In “The good, the bad and the clueless” (immediately below), John administers a dose of justice to the benighted members of the Star Tribune’s editorial board. Reader J.R.M. writes from Cambridge to add that the cluelessness is a bit wider ranging than we had noted, including an apparent inability to distinguish between an invocation and a declaration. J.R.M. writes:
Re: John’s post on “The Good, the Bad and the Clueless”: The Strib’s rhetorical crescendo, “Is it not arrogant and presumptuous for leaders to declare ‘God bless America’…”, is founded on an ignorance of simple grammar. Obviously, “God bless America” is a wish or exhortation, and so is in the subjunctive mood, as indicated by the verb “bless” instead of the indicative”blesses.” It is not a declaration at all; if anything, the implication is that God has not blessed America yet.
Now, of course the editorial’s point is clear. So is the point of every other leftist I’ve heard disparaging the “arrogance” of the “statement” “God bless America.” But isn’t it suggestive how the Left can’t tell the difference between a prayer on America’s behalf and an (oh so offensive) expression of pride? It’s as though both are equally bad, as long as they reflect a love of America.
That’s beside the shame of grammatical ignorance! We’ll forgive them that, since no one these days learns about the subjunctive anyhow. Its hortative function barely survives outside of a few locutions, but “God bless…” is one of those.
J. R. M. in Cambridge, Mass.
As J.R.M. suggests, knowledge of the subjunctive is occasionally useful. Those who write for a living really should familiarize themselves with it. One of the great benefits of studying ancient Greek is the necessity of learning a fourth verbal mood in addition to the indicative, subjunctive and imperative — the optative. Learning the optative mood makes the subjunctive seem a piece of cake. Perhaps we should just say: Would that the high opinion Star Tribune editors hold of themselves were to have some basis in reality!
PAUL adds: President Bush has a better grasp of grammar (among other things) than the Strib editors. That’s why he concludes his speeches and talks by saying “May God continue to bless the United States of America.”