The Stoic Traveler

"Wherever I go, it will be well with me."

14 September 2006

Contradictions and Contretemps

Do I contradict myself?/
Very well, I contradict myself./
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
This might very well be my motto. It is, after all, the mark of an educated person that he can hold to opposing ideas in his head without necessarily being persuaded by either. I rather enjoy the occasional inconsistency, and am more than willing to acknowledge them. And so...

Inconsistency, the First: Religion and Baseball
It is one of my rules, or rather one of the rules drummed into me, that I do not discuss religion in polite society. I might alienate someone, and have done so more than once. Those of you who know me, know that there are rarely times when I shy away from talking religion. Often, these times inolve a corn, grape, or barley distillate. Shows how powerful the rules are, but I digress.
My real topic: the National Anthem, Baseball, and "God Bless America."
I went to a Cardinals game a few nights ago (Astros at St. Louis, we spanked 'em). I enjoy watching baseball unless the Belleville Middle School Honor Choir, composed mostly of smoke alarms, dog whistles, and ten year-old girls are sitting behind me. Little girls shriek and when they are just behind my ears, they are the most horrid sonic phenomenon in history. At any rate, the announcer came on and asked the stadium to stand for the National Anthem and God Bless America.
Now, I've been to ballgames post-9/11, so the GBA thing is not news to me, but it is still upsetting. No matter how much better a song it might be, Berlin's "God Bless America" (GBA) is not the national anthem. It does not posess the same relation to this country as the "Star Spangled Banner." Please Stop Standing for "God Bless America"!
When it is sung in conjunction with the national anthem, that is as a ceremonial thing during a time of war, it becomes very alarming.

The idea and purpose behind it is clear: Gott mit uns! God is on our side! Whatever happens we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not! Et Cetera, et cetera: Jingoism and evocation. It's a standard response in wartime for any nation. Hell, during the War for Independence, Americans changed the lyrics from the British National Anthem (i.e., "God Save the King") to include a verse running:
"Arise, O God, arise/Scatter our enemies/And Make them Fall"
I would have no problem with re-using that idea; it's an honest statement of what most Americans would like to happen: the complete and utter destruction of the militant, destructive forces in Islam. Americans want to feel safe and be safe. This is good.
GBA, however, asks for God's blessing. I am no theologian, but I have read the Bible. My understanding is that a blessing is not supposed to be a good thing only for the person being blessed, but rather a gift of strength to make the world a better place. In other words, a person is "blessed to be a blessing" as Abraham was in Genesis 12:2-3.
I am not at all convinced that the United States' actions in this "War on Terror" have been a blessing to the world. Indeed, we seem to have sown chaos and terror wherever we go. Of course, this is all in the name of "God-given liberty," so that makes it alright. All men want to be free, after all. If they don't, never mind. We'll abolish all mankind.