Patriotism, militarism and piety
Call it perversity, but I did pop over to the Capitol the other day for the National Day of Prayer festivities, or I should say, I popped over to the park right behind the Capitol. (To see photos, click HERE).
A few hundred people were on hand, I estimate, in addition to the distinguished speakers, a chorus, a color guard, and a few media people.
In other words a modest-sized crowd for these pious times, perhaps attributable to the chill wind that was blowing.
The one thing that struck me most forcefully was the distinctly Christian tone of the thing, despite claims you hear now and then that the National Day of Prayer is for everyone. If a token rabbi took the microphone at some point, I missed him. All I heard over the course of two hours was Jesus this and Jesus that and “in Christ’s name we pray.” So let’s not kid ourselves on that score.
There was even a limousine circling the park with balloons on top spelling out JESUS in art deco lettering.
A Hindu or a Muslim would have felt as much at home as an illegal Mexican immigrant carrying a hammer-and-sickle flag at a Tea Party rally.
They prayed, of course. They prayed for Mayor Jennings, who assured us that he himself prays every morning when he gets up and every evening before going to bed. They prayed for Albany County Executive Mike Breslin.
They prayed for Gov. Cuomo. They prayed for the state Legislature. They prayed for President Obama. They prayed for the military. They even prayed for the media, at one point, prompting me to look cautiously over my shoulder to make sure no one was coming at me.
A five-member “color guard” from LaSalle Institute, a Catholic school in Troy, stomped up and down, “presenting arms” and such tomfoolery and stood ostentatiously at attention in their quasi-military uniforms and their mock rifles, their flags flapping in their faces, while the distinguished speakers ostentatiously prayed at the microphone.
Patriotism, militarism and piety — it has always been a winning combination, and it was again on this day in Albany.