Who Are The Kings And Queens Of America?
Recently someone drew my attention a new Chrysler 300 ad with a voiceover by “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage. In it we see images of people that convey the sense that they are successful, physically fit, and ready for anything. As we consider them, combative music pulses dramatically in the background as the narrator proclaims in a solemn tone: “There is no royal blood in this country. Nothing is reserved for anyone. It’s all just out there, waiting. For someone to reach out and take it. And the ones who do, these are the kings and queens of America.”
I imagine that this tag line seemed effective, even inspirational to the people who produced it, and the corporate executives who approved it. However, I found it instantly offensive; not to me, but to the America way of life that it purports to represent. To explain why, I will have to venture a little into realms both philosophic and theological, which may suit neither the taste of my readers nor my own inadequate abilities. But I must risk it, since that’s the soil in which America’s identity takes root, and which the elitist faction media and money powers are determined to poison, as the Romans poisoned the ground on which Carthage once stood.
It’s fitting that the announcer is someone associated with HBO’s serialization of George R.R. Martin’s still evolving fantasy mythology, Game of Thrones. So far it has been a soul numbing, anti-moral, relentlessly violent and pitiless portrayal of a society populated by humanoid characters living at the edge of darkness, mechanistically acting out their natural impulses in a fashion calculated to put the stink in “instinct.” Though haunted by the possibility of redemption, there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality about that ghostly semblance of hope that only weakly interferes with the overall atmosphere of boisterous, self-idolizing desperation.
Like much of the programming on HBO, Game of Thrones seems like a purposeful effort to inculcate despair, while reveling in the currently almost limitless license to exploit pornographic imagery of every variety, with nary a nod to the aesthetic quality of art so poorly conveyed in the once familiar phrase “redeeming social value.” Any semblance of respect for that phrase would mar the deadpanned quality required to deliver “the moral of the story” with the irony it deserves. That moral delivers a message intended, I think, for young Americans who still entertain the notion that our nation’s life was ever about happy endings, to wit: “La Commedia è finita.”
The comedy is over, the tragedy has begun. The uplifting, happily colorful, good guy vision of American life must give way to a “dog eat dog”, survival of the fittest Darwinian landscape where only that which seeks to kill you makes you stronger. This makes those who love, or truly feel compassion for others into the most dangerous enemies of strength, their own as well as that of others. In such territory, nothing is certain but the ultimate triumph of power, and a hardened spirit of self-adulating violence. That violence prepares both heart and mind resolutely to embrace and administer death, without compunction or regret. In such a world the closest thing to “bad guys” are the people whose acts of violence proceed without a plan, the offspring of impulsive passion and desire.
In such a world, simple sin (action or activity that mistakes evil as good), though everywhere taken for granted, is thoroughly disrespected. Only iniquity will do. Respect is therefore reserved for the calculated, purposeful choice of evil, which refuses to act for any seeming good, except what destroys or vanquishes an enemy.
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” thus provides a suitable context for the Chrysler 300 commercial. It’s as if the ad were calculated to dispose people to accept that programming. The tragic irony is this: By accepting the message Americans reconfigure their young souls to suit the caricature of predatory evil that Marxist ideologues and other enemies of America’s equitable self-government, have always portrayed us to be.
I often refer to the “elitist faction.” The Chrysler 300 commercial is a good example of the mentality that label should bring to mind. Like America’s prevalent founders, the members of the elitist faction are drawn from America’s elite- the class of talented, outstanding achievers whom Lincoln called “the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle.” Unlike our nations’ founders, however, today’s elitist faction is composed of people overtly steeped in ideologies of human self-worship.
Those ideologies reject the premise of Creator-endowed unalienable right, and are well on their way to rejecting the very idea of creation itself. Insofar as they entertain any concept of nature at all, it is the improbable account of a chancy mechanism, liable to unpredictable breakdowns. It then claims that these breakdowns account for the ingenious workings of the most complex phenomena in the universe, including especially human life. So it ignores, in principles, all aspects of human nature that cannot be quantified because the only evidence for their existence is subjective human testimony, not measurably objective “facts.” (This includes, by the way, the assumption that when we approach a human body, “someone is in there” over and above the matter of which it is composed.)
Proponents of this account insist that empirical science can account for all nature, including human nature, in physical terms. Of course, when they say so they are actually relying on a barely concealed tautology, since the word “physical” simply repeats the word “natural” in its Greek derivation. So their much-vaunted science claims that it will account for nature in completely natural terms, which is like accounting for the color red by referring again to its redness. It leaves the question of what constitutes redness — what makes it what it is — unasked; therefore unanswered.
With this defiance of logical proof, they wave away the need for a Creator, and the implication that His being informs the differences that distinguish each existing thing from every other, as it goes from being itself simply to being in some way modified, so as to show itself in this or that particular form. But the question is, to whom does it show itself? In asking that question we human beings immediately encounter ourselves, for we are, each of us, the being to whom it is shown, and in whom the special kind of knowledge required to ask the question reveals the distinctive way of being (self-consciousness) that allows each one of us to see ourselves as one way of answering it.
