What a Wonderful World!

Check out Barton Kunstler’s moving article on Nation of Change, for both Louis’ Armstrong’s life message, compared with what’s happening now in Trump’s America and the world…. https://www.nationofchange.org/2017/05/23/what-a-wonderful-world/

In 1967 Louis Armstrong sang “What a Wonderful World”, written for him by Bob Thiele and George Weiss, who had in mind the tumultuous backdrop of the Vietnam War and the ongoing struggle for civil rights, which amplified the song’s power. Armstrong himself addresses this in his spoken introduction to his performance:

Some of you young folks been sayin’ to me, “Hey Pops, what do you mean ‘what a wonderful world? How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.’ But how about listenin’ to old Pops for a minute. Seems to me it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we are doing to it. And all I am saying is see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance.

Today’s political context is as relevant to the song as it was 50 years ago. Yet it is unsullied by that ugliness. So I thought I’d present the lyrics as a commentary on today’s political scene because I believe the song, much like a magical incantation, possesses its own mysterious healing powers.

Sung towards the end of his life, “What a Wonderful World” captures what Armstrong himself brought to the world:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and for you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

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These lines possess a perfect simplicity, as if polished by thousands of years of experience. They emerge as if we were seeing green trees and red roses for the first time, or perhaps in old age for the last time. The second line is the magical one, though: there are trees and roses and someone sees them bloom and through the generosity of the heart, he at once wants to share this miracle “for me and for you”. Only then can he think, “What a wonderful world.” It’s not just the trees, roses, color, or bloom – the “for me and for you” is the core of the wonder.

Then cut to Trump threatening to savage the National Parks through development and fracking. Witness the oil pimps lining up for new pipelines…the Koch brothers appointing the head of the CIA…the Secretary of Education closing schools and cutting school lunch programs while her brother, head of his own mercenary force, advises Trump on foreign policy from behind a dark curtain. We see environmental regulations tossed overboard by beady-eyed men doing their masters’ bidding, congratulating one another because they managed to raise the price on their souls another 10 or 50 thousand bucks.

I wonder at those seeking to undermine the Endangered Species Act so they can kill grizzlies and wolves and mountain lions as trophies of their pitifully perverse sense of manhood. They can’t wait to reverse the progress made in cleaning up our waterways, gut regulations aimed at keeping our food fresh and uninfected with lethal bacteria, and abolish limits on all forms of pollution. Where Thiele, Weiss, and Armstrong see the possibility of beauty and connection, our politicians see only profit in destroying and despoiling. And the profits they reap? That economy they so devoutly claim requires this destruction? They hide most of the profits to avoid taxes, robbing society even of the collateral social goods that their spoliation is supposed to produce.

I see skies of blue, clouds of white
Bright blessed days. dark sacred nights
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world


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