The small “g” god problem in America

Last week the country was devoted to worship and ritual.

Which leaves me partly on the outs.

The part that’s in is my capacity for deep sentiment. Inspiring orations, funereal or otherwise, can move me greatly, can cause me to tear up. I wish, though, that they were not so detached from complex reality — although I do realize talking about the Keating Five at John McCain’s funeral would not have been…tactful.

What brings this up: my brother Ethan and I were talking about the Keating Five and John McCain’s unindicted participation in it. As I scrolled around Twitter, I wondered whether anyone would care to mention it.

Someone did, by referring to a solid PolitiFact article about why John McCain devoted so much time to campaign financing reform.

As Eth, as much of an iconoclast as I am, said, “He would have voted for Kavanaugh,” and, yeah, he would have.

Yet there we were — “we,” in the collective sense of country — worshiping John McCain, an imperfect man who was not a god.

I don’t believe in a capital “G” god at all. I do believe in some gods, though. Domestic size household gods. My household gods — photos of beloved, extended and extensive family members (and Leon Trotsky) — cover the walls of my foyer/dining room. I don’t pray to them. They don’t have supernatural powers, not my household gods. They just hang out with me and I with them.

(Until I searched for “household gods,” I did not know there was such a thing in ancient Judaism, where they are called “teraphim.” I did not know Rachel stole her father’s household gods when she left his house and then, when corralled, literally sat down on the package of gods and told the accusers she was menstruating so they couldn’t touch her. Now I know and I’m rather sorry I do. In any case, ancient Judaic household gods are of no use to me, so I quickly Googled “Roman household gods,” which is the first link I used above mentioning “household gods.” Enter the link at “ancient Judaism” at your own risk.)

And then there is the football god, he to whom I occasionally appeal during an unbearably tense two minute drill at the end of a fourth quarter, but beyond saying, “oh please please please,” I don’t offer sacrifices or payoffs of any kind, do not believe he’ll will do anything to help my team — in fact, my team itself and the football god are all mushed together — and I do not hold any kind of image of god in my mind. (He has to be a Him; we women do not yet play professional football.)

I did write a piece when Lawrence Taylor retired, in which I conveyed godhood upon him and proved, via precise comparisons to several Greek gods, why LT was a god, but nobody wanted to publish it, so…

I wander down to the major point here: politicians are not gods, and they should never be worshiped as if they were.

A politician is a government professional, someone who has intelligence and an education in law and government. A politician is not like me. I could never do what a good politician does: speak of his or her ideals for government as a campaigner, while simultaneously conveying the reality that those ideals (a statement of intentions, which is what a political promise is) are not and can’t be imposed immediately and perfectly within the reality of government. Which involves working with almost a thousand other politicians who also have their perhaps contradictory ideals and imperfections.

After I listen to a politician’s ideals, I’d like to hear a sketch of how those soaring ideals can be realized, brought to earth by legislation.

I couldn’t do any of that. I’m an idealist. I vote for the person whose statement of intentions comes as close to my ideals of government as possible. I don’t look for charisma; I look for conviction.

At the same time, I’m a pragmatist who is delighted the person I vote for has to handle those thousand other people, because I don’t have the patience for it and would want to punch a bunch of them in the mouth.

I loathe some of them, wake up in the middle of the night consumed by worry and loathing.

Loathing is an emotion befitting an idealist, not a politician.

And so I absorb, sometimes with teeth-grinding irritation, statements and decisions I don’t like from the people I’ve voted for. I don’t yank them off their pedestals; they’re not on pedestals. They are not gods.

The only pop music concert I personally bought tickets for was the Beatles at Carnegie Hall, so someone must have taken me to hear Aretha Franklin.

She was great.

I’m fine with Aretha being a goddess.




This entry was posted in Politics, The Facts of Life, The god problem and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.