Manifest Destiny, Redux

Copyright © by Len Holman, 1/24/13


  I tuned into the massive prayer meeting on Monday, and to my surprise, an inauguration ceremony broke out.  There, in colors vivid and sounds bravely ringing in the cold air, was a massive spectacle of patriotism and Christianity intermingled into a potent, poisonous revisiting of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.  I’d never heard God (the Christian one) invoked so many times since I was nose to nose with an ogre-clone and nearly-speechless-with- apoplectic-choler drill instructor at a callow eighteen years of age.  Aside from the embarrassing spectacle presented to a nation with so many unemployed, underemployed, homeless, doctorless, and with so many children being fed in shelters and living in temporary accommodations, there was the equally dispiriting panoply of flags, promises of American world dominance, and the sure and repeated proclamations, both explicit and implicit, that God would make it so, that God would raise America up, as it deserved to be, and bring our enemies low (the rest of the planet), as THEY deserved to be. 

  It seems that the idea of the separation of Church and State has not made its way into the brains of the planners and participants of this pageant.  If you were a Jain, a Buddhist, a humanist, an atheist, a Jew, a Sikh, a Zoroastrian, or the lady in the colored bandana who reads the fortunes of the famous in a Beverly Hills salon, you were not really included.  You could watch.  You could wave a flag.  You could listen to James Taylor and Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson.  You could use your smart phones to take pictures, but the real action was of and for the god of Christianity, the one who will take America back up to the top of the mountain, the one who will make sure the drones hit something important, who will see to it that Iran implodes, then explodes (with help, of course), the one who will keep China in check, and make sure North Korea continues to send up paper rockets which look pretty going up—at least for a while. 

  Even George W. Bush didn’t have this kind of theocratic-patriotic ceremony.  Even Jimmy Carter didn’t lust, in his heart, for something as grand and nakedly religious as this ceremony was. After the President finished his aggressive speech, I expected him to exhort the crowd to go forth and take back the Black Hills because God wanted them to.  So far, I’ve heard nothing about this bald and shameless intertwining of one religion and the state, including nothing from the “the constitution is sacred” crowd.  God is invoked in all manner of ways, of course:  abortion, guns, immigration, football…but this was supposed to be a national ceremony, for a nation as diverse as the ice cream after an explosion in a Ben & Jerry’s factory.  The invocation at the beginning was bare of any pretense that the help of mere humans was needed to make America great.  It was all about the Christian God. 

  Now, I am all for religion and prayer and believing in God—if that is a person’s preference.  I am not for invoking this one facet of a million-faceted America, for invoking and raising it up like a Roman banner or the flags of the Crusaders, during a ceremony which was largely meaningless to the running of the country.  Obama and Vice President Biden took the official oath of office on the 20th, so even if we didn’t have the bands and the celebs and the Bibles (how the hell many Bibles WERE there?), we would still have preserved the constitutional requirements.  Maybe it’s a temperament thing for me.  I would have liked to see the President take his oath, kiss his wife and kids, and get back to work. No muss, no fuss.  It’s not like there isn’t anything to do.  Even after the ceremony and the balls and the breathless commentary on Mrs. Obama’s dress, there was a prayer meeting the next day, prominently displayed on all media, everywhere. 

  It seems to be a case of whistling past the graveyard when someone carries a rabbit’s foot, a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe, and wears his or her lucky hat when they are facing a crowd of bullies.  In this world, we are the skinny kid against some badass bullies.  We have as big, bloated, but very effective, military, but are slowly sinking in debt while our infrastructure collapses around us and our kids get sick and stay sick, while we can’t seem to educate anyone very well anymore.  We NEED God as our rabbit’s foot.  The more we proclaim our allegiance to one deity—or a hundred—in public ceremonies, the more one has to wonder how long the edifice of our democracy can stand.  It is not our manifest destiny to dominate the world when we can’t even feed our own citizens or take care of our elderly or protect our children.  We can call on God to bless us, but without some real help, reason, and productive policies from our so-called leaders, even HE might not want to get involved.


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