Time to Pray (For What?)

Now that Maya is doing competitive swimming through the summer, she’s been practicing at a local high school pool in nearby Lafayette. She used to practice in the evening, but now that it’s summer, she changed to mornings. So, when I go to work, I just drop her off and then head off to the salt mines. Well, since Monday, there’s been this old man on the corner across from the school with this sign:

Now, if this was a one-off kind of thing, I probably would have forgotten all about him, but this guy has been there all week with this sign -which leads Maya and I to do a lot of impressions of what we think the old man sounds like and highlight our favorite parts of this sign.

What I like is the fact that the main message is in quotes. Who is he quoting? If he’s quoting himself, then shouldn’t there be a sign off of sorts. You know, “Dear God, Please save America. Love, Old Man on the street corner.” And then there’s the other question I’ve been asking myself: what is God supposed to be saving America from? The title of this sign (“Time to Pray”) is an obvious call to action, but are we supposed to quote the sign in our prayers? And if we do quote the sign, would God require us to footnote the quote in our prayer so we wouldn’t be guilty of plagiarism? Do you think God would have a follow up questions of our prayers? You know, “Okay, I’ll save America, but what part of America do you want saved? A.) North America? B.) Central America? C.) South America? All of the above? Only A and C? Only A and B? Only B and C? Only A? Only B? Only C?” Sure, there are other combinations, but if I were God, I would transmit my answer as “Vague. Please explain in detail. Thanks!”

But back to reality for a moment…

I know that most folks who like to hold up signs like these have nativist tendencies. They often see some kind of “other” who’s taken hold of the country and they want the Almighty to swoop in and restore America (which, of course, they mean the United States) back to “greatness” (code word for straight white males are in power). Back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, there was a nativist element that implored people to “Buy American” when it came to cars. Detroit, if you remember, really had their hat handed to them by the Japanese as consumers in the U.S. bought more and more imported cars and ditched the domestic brands. The “Buy American” campaign had a real racist tinge to the to it because it was clear that our more nativist citizens were really angry that Japan was rising to the number one position in business. Never mind that Toyota and Nissan products were far and away better than the domestic counterparts, but the reality was that auto manufacturing had become so globalized, that very little of domestic branded cars were actually created in the U.S. But that didn’t stop people from taking sledgehammers to their imports to show that we were mad as hell because America was not number one in auto manufacturing anymore. So when Old Man on the street corner holds up a sign asking for God to save America, it conjures up memories from the “Buy American” days. I don’t know what Old Man on the street corner’s view of Japanese people are, but I find it ironic that Old Man is asking God to save America while he’s driving a Honda.

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