I have long been an admirer of the words and works of the late Paul Harvey and his radio commentaries known as the “The Rest of the Story.”
I had the privilege of meeting him in New York at the Peabody Awards ceremonies, sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. He was a deserved recipient of that prestigious honor. He was also a kind and gracious soul.
For more than three decades from the 1970s until his death in 2009, Harvey captivated listeners with his mellifluous voice and an endless variety of topics. He has been referred to by some as a conservative. It would be more accurate to call him middle-of-the-road America. He certainly was a contrast to the wild-eyed partisan yakkers that dominate today’s radio and television airwaves like a bunch of braying donkeys.
Dan Como, a reader and Great American in Marietta, recently sent me a copy of one of Paul Harvey’s gems originally broadcast in 1965, entitled “If I Were the Devil.” It has run in numerous publications over the past 55 years and is eerily prescient of what is happening in our country today. I share it in its entirety, hoping it serves as a wake-up call — assuming it is not already too late.
It goes like this:
“If I were the devil. If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I’d have a third of its real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’
“To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington...
“And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
“If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
“Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography — soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress.
“And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.
“If I were the devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who want until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.
“And what do you bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich? I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct.
“I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure. In other words, if I were the devil I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”
Now, you can see why I am such a fan of Paul Harvey. I suspect I will lie awake tonight wondering why we have heard his wise words but have ignored his message.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.