the greatest nation in the world

I am not a historian, nor do I have more than a passable grasp of history in its grand sweep. But I am secure in my belief that the country God's grace has granted me to call home is so far above all other nations formed and governed on this earth that the title I have given to this post can be applied to the United States of America without much, if any, doubt.

It is evident enough that America can claim this title currently, but I would argue that it is applicable no matter how far back on the timeline you go. Certainly no other country or even empire on record has ever wielded the power we do now. We indisputably have the capability of conquering the entire world in almost a moment's notice, if only for the superhuman weapons array we possess. The only other claimant I have heard for greatest nation in the world is Rome. It seems like a fair enough claim, given that Rome did indeed conquer the known world at the time. To me, however, the fact that America, with the power it has, has not conquered the world shows more impressive greatness.

Rome was great and magnificent. But Rome was also thoroughly pagan, pagan in ways that America, with all the flaws and morally reprehensible customs has never been. Rome condoned infanticide, the father's right to demand an abortion of his pregnant wife, or even then sell the newborn child into slavery to earn money. Prostitution did not just exist, as it does here, but it was legal. It was even expected at certain religious festival in select temples. America's moral situation is hazy at best when it comes to sexual issues. Pornography and underground sex slavery does happen here. But doesn't it say something when it is still an enormous scandal when our elected officials are involved with such things? Involvement with prostitution for such an official can ruin a career for life.

Rome knew it was better than all its neighbors, and so felt morally justified and possibly even impelled to conquer them. America is sure of its golden opportunities and stands ready to welcome all those who wish to come in. "Bring me your weary, and your poor..." stands as another "Come to me all you who labor and are weary..." Rome never rode to anyone's rescue that I remember. But over the twentieth century, rescuing the weak could almost be mistaken for America's primary foreign policy. Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Somolia. Any tiny, helpless nation being attacked from within or without is not too tiny to merit America's attention. Any major catastrophe, be it tsunami, earthquake, or flood, who's there first? The United States Marine Corps. I find it hard to imagine the Roman Legions responding in like manner.

And that, ultimately, is why I believe America to be inexpressably greater than Rome. It is great in a Christian sense, not in a pagan sense. Perhaps no soldiers matched the legionaires of Rome in the millenia between them and America. But I know the Marines are a match for anyone, anywhere, anytime. And they are the ones with the order of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the pin of which you cannot wear unless you refrain from drinking, swearing, and other immoral behavior for a year while guarding the tomb. What did Rome have to match that? They watched gladiators slaughter each other and wild animals tear apart Christians for entertainment. At least we are more addicted physical contact in sports such as football, where no one has died since they stopped wearing those leather helmets. Is this weakness? No. It is greatness.


My Favorite

Seeing as Ben and Sophie have put up favorite authors of their childhood, I though I would follow suit.
Steven Kellogg might not be the best children's author and illustrator, but he was my particular favorite when I was little. It was a staple of our library runs that I would head directly for his books in the children's section and see if they had any new ones. If they didn't, no great matter: I willingly read the old favorites over and over again. His stories about the Great Dane Pinkerton are the reason I still want a huge dog today. He wrote stories on everything from big dogs, to sea monsters, to imaginary islands, to American folk heroes.
His illustrations are fabulous, and so intricately detailed that you can stare at them for hours and still find new details.
I particularly like the weird stories he makes up...such as a boy who gets a tadpole that turns into a monster that he has to keep in a swimming pool and feed's pretty awesome.



...For the love of one's team is a terrible thing...And it makes us all part of the Patriots' game.

Sports are a mystery. What makes a fan a fan, and why do we set our hearts upon the score of a game? Why does the sound of 18-1 make the blood drain from my face? Why does every hit Brady takes make me flinch as though I'd been punched in the gut? It's very, very strange. If you try to look from the outside in, it makes no sense. It's just a game, a national pastime, if you will. The fates of millions are not determined by who wins or loses. The losers will continue to make boatloads of money. I don't think anyone in New England is in danger of losing his job.

And yet.

I don't know that I am disappointed. Disappointed is when there's not enough milk to have a bowl of frosted mini wheats for breakfast. I can't think of any term of crushed hopes that quite fits the situation. I am simultaneously sad, angry, bitter, numb, and a thousand other things. It's the mystery of sports. They will do that to you. When I say I love the New England Patriots, I mean I actually love those players. Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Kevin Faulk, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, and all of them. Their hopes and agonies are mine while the clock is ticking. Our hearts all pound through our chests when we are uncertain of the outcome, and we are all raised to the skies when victory is in their hands.

No, it's not a matter of life or death. It's not as important as your faith, family, or friends. That goes without saying. But when there were 2 seconds left and I knew we had lost and it physically hurt, I almost it worth the dedication, when losing hurts this badly? I knew the answer was immediately yes, it is worth it, for all the times they pulled out the impossible and left me in a haze of euphoria for an entire week. And even if they had never won a single game, I know I would still be devoted.

I guess what hurt the most was that they, my boys, lost. I know I didn't deserve the win, I've only been a fan for four years. But they worked so hard. I was so angry at all the comments about rooting for the underdog, Eli Manning pulled a winning season out of a losing one and wouldn't it be great if he won a Super Bowl, the Patriots already won all those games and three Super Bowls, etc. Who cares? The Patriots worked harder than you can imagine to win every single game in the season, against rising pressure and critical comments and even derision. And yes, I sat through every game chewing my lip and praying feverishly, but in the end my heart breaks for all of them. It doesn't matter how many hours you put on the field and in the gym, how many passes you catch or throw, how many games you put away. None of it counts in the history books unless you hoist that Vince Lombardi trophy. And they had a shot at history like no one had ever seen in almost forty years.

It's over now, but this team will always mean so much to me. Every one of those players did the best the could in those moments, as they always have, and no fan could ever forget that. I could never be angry at any of them and would hug every one of them if I could. On the other hand, I do reserve the right to be ferociously angry at New York. I made the mistake of genially rooting for them in the more. That's another great mystery about sports: you can make die hard enemies for very little reason, but they will be bitter rivalries that last a lifetime. So that's the end of it until September. No title to polish through all those months.

It's going to be a long Lent.


Penguin Podcast

Well, for anyone who does have an apple and an ipod, or even just itunes, there is a podcast that I recently discovered called The Penguin Podcast. Produced by Penguin Books, the podcast is a combination of readings from audio books and personal interviews with authors of recently published material. The content can vary, and the "Penguin music mix" at the end is a bit odd, but overall it is a very fun way to keep up with the latest publications and new authors.


New Soul

The new MacBook Air is sick looking ( mean that in the good way.) As much as I despise Apple and its cult-like attitude, they seem to be a necessary evil. By being the underdog, they're forced to just be freaking cool to get attention, which mean innovation that Microsoft would never attempt, because it doesn't need to. Anyway, beyond that, the Air commercial has a song by Yael Naim, a Jewish-Tunisian born in Paris and now living in Israel. "New Soul" is light, happy and infectious in an almost dangerous way. Save the file below to listen.

New Soul - Yael Naim