Monday, June 24, 2013
King of the United States
When I was growing up in Chicago we used to watch a television show titled: Garfield Goose, King of the United States. Garfield was a hand puppet that could clap its wooden beaks together and “talk” to the show’s human host, Frazier Thomas. They discussed all sorts of funny things with humor that even adults smiled at, and of course, showed lots of cartoons. It was a very enjoyable hour each day, but we knew it was totally a farce. Very early on we learned in school that our forefathers sailed to America to avoid being ruled by a king, and eventually revolted to be ruled by “the people.”
I wonder if kids are taught that nowadays, and if they think about the implication of our forefathers’ decision.
The reason why I muse about this is because of the recent Scripture readings at mass and in the breviary which mention Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem, and Jesus, prophet, priest, and king. And I got to thinking about how, after God rescued his people from Egypt, he appointed Moses and his successors to be Judges over the people --- that is until Samuel. For in his old age Samuel was going to appoint his sons Joel and Abijah as judges, but the people said they were corrupt, and the people wanted “a king to govern over us … like all the nations.” God told Samuel to warn them about all the bad things kings would do, tax and abuse them, but they still said they wanted a king. And so God agreed, after issuing them a final warning about the future: “In that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
We usually think of kings as succeeding one another in a family line (or at least I do), but God noted that the people “have chosen” their king. Certainly there were kings, victors in battle, who appointed themselves king, but there also must have been kings chosen by the people. So a king, therefore, is one who rules with a dictatorial power, regardless of how he came to be in that role. It’s how he exercises the power that defines kingship.
So, considering that our current president --- with the apparent consent of the people --- ignores some laws of Congress and creates others by Presidential Decree, is his ruling style any different than that of a king? Like other kings, is he frustrated when others don’t obey his wishes? Does he punish them? Does he seek to punish other kingdoms which don’t agree with him, and build alliances solely on power, not righteousness? Do we have, effectively, a King of the United States?
And I wonder: while he may understand his goals and desires, does he come across to the world any clearer than Garfield Goose does clapping his beaks together? (At least Garfield had an interpreter for us kids.)
Is this the type of ruler the early Americans fled from; why would we like a king now?
And would God give the people today who have chosen him any different a warning than he gave to the people in Samuel’s day?
…. Just thoughts, on a warm Summer’s day, when there are so many things going on which I don’t want to think about.