God! Bless! America!Joel Stein
Laszlo is a pretty chill 3-year-old but he does get excited about a few things: ice cream, piggyback rides and the American flag.
We’ll be driving and he’ll suddenly yell “America flag!” Which is followed by “God bless America!” Which sounds like THIS.
This began on July 4th, when he came home from his Jewish preschool yelling, “God bless America” over and over. He had not, previously, been excited by any of the holidays he read and drew about in school. Not Thanksgiving, when his grandparents came over. Not Tu B’Shevat, when I found out what Tu B’Shevat is. Not even Halloween, where he forgot about his candy the very next morning.
We let him stay up late to watch fireworks that night, which he liked for the first ten minutes. But for Laszlo, July 4th wasn’t about fireworks or picnics. And it wasn’t confined to one day.
July 4th sparked a patriotism in Laszlo that blazes eternally. Each time the Stars and Stripes waves in eyesight, he is inspired to demand that the Creator grant our nation the exceptionalism he so deeply believes it deserves.
When he sees other flags for our state, different countries, the Elks he does not care for them. Not even the cool California one with the bear. They are not America flags. The fact that he lives in Los Angeles or California does not impress him. Those are just facts, not causes. His loyalty is clear.
As wimpy, atheist liberals, my lovely wife Cassandra and I are a little weirded out by the fact that we have Alex P. Keaton in our backseats, preparing for an appearance on Sean Hannity. Laszlo loves nothing more than cars, trucks, motorcycles and gasoline; when I pointed out an electric car, he dismissed it as unnatural. His favorite song after hearing hundreds of rock and classical songs is “Angel Eyes” by Frank Sinatra. Plus, with his thin blond hair and serious demeanor, Laszlo looks just like a Republican senator. I have no doubt that he is going to work tirelessly to take away my social security.
Each time he yells “God bless America!” am tempted to tell him about the British health care system, the advantages of the Parliamentary system, or the United States’ unsuccessful foreign wars of the last four decades. I want to tell him that if there were a God — which is only believable through an illogical, Kierkegaardian leap of faith — he or she would bless all countries and their people equally.
But I don’t. Because I don’t want to tamper his excitement. And because it’s adorable. And because I could use a little more pride in my own great country.
Though I know I can’t help it, I am trying not to impose my own beliefs on my son. When we look at the liberal New York Times together in the morning, I resist shielding him from photos of military equipment. I agreed to take him to a NASCAR race. When it’s unnaturally warm out, I say nothing.
But that’s exactly why it bothers me when he yells, “God Bless America!” The greatest skill I can teach him both for his own success in negotiating and his ability to navigate a relationship — is to understand other people’s points of view. And “God Bless America!” seems like a tribal refutation of that attempt.
Still, I keep quiet. Because if there’s one way to make Republicans like Laszlo more entrenched in his positions, it’s to be a superior, fun-squashing liberal dick. So instead, I’m considering becoming the only person in Hollywood to put a flag outside our house.
God bless America!
Order my book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity on Amazon.