Lately, the U.S. network news outlets blare lots of coverage of candidates with slicked-back hair or oddly coiffed “do”s, who make professions of their religious-based faith. This appears to be of paramount importance to them, in a country that once cherished the principle of the separation of church and state, as needed and necessary to ensure that all voices are heard, and all traditions are honored in equal measure. Religion, once a private system of beliefs and actions, is suddenly reduced to a talking point, a bid for more numbers in those all-important polls.
This country’s venerable symbol, a woman holding a lamp, used to represent its openness to immigrants from every corner of the globe, “the wretched refuse of your teeming shores”, as the poem inscribed on the statue says. She was a gift from the nation of France, which has a rich history honoring those who seek knowledge, those who ask “why” and those who challenge the status quo. Now the U.S. candidates holler about the dangers immigrants bring with them. The child listens and absorbs these words.
Transfixed by the pretty images that never stop talking, the child watches the screen. The candidates chatter about how faith in their God will guide their decisions if they get to live in a big White House next year. It’s something like the fairy tales Mom reads to her, after a long day at her two jobs, when Mom is tired, but wants her only child to learn good things, and to believe in a hopeful future. When Mom’s not home, the child learns from watching the way the television adults behave, what they say about who they hate, and why this is so. When she’s old enough to have her own phone, she can listen to these candidates all day if she so chooses.
The title of this post is a line from the REM song “Man on the Moon.”