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In Gobbledygook We Trust

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/02/2010

So I opened my local rag this morning, and found a short paragraph on this minor story: “In God We Trust plate advances.” It turns out that the license slogan was approved in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 93-1. (The lone dissenter was a brave Louisville Democrat named Mary Lou Marzian.)

Obviously, if the license were produced on the recommendation of legislators, acting in their legislative capacity, it would violate both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 5 of the Kentucky Constitution. And I’m told by some new atheist friends that this is not the House’s first attempt to advocate moving violations of the Establishment Clause.

However, in this post I’m not going to discuss the legal issues. I’ll leave that conversation to folks who have been formally educated in the subtleties and nuances of Constitutional Law. (I’m referring, of course, to TV pundits.)

Instead, because I’m new here and haven’t yet fathomed the Kentucky mentality, I’m going to pose a few simple questions to those who support the official enshrinement of the above-mentioned motto. I’d appreciate some answers, since I find it hard to understand exactly what the license plate is intended to mean.

1. If you actually do trust in a god, why do you need to emblazon that fact on your license plate? I trust my wife, but I don’t feel compelled to cart that message all over town. Does your god require you to make public affirmations of your trust in him/her/it? Shouldn’t your license say:
In God We Trust (Did You Read That, Lord?)

And then how does your god decide whether your trust is sincere or just something you tow around as a way to amass eternal brownie points? Shouldn’t your license say:
We Swear to God in God We Trust
Or perhaps:
In God We Trust (The People in this Vehicle Really Mean It!)

2. Is there a difference between trusting “in” your god and just plain trusting your god. If not, why don’t you suggest the more straightforward:
We Trust God
If there is a difference, how about:
In God We Trust, although we Don’t Necessarily Actually Trust Him/Her/It

3. If someone were to add a picture of, say, Thor or Bacchus, would that be OK? If so, the plate ought to make that clear:
In All Gods We Trust
On the other hand, if there is some specific god or gods you folks have in mind, the license should broadcast:
In Our Own Specific God (or Gods) We Trust

4. What, exactly, do you mean by “trust.” Do you mean that you’ll never have any accidents, or flat tires, or dings because your god is going to prevent them from happening? If so, shouldn’t you just come out and say it:
In God We Trust to Keep This Automobile Out of Accidents, and Supported by Good Tires, and Free of Dings
Or does your “trust” mean something else? For example, might the license read:
In God We Trust to Make Sure Our Kids Aren’t Grotesquely Ugly
Or how about:
In God We Trust to Cure Grandma’s Hemorrhoids

5. Who is this “we” that’s doing the trusting? Surely it’s not every single person in Kentucky. So can I opt out? Can I insist that the words on the license plate reflect my position:
In God We – Except Larry Wallberg – Trust
If the “we” is not all the people of Kentucky, why wouldn’t you change the words to state the truth:
In God We (Who Trust in God) Trust

Thanks (in advance) for your responses.


Posted in Driving in Lexington, First Amendment, Freedom from Faith, New to Kentucky | 18 Comments »

Maybe I Should Rent “Turn Left at the End of the World”

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/09/2009

Today, two things happened that now make me realize I’m a full-fledged, albeit new, Kentuckian.

First of all, I now hold a Kentucky driver’s license. But I hope that doesn’t make me a Kentucky driver, since everyone on the road – at least here in Lexington – seems crazed. New Yawk cab drivers, who often travel as if they’re trying to simulate Disney’s Space Mountain, are novices compared to the people who careen up and down the streets of my new town. Apparently, you lose your right to drive if you let someone merge into your lane. And forget about making a left turn; you can’t do it. Instead, you might imagine a rectangle, and make three rights along its perimeter so you can head straight across the road you were just driving on. At least, that’s what you’d do in New Yawk City, which is laid out in a sensible grid, with ninety-degree angles. Unfortunately, Lexington is not laid out that way; it’s more like a bicycle wheel, with all of its spokes heading outward toward the appropriately named New Circle Road. So making a right and a right and a right may take you into the next county. Or back where you started from. Or into a different dimension of  space and time. The only thing that’s for sure is: You will not be pointing in the direction you want to go.

Once you do manage to enter the big ring, however, woe betide you if you happen to find yourself heading clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, or vice versa. You become like Charlie on the MTA, doomed to ride forever. Because you won’t be able to make a left until 1 a.m., when most Kentucky drivers are finally home in bed.

Lexington is the heart of the Bluegrass Region; it’s horse country. Perhaps that’s why so many of its residents drive like jockeys. This afternoon, for instance, I pulled out from a parking place at a bookstore, dutifully and slowly followed my aisle down toward the stop sign, and was suddenly cut off by an elderly woman who was zooming diagonally through the parking lot at about 95 miles an hour. Although there were dozens of spaces to choose from, she must have had her eye on a particularly choice spot as the finish line (although its specific value was unclear). In any case, she did everything but whip her car’s flanks to get there.

I can only suppose that the woman must have been in such a hurry because she was eager to get out of her vehicle and celebrate. She must have been relieved at finding her way somewhere. Anywhere, actually. Here in Lexington, you have to be a mind-reader to know how to get where you’re going, because street names change magically, for no apparent reason. Some of the major roads have two or three names, or even more. For example, Athens-Boonesboro Road becomes Richmond Road which transforms to Main Street before it transmogrifies into Leestown Road.  If you’re a newcomer to town, people who give you directions routinely forget to mention that a street they’ve sent you to may not exist in the immediate vicinity. “Take a right onto Harrodsburg and drive until you come to Red Mile. Make a right, and then a few blocks down, turn left onto Nicholasville.” Translation: “Broadway to Virginia to Limestone.” From Limestone/Nicholasville, you can drive straight until you come to Athens-Boonesboro/Richmond/Main/Leestown, whatever it happens to be called in that precise location – unless, of course, there’s a detour because of construction. Which, in my experience, there  always is.

The second thing that happened to make me feel at home was this: my wife and I finally found the box, from among hundreds still unpacked, that contained our DVD player. It took us so long to find because it was marked “Baskets, Ladles, Shells.” Now we realize that somewhere in our many piles is a box that contains baskets, ladles, and shells, so it must be the one marked “Bookends, Batteries, Unmatched Socks.”

Anyway, as I carefully plugged red to red, yellow to yellow, and white to white, I realized that I was about to start rebuilding my Netflix life. To help me adjust to my new surroundings, I immediately visited my online queue and added The Kentuckian, Kentucky Fried Movie and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Well, I’ve just noticed that the remote control needs batteries. I haven’t yet found the appropriate box (I’m guessing it’ll be the one that says “Bird Guides, Unpaid Bills, Hitchcock Flicks”), so I’ll drive to the nearest store to get Energized. It’s just a few blocks away, so it ought to be just a three-, maybe four-minute ride from my house. Although here in Lexington, it could take me several hours. Because to get there, I’ll have to make a left.

Posted in Driving in Lexington, New to Kentucky | 4 Comments »