TV coverage tonight of the Christmas tree being lit in Manger Square, Bethlehem, Palestine reminded me of a peace song about Newbury, the town nearest a former US nuclear cruise missile base and site of the well known Greenham Common women's peace camp in the 1980s. It was part of the Liberator Song Book, a Liberal (Democrat) Party publication produced for the "glee club" at the party conference. Along with the great 1909 rallying call "The Land", it still forms part of the canon. The sorrow is that, sans the references to nuclear weapons, the rewording of the Christmas carol is terribly relevant to Bethlehem, the Middle East and the world today three decades later.
O Little town of Newbury, how still your ruins lie.
Above your deep and dreanless sleep the satellites go by,
But from your hilltops long have flown the megadeaths of hate;
The lies and fears of all the years, which brought you to this fate.
How silently, how silently, your radiant ashes glow.
The fires of hell, the filthy smell, were long ago.
But in your rubble still we read your message of despair,
"If we must die, let others die in millions Over There!"
The tragedy is (that) you never (really) had to burn.
Both far too late and far too great you paid the price to learn;
If we want life, let other live and let the world be shared;
Let rulers go, and nations no more threaten or be feared.
For little towns like Newbury might sleep today unharmed
If they had seen that missiles mean the world must be disarmed.
And poverty and ignorance and private wealth must cease,
If there's to be a world that's free, a planet that's at peace.