God’s program for us is powerful hope, not power-mad desperation. Yet in order to see the being modified in its own terms, we must see ourselves in its image, otherwise the distinction between it and us would never come under scrutiny. Yet in the moment of seeing the distinction, we take up the position of a third being, separate from the others, which observes but never is observed. We have the sense that we are somehow also this third being, but it is not unequivocal. For if that third being is we ourselves, how can we be at once here observing, and there, being observed? Isn’t something of what we are necessarily left out of that observation? To be and not to be, that seems to be the answer.
In that thought being itself is all we have in common with ourselves. But isn’t being itself the Creator — the infinite and self –determining causal being, who we, finitely being ourselves, can never claim to be? But though the answer we are considering (to be and not to be) can be given for us (as God has done in His Incarnate Word), as ourselves we are in no position to give it. We cannot be a cause unto ourselves. Only the one responsible for our being from the first moment of all existence, is positioned to do that. Derivatively, we can know ourselves as the image of such primordial causality, but in and of itself as such, it is beyond our capacity to know.
If this reflection is an existentially accurate account of our self-conscious understanding, it corresponds to the account of creation with which the Bible begins. That account portrays our existence as the consequence of the Creator’s self-determination, by which we are led to know His being in our own way (human nature), in order to recognize and claim it for our own. But is this claim of distinctive being the special achievement of some higher class of people, proven by dint of their superior performance? Or is it the special claim of all humanity whereby, on account of God’s responsibility for our existence, we are each of us equally able to recreate it, in our own image, yet apart from us, just as He has done?
When God set Adam down in the Garden, his mission was to care for it. But after Eve is created, that mission includes caring for man himself. All other things were prepared by God himself, excepting what involved the recreation of man. Is it an accident that the word is synonymous with play? Or is it the proof that in being fully human, we are each and every one of us invited to play the role that is otherwise the exclusive province of the King of all Creation, that of being responsible for ourselves?
But if we humans are, each and all of us, intended to play a role that carries the image (persona) and likeness (character in action) of the Sovereign who created us, the standard for judging our fulfillment of that role cannot be appraised simply in terms of human understanding. No matter whether we are rich or poor, victors or vanquished, powerful or lowly, God has placed within our grasp the opportunity to show, in our relations the loving respect for ourselves and others, that God exemplified in His will for our existence, and which He reaffirms, even though we reject that existence, by the Word He sent among us in the flesh.
Think this through and you may realize that the supposedly inspirational elitism that saturates the Chrysler 300 ad that occasioned this essay, is in fact the antithesis of the spirit of America. For the American spirit invites us to strive toward the highest possible human aspiration, even as it affirms the possibility that that aspiration it can be attained as well by the mother giving all her life and heart to raise her children decently in the depraved and violent heart of some urban ghetto, as by the career woman, striding from the Board meeting where she has just been offered the job of CEO.
However much it may offend the lying detractors of Christian Biblical faith, Christ made clear that the kingdom of God is also within us. Whether we drive ten year old minivans or fully equipped Chrysler luxury cars, if we are will to let our hearts be filled with God’s sense of love and responsibility, the disposition of our hearts in action is all it takes to reveal our royal heritage which comes not from our family or tribal heritage, but from the God-endowed title of our humanity, rightly understood.
Often in my speeches over the years I have asked my audiences, “Who are the Kings and Queens of America.” The answers varied, from the President, to billionaires, to one fellow who said that Elvis is still the King. But invariably the answer came, applauded in the end by all, “We are the Kings and Queens of America.” From that I took heart as I outlined the logic of the Declaration creed. In harmony with God’s word, it says that we should each and all acknowledge our vocation to live up to His intention that we should be His ministers to each other, and to creation. So Christ enjoins us to spread the Good News, to every nation and to all creatures.
The Good News is that we are not put here to prey upon and devour one another, but to care for all as God has cared for us; and to prepare, in light of all that He has prepared for us to recreate the goodwill and hope in which He made us in the first place. I can’t be sure that the seemingly unforgiving, hopeless war of power against power depicted in “Game of Thrones” will end up as what it presently appears to be, a program for despair. (The last chapter of the story has not yet been written.) But I do know that despair is not in character with America, not so long as we remember God, in whom we trust; God, who “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate”; God, who has time and again given us spirit and counsel and courage with which to defeat our fallen natural instinct for conflict, violence and blood.
Instead of that instinct, He lets us hear from the better angels of our nature. In God’s remembrance, we are strong enough to endure the battle. But stronger still whenever we stand “with firmness in the right” He has endowed; whenever we are determined to preserve, lift up, and not destroy, the wondrous habitation He intends for us to be, as He reflects within us the wonders He has wrought, and nudges us with whispers of truth toward infinitely more, that He has yet in store for those willing to trust and seek Him.