God Bless America – …and no place else?

A lot of political satire is included in a new movie, called “Head of State”, starring comedian Chris Rock. And the reason satire works is that it is based on truth and realism. This movie works, and international affairs are not left out of the issues discussed in the fictitious presidential campaign politics of the movie.

Chris Rock plays an alderman in Washington D.C. who is chosen by a major political party to run for President of the U.S. after its two primary candidates are killed in an airplane crash when their jets crash into each other. As a black man, unknown nationally and not exactly making friends with his support of the little man in his district, Rock is dismayed that a major party would choose him as its presidential candidate. In his own mind, he wonders if he is being set up for a big joke, for assassination, or something in between. It turns out that he is being asked to run for cynical, symbolic purposes — he is expected to lose the election, and the party is expected to benefit in the following election by virtue of having sponsored the first black candidate for President.

Rock enters the campaign and ultimately comes face to face with the man he is challenging, the standing Vice-President for eight years, who now wants to move into the Presidential slot. And every time the VP makes a speech, he ends it with a rousing “God Bless America — and No Place Else!”

The reason this is so effective in the movie is that it echoes what hear (or fail to hear) in routine American politics. Americans and their government tend to by myopic to the point of near blindness. We Americans tend to believe that all the good in the world centers FROM America and if it occurs elsewhere, it must be because we started it or set an example for the rest of the world. We are America-centric and America focused.

When the World Trade Center fell, and the news media focused on the early efforts of search and rescue for the victims buried in the rubble, the American news media (and even the mayor Guiliani) repeatedly focused on the bizarre notion such rescue efforts were uniquely American. It was implied that citizens of Cairo or Warsaw or Kampala would not attempt to rescue their injured or recover their dead in the collapse of their own buildings. Any intelligent person watching that sort of coverage would have to wonder how journalists could reach such ridiculous conclusions.

Americans are taught that America “saved Europe” during World War II, and that the French and everyone else “owe their freedom” to us. What is completely forgotten is that while the Nazis marched through Paris, bombed London to ruins, and were murdering Jews by the tens of thousands at Treblinka and Auschwitz, America stood back and watched. America built up its industrial base by selling war materiel to its allies. A recent biography of Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler pointed out that in the early stages of the War, British leadership secretly negotiated for a settlement with the Nazis because the Brits were worried about long-term economic dominance of their country by America and were willing to consider settling with the Nazis due to concerns about America. We certainly do not read THAT in the history texts on American “heroism” in saving the world.

The point is that Americans are self-focused, and self-deluded into believing that America is uniquely good in this world and that America is the bastion against evil. Thus, it seems reasonable for a high-level American politician to advance policies that reflect a world view of “God Bless America — and No Place Else!” You NEVER hear American politicians say this in real life, but they may as well say it.

At the conclusion of the movie, Chris Rock presents a differing point of view, albeit in a comic manner. After telling his political opponent to his face in a televised debate “You are full of (feces)” Rock explains his view that “God (should) Bless America and EVERYPLACE Else”.

Surely it is time for Americans and their leaders to seek treatment for their myopia and learn to think of Americans as people, neither better nor worse than other people. Surely we Americans must seek God’s blessing on the whole wide world of men. Surely we Americans should seek to work for God’s blessing on the wide world of men, not by warring for natural resources, but by setting an example of peace-making and problem resolution in a positive way. Surely, we Americans should be able to largely leave vengeance in God’s hands more often.

I believe that many Americans would like a new “Head of State”, more like the character played by Chris Rock in this new movie.

The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.