January 20th marked an important day in American History and the history of the world. Barack
|Even though he may not have been my first choice, Obama|
is my president and I respect him for that.
Since the election, France has fallen in love with America all over again. My favorite example is the fact that Miss France is even American (a dual citizen.) They do not even seem to have a little grudge that the world crisis started in America. Why should they? Obama is the president, and everyone loves Obama. In fact a poll taken at my school shows the students would prefer Obama to Sarkozy as their president by 86% (6% did not care.) That is all well and good, but I think the French expect him to be, well, French. And while I am at it, I think they are going to find that Obama is a bit more conservative than they believe him to be. But I guess we will just have to wait and see.
But with France's crush of Obama, it might not be surprising to hear that in both English and History classes, I have watched the inauguration speech. I have my own opinion on speech, but right now I just want to talk about the after effects of watching it. Obama's inauguration speech was filled with religious mentions, he often thanked God and his faith. He placed his hand on the Holy Bible of President Lincoln and swore to fulfill his duty to the United States, saying, "So help me God." And, oh my goodness, "God bless America" what does that mean?
Mind you, this does not even appear strange in the slightest to me. I went to 11 years of American schooling, getting up every morning and saying the Flag Salute, always declaring, "One Nation Under God." The same girl who was infused with patriotism as I watched the Twin Towers fall, and helped my Mom sell American flag pins for the families of the victims. Yes, I know all the words to the American anthems and my heart actually flutters when I listen to American history, which may be short but is filled with heroic deeds and pride. I have a younger sister who will look you in the eye proudly and say, "I am Episcopalian and I believe in God and his love," and a mother who will say, "I do not believe in God." And the American flag always hangs outside my front door, rain or shine.
But that is just me, an American girl surrounded by a classroom of French people. Obama's various mentions of church and state together? Unthinkable in France, even mind-blowing, to say the least. The French believe that their Republic has no connection at all to religion, and is in fact a device used to maintain the separation. The law of 1905 stands strong and binding separating the two powerful bodies. This may be hard to fathom, but the French are not patriotic, proud, yes, but not patriotic. They are proud of their wine and their history (they love the fact that they chopped of their kings head) but I do not suspect they would be willing to give up their lives for France as easily as Americans are. And the truth is, that religion, whether it is in some way shape or form connected or not connected to the state, shapes everything from politics to cultural customs.
So when the speech was done, my history teacher, in an accusatory tone, said, "It is unthinkable for us Frenchmen to watch a nation worship God so much."
nodded, but replied, "Well it is true that there are a lot of people in the United States who live by their religion, but to be honest, Sir, the religion in my president's speech had more to do with tradition than the way the country is run."
"That is incorrect," he began, and I could tell that it was argument time. Argument time with a Frenchmen, who believes he knows more about America than an American, is a waste of time. I usually just concede because I know changing the deeply instilled beliefs of a Frenchmen is like changing the seasons or the health care system of France (impossible.) But I am tired of being told how America is run and why it has problems. "President Obama is a deeply religious man, but as the former president Bush, and the government. Look at the American dollar, it says, 'In God We Trust.'"
"But, sir, it has always said that. My country was founded on the beliefs that God is almighty and powerful. Our forebearers were religious and instilled many traditions that are still around today, such as the words on the dollar bill, the presidential oath, and the words to the pledge of allegience..." becfore I could continue, the teacher cut me off.
"Yes, every morning Americans students MUST say, One Nation Under God. That is proof enough and unthinkable for us. We created a law in 1905 that clearly separates religion and state," he said firmly.
"Yes but so did we in 1791 with the first amendment, stating that state can not establish a connection and also free excercise of religion! And plus, when you recite the Flag Salute you have to stand, but you do not have to anything! You do not have to say under God. Just like Obama did not have to use a Bible at the swearing in ceremony. Theodore Roosevelt and John Quicy Adams did not use bibles to swear in. Yes, America is far more religious than France, but it also has a lot more tradition!" Okay I resorted back to English, but the baffled and gaping look of the teacher, who speaks English, proved to me one thing. I got my point across, and even of he does not agree and continues to believe America is ridiculously religious, at least I feel better.
But there is one thing that this whole incident has made me realize about life in general. We as human beings, whether we believe in God or not, whether we believe in heaven or just living right here and right now, we all need something to believe in. President Obama believes in the power of God, and prays that the lord will help him bring forth his duty to the American people. The French believe in living their lives on Earth to the fullest, indulging in all the passion and pleasure they can grasp through their strikes, government, vacations, wine, and cheese. Many Americans believe in heaven and hell, and to live their lives according to the rules of God and the Bible. Scientists believe in their field of study, that the way the world works can be attributed to the Big Bang and Evolution. My own family has different beliefs; my younger sister is an extremely religious Episcopalian, my father a Catholic, and my Mother an atheist. As for me? I have struggled throughout the years, but I finally realized that I too need something to believe in. I do not know if there is a God or not, but I will not outright deny his existence. I look around at the beauty of this world and the good things that do happen, and I wonder if it is chance or if it the work some higher power.