Are the Good Times Really Over? Musings upon a great Merle Haggard tune.

by Donald Jacobs

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

“Wish a buck was still silver. It was back when the country was strong.”, opines the first line of a lamentation from Merle Haggard backed by The Strangers that describes the United States’ “hangover” after the “revolution” of the 1960s and the “Me Decade” of the 1970s. Written by Merle Haggard and released on May 15 1982, the song asks the listener the all consuming question, “Are we rollin’ down hill like a snowball headed for Hell?” As one listens they are compelled to wonder if there is indeed no chance for The Flag and The Liberty Bell those proud symbols of a seemingly failing nation. The lament continues by invoking memories of strong men who would work hard for their living, fathering, providing for, and protecting strong families; and of women who lovingly and dutifully care for those men and the children that strong families produce. Going further, the hearer is caused to question if numerous icons of American life are truly a thing of the past and if we are all doomed to face a future of utter despair.

Well in the fourty two years since the song came out the same questions continue to be asked. The wishing that Coke was still cola has given way to people screaming about fentanyl deaths, and the memory of the Vietnam war has been replaced by the spectre of one war after another in the Middle East. People still complain about their means of conveyance costing a fortune and not lasting as long as they should like our favorite car from our younger days, whether Ford, Chevy or any other model of vehicle. And the media continues to opine about one alleged injustice after another and the viewer is fed political solution after political solution as if government were the solution. Well, the song has already warned the listener of lying so called “statesmen” by recalling to our minds the events of the Watergate scandal which ruined President Richard Nixon. The words of King Solomon seem to ring over and over as one listens to Merle sing, there is truly nothing new under the sun.

This tune does not leave us wanting for hope however, in the final chorus, as if mustering all of the courage and might left within him, the admonishment comes. STOP ROLLIN’ DOWN HILL LIKE A SNOWBALL HEADED FOR HELL! STAND UP FOR THE FLAG AND LET’S ALL RING THE LIBERTY BELL! There is hope out there for the nation and each individual in it. It takes free people who are not afraid to be free. Who embrace not just their liberty but the risks and responsibilities that go along with it. We can face the future with hope as long as we accept the fact that faith and hope are to be directed to something greater than ourselves. Something outside of mankind. As the Book of Psalms says, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” Ps 146:3 There is a greater hope than all governments and nations combined. That hope is found through faith in the one who upholds all things by his power, the King of all Kings. In Him the best of the free life is indeed still yet to come, and the good times ain’t over for good.

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