The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
“In God We Trust” Is Out; “What, Me Worry?” Is In

A month has passed since the Virginia earthquake and it looks like the Washington Monument is going to be closed indefinitely until a team of engineers can check every stone.  The WaPo reports:

Officials said a “debris field,” made up mostly of mortar that had fallen during the quake, had been found at the base and that more substantial pieces of stone had fallen loose inside the monument.[…]

[Mall superintended Bob Vogel] said the worst damage happened in the pyramidium, the pyramid-shaped top of the structure, where cracks up to 11 / 4 inches wide developed in the mortar and stone. “Daylight is visible at a number of the vertical joints where mortar is missing,” he said.

As a result, a substantial amount of water has been getting into the monument, which could cause more damage.

The other Washington landmark significantly damaged in the earthquake was the National Cathedral, the magnificent stone church where many important national commemorations and funerals are held.  The highest of its stone towers were toppled, and there, too architects are checking for structural damage.

In ancient times, the damage to two unique symbols of national identity by something as rare as an East Coast earthquake which did little or no damage to more pedestrian and less symbolic structures would have been highly noteworthy.  We would be rending our garments, consulting the Sibylline books and repenting in sackcloth and ashes after so a clear a demonstration of divine wrath.

These days we do nothing at all.  No doubt this is much more progressive and intelligent.  After all, there is absolutely nothing going on in Washington or the country at large that could cause anyone or anything to warn us to mend our ways.  The K Street lobbyists and the Beltway Bandits don’t even pause in the favor swapping and the deal making to wonder if something is wrong.

Reasonable enough.  “In God we trust” is so eighteenth century; we seem to have moved on to something more contemporary.  “What, Me Worry?” has none of that superstitious claptrap that so annoys the ACLU, and it will look great on the next boatload of low interest government bonds that we ship to our good friends in China.

Published on September 28, 2011 5:11 pm
  • Corlyss

    “two unique symbols of national identity”

    The cathedral is a Washington landmark. I doubt you could find a dozen people outside the beltway who were not episcopalian, had never visited, or lived in the region, who knew what or where National Cathedral was.

  • Jim.

    The real test comes in what we rebuild, and how fast.

  • SC Mike

    Sounds like DC Metro residents or perhaps the Department of Justice should take a hint from the Italians and sue the scientists who failed to predict the earthquake.

    And surely they could count on the support of the ACLU to prevent defendants in any civil action regarding the earthquake from citing an “Act of God” in their defense.

  • James Felix

    You’d think the omnipotent creator of the universe would have more effective/less ambiguous ways to communicate. I guess he’s bored with the ol’ burning bush routine.

  • http://eternityroad.info Francis W. Porretto

    “In ancient times, the damage to two unique symbols of national identity…would have been highly noteworthy.”

    Perhaps, as the damage to those symbols merely brings them into closer accord with the state of our national identity itself, a great many people are shrugging and asking themselves what the big deal is.

    Our “pluribus” is ever less an “unum.” Great national symbols lying in pieces in our national capital express that rather dramatically.

  • http://www.dougsanto.com Doug Santo

    Cynical, but I could have written a similar sentiment. The rejection of religion by the secular elite and MSM is a mistake. I am not a religious person, but I respect the Judeo-Christian foundation on which our entire system is based. It provides a simple, time-tested guide to know good from evil and right from wrong. The further society drifts from this guide into moral relativity, the weaker our society becomes in almost every measurable way.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

  • http://baronmunchhausen.blogspot.com/ Bob Singer

    Since this was a previously unknown fault which caused the earthquake the President was given the privilege of naming it. It will now be known as Bush’s Fault.

  • http://www.analects-ink.com David B. Schlosser

    I mentioned the mandate of heaven to a few folks during Hurricane Irene, but no one seemed too interested.

  • Jason

    Small pet peeve of mine but structural engineers are not architects. Well generally speaking, unless they hold degrees and/or licenses to practice in both fields.

  • http://threebeerslater.blogspot.com Jamil al-Taqqiyah

    This “national cathedral” would be an excellent place for a mosque. Do you build mosques where things have fallen down?

  • http://2011.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

    The cathedral is a Washington landmark. I doubt you could find a dozen people outside the beltway who were not episcopalian, had never visited, or lived in the region, who knew what or where National Cathedral was.

