What is it about scare masks?—whether as manifested as Medusa in ancient Greece, or the Green Man in Celtic culture, it seems that the scare mask put over a door, or on a wall, is designed to:
- defend from outsiders
- or frighten the guilty
In other words, when you are good, it turns upon outsiders, and when you are bad, it turns on you.
I wonder, in our culture, what we use for public scare masks, and it occurred to me that our scare masks sometimes come in the form of slogans or mottos.
For example, my local city council recently voted to put, in large gold letters, on the wall behind where the council formally sits and meets, the words “In God We Trust,” and I wondered,
Why exactly did this seem an important matter of city business?
Then I thought of Medusa, and the function of scare masks. It seems that “In God We Trust” is a barely sublimated way of scaring off non-monotheists and utopians from public discourse.
Aside from its overtly religious affirmation, “In God We Trust” carries an underlying negative affirmation:
In America, we don’t trust in communism, or socialism, or other utopian schemes. We also don’t put our trust in any cult of personality, as Germany did during World War II. We are realists, and have learned from history, and are modest in what we believe that the government is capable of doing. So before you come before the public square with any grand ideas about changing society, just remember: In God We Trust.