Friday, October 28, 2011

A Good, Salt-of-the-Earth, God Fearing American is a Cosmic Horror


Occasionally, Real America offers up something like Callista Gingrich's botox raptor grin; a reminder that those who imagine themselves to be the universal norm are often in fact quite fantastically strange and completely oblivious to this. Joe Nichols' little piece of pap here starts our innocently enough.  The first verse tells us to be kind and encouraging to little kids who are just trying to do their best. No decent person would disagree.

Things get a little more troublesome in verse two.  Here Nichols chastises a theoretical someone for refusing to let his father drive out of concern the man was getting too old.  The verse ends with the line 'The old man never drove again,' and the implication is that this is a tragedy on the level of a freedom fighter wasting away in a gulag.  It is, to be sure, overly harsh to not even let an old man practice for a driving test that he might be able to pass.  Yet it's also true that the son in question has probably seen the father's attempts to drive and has his reasons to find them lacking.  More to the point, the son in question is probably at least in his forties if not fifties, perhaps the father of grown children himself.  So the central evil here, in Nichols mind, isn't that it's tragic for a poor old man to have his feelings hurt, but that THE FATHER is always right.  And his children will absolutely never have the right to overrule them on any matter, not even for reasons of public safety, not even if they themselves have gained middle-age maturity.  It is Nichols' self-righteousness in his own feudal slavery here that gives some small hint of the  fever dream that is the final verse.    

"We take His name out of the schools.
The lawyers say it breaks the rules.
Pledge of allegiance can't be read,
An' under God, should not be said.
I wonder how much He will take.
I just pray it's not too late.

What if God quit tryin',
He just turned away?
There were teardrops on his face?
Tell me, how would you feel?
You'd probably give up too,
If nobody believed in you."

In the video, this is accompanied by shots of schoolchildren fading from existence, one by one, along with the American flag and some, though not all, pictures of old American heroes.  The formula for why the life of George Washington is wiped from physical reality but that of MLK is not is left unexplained, and I couldn't begin to guess what it is. 

So, the message here seems to be that, unless we Americans make constant, ostentatious public displays of our belief in God, the old sky man would 'give up', to shrink himself out of existence through pure despair, naturally erasing his universe and ourselves along with him.  This is, to put it mildly, a very strange take on Christian piety.  It reminds me of nothing so much as those urban legends about folks who are doomed to forever think that they are a cactus or jug of water because of too much acid, or perhaps the 'Neverending Story' saga.  There is no physical reality, only what we imagine; and the existence of everything continues to exist for only as long as we choose to believe in it.  That's some trippy evangelical shit right there.  What if, like, everything is just in our minds man?  

And the real hell of it is that I'm sure that Joe Nicholls imagines himself to be just a humble believer, delivering a , common sense message about our need to 'let go and let God', return to the days of simple, submissive common belief in his power.  But what he's actually saying is just the opposite.  By saying that God and his creation exist for only as long as we believe in him, he is saying that it is human belief which is the true ultimate power in the universe.  He is saying that God needs us, that humans, are imaginations, or at least those of Americans, are stronger than God.   It's like the 'rooster's prayer' children's book of 'animal prayers' that was read to us in Catholic school, 'don't forget God, that it is I who makes the sun rise.'

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