This is the time of spring festivals celebrating life and freedom (Easter, Passover, etc.), and it just doesn’t seem fitting to rant on this particular day, although we have plenty to rant about.

But it is an appropriate day to ask songwriter Nick Lowe’s question once again. “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”

American politics has taken a bloody turn. Much of the Right’s agenda is punitive and built upon vengeance against those they have defined as domestic enemies. They seek to disenfranchise their political foes, deny health care to “others,” leave the elderly to die alone in the streets, and abandon public schools so the privileged can use the tax money for their exclusive private schools.

The schticks of the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the media are built around hate and violent rhetoric. Many Americans have come to associate political effectiveness with a relentless mean-spiritedness. You have to traffic in hate to be a winner.

It is an absolute historical fact that hatred, bigotry and oppression always fail. They fail because they are born of human weakness. It’s compassion and human solidarity that are born in courage and strength.

This is also the lesson of virtually every faith tradition, although the lesson is mostly unheeded by religious institutions. Compassion and solidarity should be defining marks of civilization. A vicious Hobbesian or Ayn Randian “all-against-all” or “dog-eat-dog” society is not a society. It is barbarism, barbarism doomed to darkness.

And yet the populist Right and its exploiters among the rich have successfully spread the notion that empathy and social responsibility are barbarous and immoral. It’s insane, really.

Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are perhaps the most successful cooperative social programs in history. They are, essentially, promises to one another that Americans have kept. I should add public education to this list. All are under assault by the Right because they are successful.

None of these cooperative efforts are give-aways. They are based on our founding principle that all are created equal and on the democratic belief that we must be responsible for our selves and for one another. They represent our recognition that we all share the fate of the world, including the fates of others.

Nick Lowe wrote “What’s So Funny…” in 1973 while producing for Elvis Costello, and it’s Costello’s version that’s the better known. It was written just as the backlash against the ‘60s was getting into full swing.

There’s nothing funny, naïve or impractical about empathy, about compassion, solidarity and social responsibility. In fact, America has achieved profoundly humane cooperative programs that embody these values.

Today those achievements are at risk as the Right seeks to create a Fight Club nation. It’s a good day to resurrect the values behind our greatest achievements.

As I walk
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope gone?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walk on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
Where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?