America the Blessed

Whenever I hear of ‘culture’… I release the safety-catch of my Browning [pistol]!

     —A line in Hanns Johst’s play Schlageter, often misattributed to Nazi leaders


When I hear of Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my gun.

     —Stephen Hawking


When I hear the words ‘phenomenology’ or ‘structuralism,’ I reach for my buck knife.

     —Ed Abbey


The word ‘community’ pisses me off. Who isn’t in a community now? It’s particularly bad in my adopted country and in my hometown of Washington, DC. ‘The defense community.’ Alright, if you must. ‘The intelligence community,’ for the CIA, is an outrage. ‘The donor community’ for those who seek to influence politics by giving money under the table is appalling. […] You hear the word ‘community,’ keep your hand on your wallet.

     —Christopher Hitchens



That is a whole lot of reaching-for, at the mere mention of an abstraction, but I had to reach for my jar of reality-cream, recently, when I got emails from a group that wanted me to know about Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj, “’who has been graced to prepare the way of the Lord for His Second Coming’ [and] says the USA has been blessed with a Godly President in Trump.”

A few days later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders officially confirmed America is blessed when she said God “wanted Donald Trump to become president.” For a time, a billboard in St. Louis captioned a photo of Trump, “The Word Became Flesh.”

A decade-old but still-pertinent survey by PBS and the UN Foundation showed that 61 percent of Americans believed God “uniquely blessed America,” and 59 percent “believe[d] the US should set the example as a Christian nation to the rest of the world.” A poll of regular church-goers drove the numbers up to 80 percent and 77 percent.

“America Is Blessed By God Whether You Like It Or Not,” reads one partisan headline.

For a fellow of a more Emersonian turn of mind, living some 2,300 years after Aristarchus of Samos, hearing others insist our geopolitical state is exclusively blessed by a god is kind of a bummer. I suppose the abstraction should make me reach for my revolver, but I do not believe in revolvers either, so I am left with my nightstand cream and my gloominess about the future’s judgment upon us.

A recent Times article, on how readers think of attitudes from earlier times, says,


Most of us rely on technology that can be traced to child labor or even slave labor. We know this—or we should know this—but we don’t think about it much. When we’re texting or using social media, we don’t tend to be troubled by the thought that the cobalt in our phones may have been extracted by 10-year-olds in Katanga working 12-hour shifts for a dollar a day. […] If you or I were to write a novel with a passage in which someone takes a casual glance at his phone, how might this strike a reader from the future—someone whose understanding of human interconnectedness is far more acute than our own? I’m guessing that readers from the future might find our callousness almost unbearable….


What will the future say of our blessed hubris, delusion, and hypocrisy? The whiff of idolatry and irreverence in our cynicism? Granted, even in our time there are people who cannot agree that owning other human beings was wrong, so maybe the future will be idiotic too.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.