sacred holiday season as we hold close loved ones who give deep meaning to our lives, let us move past the comfort of reverie and peel back the gauzy nostalgic Currier and Ives-like tableau to join Willie and Annie and the Nelson family in asking "Whatever happened . . . . "

What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth?
There's so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth?
And what ever happened to peace on earth?

We believe everything that they tell us
They're gonna' kill us
So we gotta' kill them first
But I remember a commandment
“Thou shall not kill”
How much is that soldier's life worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?
(Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?

So I guess it's just
Do unto others before they do it to you
Let's just kill em' all and let God sort em' out
Is this what God wants us to do?
(Repeat Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?

Now you probably won't hear this on your radio
Probably not on your local TV
But if there's a time, and if you're ever so inclined
You can always hear it from me
How much is one picker's word worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?
But don't confuse caring for weakness
You can't put that label on me
The truth is my weapon of mass protection
And I believe truth sets you free
(Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth?
And whatever happened to peace on earth?