In 1965, radio commentator and columnist Paul Harvey wrote an essay that some of you will remember. It’s called “If I Were the Devil,” and it suggested that America’s problems in the mid-1960s could be traced back to people not working hard, being dishonest, getting divorced, getting high, getting abortions and getting out of church. As a result, he concluded, the devil must be having a field day in America watching it happen.
Harvey’s analysis of a changing America was aimed more at our outward behaviors than the social and cultural currents that were driving people in those directions, but, in its simplicity, it became wildly popular and is Harvey’s most enduring legacy.
But if the devil was having a field day in the 1960s, then he must be LHAO here in 2020. And so, with apologies to Mr. Harvey, who died in 2009, I offer my own more modern satanic strategies, 55 years after the original.
If I were the devil…
I would take down the United States as the beacon of light to a world starving for moral leadership and turn our nation into an angry, tit-for-tat, money-grubbing bully that throws its weight around simply because it can.
I would create a Tower of Babel unlike any seen since the 11th chapter of Genesis, wherein our own language is confused to the point that we can no longer agree on what basic words mean — words like honor, fairness, patriot, freedom, compromise and common sense.
I would create an electronic infrastructure that provides fertile ground for those who wish to plant the seeds of secret conspiracies in government, politics, science, history and art, so as to leave a society facing desperately difficult decisions without the ability to even define its problems.
I would take down the middle class, the linchpin that holds a democracy together, and create a nation rapidly dividing into haves and have-nots, each with its own angry mythologies about the other, and both ready to take or defend what they need to sustain life at the point of a gun.
And speaking of mythologies, I would spread the lie that those on the bottom rungs of society are there solely because they are inferior in their mental capacity and drive to succeed, and therefore deserve the kind of poverty and hunger that snuffs out genuine hope of a better future.
I would create programing capable of being watched in secret, where numbing profanity and crude sexual content gradually erodes our sense of what normal behavior looks, sounds and feels like.
I would take the idea of a “culture of life” and turn it on its head by inducing a passionate demand for the birth of every fetus, followed by the crass shoulder-shrugging denial of the health and nutritional support needed to help the new life thrive — and then loudly mock anyone who notices the hypocrisy of such a morally bankrupt position.
In the process, I would elevate and enshrine the words of Cain, who asked God with rhetorical anger and sarcasm, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and I would burn those words in the hearts of as many millions as I could convince that the answer is a fist-pounding, thundering no.
I would do everything in my power to destroy the carefully balanced natural world that He created for His children, and I would enjoy discovering that out of everything on my list this was the easiest to accomplish — since all that’s necessary for its success are the twin appeals of corporate profits and today’s individual convenience and comfort.
And as my power grew, I would make the utterly ridiculous appear completely reasonable. For example: assigning germs to political parties.
And speaking of germs, if I was the devil, I’d revel in injecting the human race with the one germ against which there will never be herd immunity: fear. And I would laugh as I watched the germ of fear slowly and relentlessly drive us all mad.
And I’d mess with supply chains. Remember toilet paper? I do. Fun times.
So … yeah. That’s what I’d do if I was the devil. It probably wouldn’t even be that hard. Most of the heavy lifting has already been done.
Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in southern Idaho. Connect with Chris on both Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.