"For the times they are a-changin," is a line from the third verse of Bob Dylan's 1964 classic American protest hymn, released as the title track of Dylan's 1964 album.
In 1985, Dylan told Cameron Crowe, who was writing cover copy for a later Dylan album:
"This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced, of course, by the Irish and Scottish ballads 'Come All Ye Bold Highway Men,' 'Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens.'
"I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time." (Wikipedia)
I was reminded of Dylan's "song with a purpose" while attempting to decipher the reaction to two recent United Nations General Assembly speeches, specifically, one from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and another from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The positive response to Rouhani is startling compared to the surprisingly negative reaction evoked by Netanyahu. Times are most certainly changing when an Israeli leader is trumped on the world stage so decisively by a leader of Iran.
Bob Dylan's 1964 poem (sung below in a 1997 clip by Bruce Springsteen) was not intended as a description of what has fully arrived, but is rather an alert to what is now unfolding.
The signs are clear, the times are a-changing. But as Matthew 16:2-3 reminds us, the general public is slow to read them:
"When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."
Bob Dylan makes this point with remarkable precision in these lines in the second verse of "The times they are a-changin". (For a full set of lyrics, click here.)
Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'
These words are directed to "writers and critics" whose prophecies are as distorted and uninformed as those of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has just concluded what Phillip Weiss describes as "Bibi's alienation tour." On this tour, Weiss notes:
"Amazingly, Netanyahu has managed to offend: Charlie Rose, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Roger Cohen, and Ali Abunimah."
Charlie Rose is no MSNBC lefty. He is an establishment media figure from PBS, who is now with the very establishment CBS network. Harris is, well, he is with the American Jewish Committee, a front line AIPAC warrior group.
Roger Cohen is the New York Times columnist who is clearly tired of Netanyahu's insensitivity to the truth. Ali Abuminah's response? Well, that was to be expected. But Rose, Harris, and Cohen?
Weiss describes how Netanyahu riled up leading pro-Israel media establishment figures:
"The prime minister did fireside chats with Charlie Rose and NPR.