Although he was a little too conservative for my taste (I know that’s hard to believe), I used to enjoy listening to Paul Harvey on the radio, with his quirky intonations, dramatic pauses, rich baritone voice and recognizable catch phrases. Harvey worked practically until the day he died at 90 in 2009, not only cranking out conservative commentary but also entertaining listeners with his famous “The Rest of the Story” segments.
The only thing I didn’t like was the way he’d work advertising spots right into the middle of his monologues and then give sacrosanct (and obviously fake) personal endorsements. It was cheesy hucksterism, but it worked, and sponsors ate it up, making Harvey a very rich man. He defended the technique, saying, “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.”
Some people consider a piece he originally wrote in 1965 titled “If I Were the Devil” as prescient of the issues this country has faced over the past several decades. Harvey revised the essay in a 1996 newspaper column, and what follows is (most of) the latter, as forwarded to me by a reader. It’s just a little something to think about, however dark it may be:
“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee.
“So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.
“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would 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 the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and that what’s good is square.
“And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our God, Who Art in Washington.’
“... I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could ... and 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 the promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. ... I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
“... Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the school house and then from the houses of Congress.
“... I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.
“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.
“... I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures. In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”
Regarding the Interstate 526 mess, if Charleston County Council ends up giving the ole switcheroo to the project and it ends up with the city of Charleston, the odds are that Mayor Joe Riley will find a way to drive it forward. But the Coastal Conservation League’s Dana Beach argued in a recent column in this newspaper that not even Mayor Joe could pull this off due to financial and permitting realities.
I personally don’t support the idea of putting an anachronistic beltway around an antique city and through the most sensitive of ecosystems and believe that this is fundamentally a county matter and not a city one. But even if I were sitting on the fence about it, I’m not sure I’d be swayed by the arguments that have been presented on behalf of either side thus far.
In terms of arguments in support of the project, why has there been little to no mention of the cultural impact the project will have on both black and white Johns Island families that have been around forever? How can the aesthetic disaster of adding two huge new bridges over such a beautiful part of the Stono be so utterly ignored? How can data be dismissed which suggest that transportation times will not be significantly reduced and Johns Island development explosively enhanced? Would it not be more progressive to seek innovative solutions to the traffic problems rather than a conceptual design that goes back nearly half a century? Isn’t the notion that we need two extra huge bridges to provide egress from the islands in the event of an evacuation questionable since there are already two huge bridges there partly for that purpose?
For those who don’t want the project, what precisely are the innovative alternatives? Will interchange improvements and pitchfork design really get the job done, particularly now that Charleston is considered the No. 1 most desirable place to live in the U.S. and can be expected to grow like crazy? Is it not true that growing can be painful but is a necessity? Why would you not want to welcome the economic vitality the project likely will bring into the area? Have you personally tried to negotiate traffic going to West Ashley or onto Johns Island at 5:30 on weekday afternoons? There’s a great opportunity to bring home the bacon for Charleston. Why wouldn’t you grab it while you can? It’s now or never — real (not theoretical) solutions to forestall what will certainly become the state’s biggest parking lot if we don’t act.
You see, these are legitimate questions and it’s going to take leadership to garner any measure of popular support either way, assuming it’s even possible. We’ll see.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.