Relationsrnby Lawrence DuganrnFamilies arriving at the zoornKnow by some instinct what to do:rnParents lead till daughter lingersrnWatching monkey count his fingers,rnFinding four, or six, or dozensrnIf the count includes his cousins . . .rnAnd then those people start to starernAs if the monkey’s heart were bare!rnAcross the crease of solemn facernThe ancient wisdom of our racernSeems so suddenly upon themrnThey could swear they really know him ,rnWhen his hairy brow is furrowedrnUncle Lenny might have burrowedrnTo some sagacious by-gone agernWhen men like him were in a cage;rnShould some gorilla take a drinkrnIt’s enough to make them thinkrnHe contemplates Dad’s latest planrnTo phone the beer-deliven,’ man.rnThe fellow staggers to his feet,rnIt’s Mr. Stumbles up the street. . .rnWho spoils all their speculationrnLooking thoughtful — no relation.rnDICTATIONSrnGod Bless AmericarnEvery president since Ronald Reagan has employedrnthis invocation to punctuate the conclusion of a majorrnspeech. Coming from Reagan, it was sort of a tiprnof the hat to the official pieties of the World War II generation.rnIn the mouth of Bill Clinton it was a blasphemy. Now,rnthe phrase is on the lips of people who, as the joke used to go,rnthink “Damn” is God’s last name.rnSuch prayers—”God grant, or bless, or give”—represent arnfossilized survival of the subjunctive. Presumably, we arernasking the Creator to give his blessing to the people and therngovernment of the United States. At first sight, it seems a bitrnmuch: This is a countr}’ that encourages the infanticide of 15rnmillion children a decade and forbids prayer in publicrnschools and tears down manger scenes from town squares.rnWho is the God we are appealing to? Astarte? Or, perhaps,rnher latter-day incarnation worshipped in the Middle East?rnThe New England Puritan fathers believed that their New-rnJerusalem would be favored by God above all other nations,rnand although only the tiniest fraction of Americans have everrnfollowed Puritan theology (much less attempted to live by it),rnthe official ideolog)’ of the United States has certainly incorporatedrnthe secular version of their faith in the form of Americanrnexceptionalism, the theor)’ that America has somehowrnescaped the limitations of human nature, that (in the wordsrnof Madeleine Albright) “we see farther.”rnThe phrase “God bless America” comes from the title of arnpopular song written by Ir’ing Berlin, who—whatever hisrnotlier merits—did not share the religion of most Americans.rnNamed Israel Baline by his father, a well-known cantor inrnRussia, he changed his name soon after his arrival in thernUnited States. According to some acquaintances, Mr. Berlinrntried hard to escape from his Jewish identit)’. Unlike Jewsrnwho became American without jettisoning their language,rnculture, and religion, Berlin became a generic Americanrnwriting generic music. A secular songsmith, he wrotern”White Christmas” as the nonreligious alternati’e to the oldrncarols and supplied “God Bless America” as a replacementrnfor the atavistic “My Country, ’tis of Thee.”rnThe presidents may be right. The vulgar jingle of a nonbelievingrnimmigrant is the proper anthem for the NewrnAmerica that regards the Creator of the universe as a giantrnslot machine: Stick in enough coins for long enough, andrnyou’re bound to hit the jackpot, regardless of who you are orrnwhat you’ve done. Writing in 1952 of the devastationrnwrought by both sides in the Korean War, Bernard IddingsrnBell ascribed the “liquidation” of civilians to a lack of Christianrnlove: “So will it be, or worse,” he warned, “in every landrnincluding ours, when modern war is waged therein.”rn—Humpty Dumptyrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn