On god, Michele Bachmann, and BSG

Posted by @ 1:06 pm on August 18th, 2011

I’ve been thinking about God lately. Or, I’ve been thinking about how God is used and abused in speeches, especially of the political nature. The other day, as I was finishing up Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica, I saw Michele Bachmann’s Iowa straw poll victory speech. Think what you will of Bachmann, in her excitement and adrenaline, she demanded, “God bless America!” and “God bless you!” at least a dozen times within a few minutes. I use the word “demanded” purposefully. Somewhere along the way, we as an English-speaking people went from asking or requesting that God bless us – “May God bless you” – to commanding this omnipotent, omniscient powerhouse to bless us. Whereas the omission of “May” may be a simple elision, that is, it was just more convenient for us to drop the “may” in order to be more efficient with our time. One syllable can make a difference.

Ok, so I understand that there is no comma in the phrase. Bachmann and others do not say, “God, bless America!” as a command, but considering how fervently and authoritatively they speak it, it becomes a demand. They are no longer requesting God to bless us. They are no longer asking.

All of this, of course, is juxtaposed against BSG, where rather than pray to a God – well, I guess the Cylons do, but now I’m just getting my nerd on – the human characters believe in gods, based more or less on the zodiac or stars or astronomy whatever word you choose to use. So the characters very distinctively walk around using “God” the way we would, only pluralized. It’s jarring. Rather than hear “God damn it,” they say, “Gods damn it.” Rather than “omg,” it’s “oh my gods.”

Being immersed in the BSG universe, I have a heightened awareness of the word “god” in everyday speak, so when I heard Bachmann’s victory speech, every instance of “god” felt like she was bashing me on the head with a megaphone while screaming. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe Bachmann used only as much God as any other public figure. Maybe she isn’t playing God by demanding he bless her supporters. Maybe I should just go watch another episode of Battlestar Galactica.


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