Sunday, August 26, 2007

God Bless

[posted by Callimachus]

"God Bless America" stickers bleach on the bumpers of some cars and pick-up in my town. Usually with a dramatic drawing of an eagle or the Statue of Liberty. On others, a plain blue and white bumper sticker reads, "God bless the whole world. No exceptions."

"God Bless America." Very well. It may be knee-jerk patriotism, but I have no problem with it as theology. God bless us doesn't mean God, don't bless anything else. I don't believe in that god, but I don't object to being blessed by Christians, or to them appealing for blessings from someone I don't think is there. I know some people see that slogan, and the song that embodies it, as creeping Christianism. Which is amusing, since it was written by an Ashkenazi Jew, albeit a Republican.

Too old for military service when his country entered World War II in 1941, he devoted his time and energy to writing new patriotic songs, such as "Any Bonds Today?", donating the proceeds from This Is the Army to the army itself, and entertaining the troops with a road company of that show, in which he was a member of the cast. After performances in the United States, the show played in London in 1943, at a time when the city was still under air attack from Germany. After a tour of the British Isles, the show went on to North Africa and then Italy, playing in Rome only weeks after that city was liberated. Next came the Middle East and the Pacific, where performances often took place in close proximity to battle zones. In recognition of this important and courageous contribution to troop morale, at war's end Berlin was awarded the Medal of Merit by President Truman.

And sung most famously by a hefty never-married songbird ("I'm big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!") named Kate Smith. To me, a native Philadelphian, and many others, the song forever will be associated with the Flyers' Stanley Cup years -- a pack of flamboyant, hard-cussing, hyperviolent Canadians. Besides, it inspired "This Land is Your Land."

So I have to dig through a lot of smiles to be spooked by the Christianism in it.

But what about the other? "God bless the whole world. No exceptions." Really? God bless Osama Bin Laden? God bless pedophiles? God bless Halliburton? Interesting. But they don't mean that, really, do they? I don't think many of the people who put those stickers on their car believe in that god any more than I do. It's just a reaction. To the other sticker. It doesn't mean anything, and it's not meant to support or promote anything. Just irritate the other side.

Which is why I don't take them seriously. Because it seems they don't take themselves seriously.

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