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Why I hate 'God Bless America'


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Illustration by Arnie Bermudez
By Brett Berry
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 25, 2004
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If there is one thing in the world of American politics that is an absolute, it is the way that a politician ends a speech. It's pretty much political dogmatic law to finish everything you say with the same three words: "God bless America."

And I hate every time someone says it.

Why do I hate this happy little adage? It's not because there's anything wrong with praying for good things to come to our country. The problem is that it's a simple manipulation, using God for personal political benefit.

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Brett Berry
Columnist

It's become standard operating procedure for any office-seeking politician to recite these three little words if they want to get elected. A righteous catch phrase like "God bless America" thrown in at the end of a speech is often times just what politicians need to seal the deal with all the Bible-thumping voters out there. How else are you supposed to prove to the zealous voters of America that you really are a red-blooded, "God-fearing" American?

Of course, it's fine and good for someone in politics to use their religion as a moral compass to guide their actions while in office. After all, there's absolutely nothing wrong with religion and prayer - in fact, I think they're great. The problem that I have is when religion is used as a tool to manipulate the masses.

Invoking the name of God into politics has a broader effect than simply swaying the self-righteous. Using religion appeals to all of us, even if we aren't of the same faith. Politicians can use the positive connotations associated with God and religion to sway all of us. After all, a religious man couldn't possibly be corrupt, right? He says a little pseudo-prayer, and he's absolved of his transgressions.

Furthermore, a phrase like "God bless America" is something with which it is hard to disagree. It's something that you just can't argue with, like saying, "support our troops" or "let freedom reign."

No one in their right mind could contest these sayings; no one wants God to smite their country or for our soldiers to die in combat. Saying "God bless America" makes you unwittingly agree with the man no matter what you really think of him - a sort of contrived way of forcing agreement.

Plus, associating yourself with God can draw a subconscious tie between the man and God in the eyes of the public. How else can you explain George W. Bush? During his campaign's "question-and-answer period" (and I use both terms loosely), some Bush supporters have directly told him that they believe that having Dubya as our president is akin to having God himself in the oval office.

When people start associating a politician with God, it makes that person infallible. They are beyond reproach. Suddenly people will believe anything that the man does and follow their wishes with religious fervor. If he says go to war, we go to war.

There's no thinking for yourself, because politics are now leaps of faith. The government is doing God's work, and there is no arguing lest you be unfaithful. This is exactly why we are supposed to have separation of church and state.

Tying God's work with politics is a dangerous proposition. This is what is disturbing about the extremist Islamic terrorists. They believe they are doing God's work, thus they will not relent. They are blinded by what they think God wants them to do. President Bush, in fact, has acknowledged this, and is it good that he has done so. We should always be wary of a man claiming to be doing God's work.

This is why it bothers me when I hear that President Bush has reportedly said that he thought God wanted him to run for president, and that God wanted him to strike at Saddam Hussein.

I have no problem whatsoever with religion or with prayer, but allowing religion to seep into politics and government is counter to the basic principles of a free democracy. Democracy requires each of us to think for ourselves, not take the word of a man simply because he says he prays. Our religion can guide our actions, but it should not be used to guide others.

Go ahead and pray for our country, but remember that a "God-fearing" man doesn't necessarily denote a virtuous politician. Vote for what you think will make our country a better place.

More than that, if we are all God's children, we really shouldn't be saying, "God bless America." We should be praying for all of the people of the Earth. We should be saying, "God bless humanity."

Brett Berry is a regional development senior who believes that people should be "God-embracing" and not "God-fearing." He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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