Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When the Lights Go On Again

"When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean 'goodbye' but 'Hello to love'

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world"

-- by Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Eddie Seiler

Is there a song at once more sad and still so hopeful as this #1 hit tune from 1943, a time of battles and blackouts during World War II?

After the jump, what that song has to say to us today.

Serendipitously, I heard this song late on election night while listening to the great jazz singer Abbey Lincoln's album "Over the Years." The song still has a message for us almost 70 years later. If our parents and grandparents could persevere through the Great Depression and World War II, surely we can get through our lesser crises today.

Still, I can't help fearing that, this time, the lights aren't going to go on again. The "boys" aren't coming home again. The US military will be involved in the Middle East for as long as America's dependence on foreign oil continues, that is to say, for a long time given our country's failure to recognize the need to develop renewable energy supplies. Our environment will be in increasing peril, given the impact that burning fossil fuels is having on global climate change. Our national prosperity will be at risk, given our country's fiscal irresponsibility and reluctance to fund our military missions or our deteriorating roads and bridges and power grids, or invest in education and scientific research, or even fund our own retirements and health care.

A segment on this week's CBS television show "60 Minutes" highlighted that fiscal irresponsibility. David Stockman, President Reagan's budget director, told correspondent Leslie Stahl that tax cutting has become a religion, and not just to Republicans.

"It's become in a sense an absolute. Something that can't be questioned, something that's gospel, something that's sort of embedded into the catechism and so scratch the average Republican today and he'll say 'Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.' It's rank demagoguery. We should call it for what it is. If these people were all put into a room on penalty of death to come up with how much they could cut, they couldn't come up with $50 billion, when the problem is $1.3 trillion. So, to stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves.
"We have now got both parties essentially telling a big lie with a capital 'B' and a capital 'L' to the public: and that is that we can have all this government, 24 percent of GDP, this huge entitlement program, all of the bailouts. And yet, we don't have to tax ourselves and pay our bills. That is delusional."

Do you think it'll be different this time around with the new Republican Congress? Check out new Speaker of the House John Boehner's first comments to the press Wednesday morning. After campaigning for over a year on how the Democrats failed to address the country's need for jobs, jobs, jobs and instead wasted the country's time on reforming health care, Boehner promised that the Republicans would waste the country's time attempting to "repeal this monstrosity." It's evidence that Republicans don't know how to solve our country's economic problems, but they do know how to exploit a good campaign issue. Our new generation of leaders in Washington seems to prefer to keep the country divided and in the dark.

To win the war and turn the lights on again all over the world, the World War II generation, the Greatest Generation, pulled together. Maybe that public-spirited shared sacrifice was why they could write hopeful songs. And why, despite my fears, those songs can still inspire hope in me today.

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