    Wow. I had no idea I was in such rarefied company. Who are the other 11?

  • John Koisch

    Wow …. the charming condescension of the enlightened. Mead is making several points here, not all of them religious. The Chinese felt that natural disasters were portents of the end of an era or a dynasty. The Romans and Greeks both coupled natural disasters with the will of the heavens. In both cases, without a whit of religion, they were right – if a society is too busy navel gazing to assert itself against the vagaries of the natural world, then it is likely to fall into ruin and disrepair. The natural disaster simply exposes the rot within.

  • FYI

    The “In God We Trust” phrase comes from the Star Spangled banner. (Just in case the ACLU decides to make a fuss about it some more…)

  • Bill Rudersdorf

    “In God We Trust” was not from the Eighteenth Centure (I doubt if the Founding Fathers would have cared for it at all), but the second half of the Nineteenth Century, introduced by Lincoln. And whether or not there’s anything to “omens”, the fact that they give us pause is a reminder, if we needed one, that things are amiss, and badly so.

  • Bonfire of the Idiocies

    While I don’t believe in omens and don’t wish to substitute religious tryanny for the current tryanny of stupidity prevalent in Washington, I have to admit that if nothing else, fire and brimstone religion was good for forcing a little bit of self-awareness and self-examination on humanity. God knows for certain people (whose names are likely well-known) it doesn’t occur any OTHER way.

  • Merle

    I think it’s going to look really stupid when they put one of those blue FEMA tarps over the top of it to keep the rain out.

  • Mike

    @ Bill Rudersdorf:
    Go recheck the 4th verse of “The Star Spangled Banner”, written in 1814. “And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;””. Key was only 35, hardly one of the Founders, but Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and more were still alive and kicking. Even those who were deists were not atheists.

  • Wine Dude

    Actually, the line being referred to here that’s in the Star Spangled Banner is: ” In God is our trust.” So, close but not exactly the same. But, no matter. I have issues with the existence of God because of the following conundrum: “Either God can prevent evil but chooses not to, which means he is NOT all-good, or he wishes to prevent evil but cannot, which means he is NOT all-powerful.” Organized religion is a bigger con than Social Security!!!

  • Swen Swenson

    One of my introductory courses in geology did examine the idea of earthquakes as demonstrations of divine wrath, but IIRC, they concluded that most earthquakes are just earthquakes.

  • Rene

    If you look at a Google map and follow the path of the Joplin tornado along 20th Avenue from Main St. to Range Line (71), you will see that it damaged or obliterated the following streets: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Arizona. I was visiting family in Joplin when I noticed this rather spooky “portent.” http://google.corpfreespeech.com/google-maps-visualizes-the-path-of-destruction-caused-by-the-joplin-tornado

  • http://www.definingthenarrative.com ingrafted

    And so “Laus Deo” becomes overlooked even when the object of the article bears the declaration? Indeed, ’tis but a trifling statement of an ignorant and antiquated society. Why bother…? I say again, why bother?

  • salaam

    when Sharia is instituted, the damage will cease

  • teapartydoc

    I think the Sybilline books were burned during Alaric’s sack of Rome, so they aren’t available. From reading Plutarch, it seems to me that many or most omens in those times were kept in memory and then consulted in retrospect, except possibly by the augers, and even then I doubt they gave full range to what they believed until after the fact. I’m a little braver, but then it isn’t hard to say things like this in these times. OF COURSE they are omens.

  • Anthony

    Bad [stuff] happens sometimes. Surprise! If you look hard enough, I am pretty certain that you could find an “omen” at any time in history to justify your ridiculous ideology and make you feel self-righteously smug and superior to your fellow man. Look at the number of earthquakes that have happened in the US since the numbers have been recorded. Plot it. Do you see a trend up or down? Any trend at all?

    Going back and mentioning the stupidity of our ancestors is just an embarrassment to yourself. Do you have any idea how many heretics were murdered because of this stupid belief that natural events have anything at all to do with “the wrath of God”? Do you have any idea how many CHRISTIANS were killed by pagans, by these idiots staring into random noise and believing they’ve found a signal? … humanity really hasn’t advanced at all, has it?