That’s it. I am going to settle this church and state debate once and for all.
Apparently, some legislators over in Arizona, in a surge of national pride, introduced a bill which would encourage every Arizona school to display the phrase “In God We Trust” in every conceivable location which a child’s wandering line of sight might find. But I am paraphrasing. From the bill itself:
THE WORDS “IN GOD WE TRUST” SHALL BE DISPLAYED IN EACH CLASSROOM, SCHOOL AUDITORIUM AND SCHOOL CAFETERIA ON AN APPROPRIATELY FRAMED BACKGROUND WITH MINIMUM DIMENSIONS OF AT LEAST ELEVEN INCHES BY FOURTEEN INCHES.
The legislators appear to want to use this phrase to inspire patriotism in the heart of every child, and, by extension, unite us all in our war against the browner peoples of the earth. Why this particular phrase, I have to wonder? Why is it patriotic? Because it shows up on coins? Because it’s buried somewhere in the national anthem, in the fourth verse, which nobody ever knows the words to?
The surface argument against displaying the phrase all over God’s creation is that it is insensitive to assume that everyone trusts in God, and this argument should be compelling enough on its own to make the legislators think twice about what they are trying to do. Even a person who believes in the existence of God might not necessarily trust in God, or may only to the extent that they are confident that he will fuck them over.
But these legislators are trying to link the phrase to patriotism, to American history.
What do we mean when we say “in God we trust”? In God we trust. We trust in God. We believe in God. We have faith that God will deliver.
And in the context of America? “We have faith that God will come and take care of our shit, while simultaneously making it difficult or impossible for the people we don’t like or don’t care about to accomplish their shit.” If that’s too harsh, then perhaps: “We are confident that the master of all existence is going to guide America with a shining light into a glorious future, one in which America is economically and technologically superior to all other nations, and preferably without abortion clinics.” Well, there I go again. But needless to say, I think that the feeling this phrase generates (and the motivation to use it) is not patriotism at all, but arrogance, selfishness, and isolationism. But I suppose that these are the characteristics by which patriotism is defined, which is an unfortunate reality.
Let’s leave God alone. He’s got enough to worry about, with dozens upon dozens of nations and religious factions all over the world claiming him for their team. And since he is God, he can be on everybody’s side; but what would the point of that be? So I’m guessing he doesn’t bother. Besides, everyone knows that God’s primary interests nowadays lie in nanofabrication. (It says so right there in the Bible. The new one. The one that came out in January. Don’t you have a subscription?)
I honestly don’t mean to offend anyone who lives by the phrase. But to trust in God is a personal choice – as is *not* to trust in God – and to install the phrase on classroom walls smacks of propagandism, of a governing body that wants its youth to grow up loving a country without ever understanding the reasons for loving it.
Besides, the project would likely be counterproductive anyway. When I served on jury duty a couple weeks back, one of the first things I noticed about the courtroom were the words “In God We Trust” displayed in large letters on the wall. If there’s as much slow time at school as there was in that jury box, the students are going to do what I did and start rearranging the letters in their minds to spell out funny new phrases such as TONGUED WRIST, UNSORTED WIG, UNDERGO TWIST, URGED TIT SNOW, WINGED TROUT, and of course, TOWERING STUD.
In fact, that would probably make a better (at least, more honest) classroom wall motto.
AMERICA: TOWERING STUD.