Bear with me—this story has a point, and besides, it’s funny.
Playwright George S. Kaufman (“The Man Who Came To Dinner”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, and many more) was a panelist on the long-forgotten early TV program, “This is Show Business.” One of its features was to have a celebrity consult the panel members about a personal problem. On one show, singer Eddie Fisher ( father of Carrie) complained to the panel that some women refused to go out with him because of his youth. Kaufman replied with this immortal expression of complete disinterest:
“Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars to twenty-four times the magnification of any previous telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the development and construction of the Mount Palomar telescope. The Mount Palomar telescope is an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification and resolution of the Mount Wilson telescope.
“Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn’t be able to see my interest in your problem.”
This is how I feel about the controversy over the removal of a reference to God on an Air Force unit’s patch, and it is how, I believe, everyone should feel, from the atheists who agitated for the patch to be changed, to the ridiculous Republican House members who are opposing the change.
The logo for the patch of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO)was changed after a military atheist group, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, protested the reference to God in the Latin motto. The motto translated as: “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.” After the complaint, the motto was changed to read, in Latin, “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.”
Big deal. It’s a ridiculous motto, no matter how it reads and in any language. Change it, re-write it, sing it, eliminate it—any second of thought and any penny of funds spent on this beyond-trivial issue is per se irresponsible. If it makes the atheists happy to exchange “God’s work” for “miracles,” great. I’m thrilled for them. Case closed. Halleluiah!..or rather, Yippee! (Sorry, atheists)
But now 35 lawmakers, led by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), have composed a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz urging them to restore the reference to God, claiming that the action could set a “dangerous precedent” when it comes to religion and the military. “The action taken by the RCO suggests that all references to God, regardless of their context, must be removed from the military,” Forbes wrote. “As we are confident that your legal advisors would not suggest that censorship is required for compliance with the First Amendment, we ask that you reverse this perplexing decision.”
And I ask that our elected officials, who are fiddling while Rome burns, get back to work and start dealing with the serious problems facing the nation, of which the Latin wording on a patch worn by some Air Force group I’ve never heard of is so far down the list that Eddie Fisher could see George S. Kaufman’s interest in his girl problem before he could see it.