The broadcasting celebrity didn’t have to identify himself, but he did. When I picked up my phone, he said, “This is Paul Harvey in Chicago.” He was chasing a story in Jesup for his radio show and newspaper column. Before hanging up, he said, “Here’s my number—312-899-4085. Call me, anytime.” And when I did, it was always the same. No hoops to jump through, just one ring and “Paul Harvey!”
I miss his commentary. His “Rest of the Story” segments were especially informative and entertaining. He could wave the American flag and tout apple pie with the best. Paul Harvey could make you laugh. But most of the time, he wanted you to think.
And that’s what I’ve been doing since my friend Hinson Mosley sent me Paul Harvey’s remarks first made in 1964. Reading each line, I thought, “He had a crystal ball.” Think about 2020’s state of affairs. Now, consider that he recited “If I were the devil” 56 years ago:
“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 had 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 was 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 what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’
“Then, I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear uninteresting. I’d peddle 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, were 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 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. Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, 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. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?
“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, and 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.”
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Did Paul Harvey have a crystal ball?