Paul Greenberg

Intellectuals, like kids, say the darnedest things -- only without the kids' insight. Kate Smith knew better in 1938, and most of us surely now better today, as the latest, most postmodern totalitarian threat comes in the improbable form of a medieval Islam shorn of its civilizing elements. Evil never sleeps. It may ebb for a time after a high tide (1933-45), but only to swell again in strange and diabolical shapes.

The end of history? So much for Ecclesiastes. ("What has been, will be ... and there is nothing new under the sun.") Only the dead have seen the end of war.

Kate Smith was doing her part for the war effort even before that war was formally upon us. I try to listen to her "God Bless America" regularly, which is when it's needed. Just as a reminder of who we were, and who we still are, dammit, and, Lord willing, will always be.

You, kind sir and valued correspondent, seem to think Kate Smith's was an America that has passed. You're just sending me this video as a kind of historical souvenir. For our best days are over. It's a widespread misapprehension. But every day, on every front in this new war we didn't ask for, we're reminded that the American spirit is still very much alive -- and still fighting.

Don't give up on us yet, friend. Or ever. Or you'll get a stare from my immigrant mother, wherever Sarah Ackerman Greenberg is now, including in the vivid memory of her children. We kids called it The Look, and it could shatter stone. It'd knock your socks off and everything else. The Look was reserved for anybody and everybody who made a complaint, or even a grimace, about life in America. She'd had a tough enough time getting here from Poland, and from the back of the backwoods of Poland at that, and she wasn't going to put up with any of that, uh, stuff about how bad America was. From any source, including my father, who once complained about his taxes. Once.

"God Bless America." Sing it again, Sam, or rather Kate. I'm going to listen to it right now. It's even better than my favorite recreational drug (coffee), and I just wish I were listening to it once again in Miss Hinkle's room. I might appreciate it in a whole different way. Along with the aches and pains, age lends a certain perspective.

You be well, kind sir, generous friend, and fellow American. And keep the faith.

Inky Wretch


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.