In Defense of 'God Bless America'

By James Fallows
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Long ago I reconciled myself, Zen-like, to the certainty that all Presidential speeches for the rest of my life are destined to end with the same formulaic "Amen"-style phrase. I do from time to time note what a formula -- and what an evasion of a "real" speech ending -- this has become. But, that's life.

A reader says that I am being unfair, and that the reason Barack Obama ends every speech with "And God Bless the United States of America" (a phrase that the first 39 Presidents of the United States never used to end their addresses; it was number 40, Ronald Reagan, who introduced what is now an inescapable cliche) is that he actually wants America to be blessed:

>>Your analysis still ignores the possibility that Obama is sincere in his stated desire for to God bless America, unlike those heathen savages Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. ;-) [who omitted the phrase] 

We know that Obama is quite capable of writing very strong endings to very strong speeches.  That fact challenges the characterization of his ending prayer as a crutch to avoid writing a real ending.

If he is sincere, then is it really fair to dismiss it as a cliche?  If he really means it?    

I pray over my family every day.  It is usually the same prayer. I say, "Lord, thank you for Karen and James and Judah.  Send armies of your angels to watch over them, to protect them, and keep them safe from all harm.  Give them divine health and healing.  Bring them home safely from wherever they travel.  I impart to Karen the authority over our home and our family while I am away, in Jesus' name."

Is my prayer a cliche because I say the same thing every day?   I mean every word of it.  I genuinely want the Lord to do all of those things, which is why I ask him to do them.  Catholics pray the Rosary by counting off beads as they recite prayers such as The Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary.  Does the repetition condemn it to the status of a cliche?  

It just seems to me that you are projecting motives onto President Obama that he might not hold.  Yes, it is possible that his plea for God to bless America is just a verbal tic.  It is also possible that he is saying it because he sincerely wants God to bless our country.  Why not give him the benefit of the doubt?  Or .... why not ask him?  It would make an interesting article.<<

It would indeed. Why not give it a try?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/in-defense-of-god-bless-america/238558/