woody zimmermann 120A few years ago Judge Roy Moore – then Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court – got crosswise with the federal courts about religious symbols in the state courthouse. The courts banned the Ten Commandments monument on grounds that it was bigoted, possibly racist, and intolerably religious. (Well, not quite, but the religious objection was certainly true.) I understand Judge Moore’s concerns about court jurisdictions and the erosion of our religious liberties, but I now realize that the courts have probably been wise to try to purge any mention of God from the public square.

I say this not because I care nothing about God, but because I actually care a great deal about Him and about how His name is used. After much reflection, I should be glad if the courts went well beyond courthouses, government buildings and public schools in their zeal to keep God’s name from reaching the tender ears of our country-men, -women, or others – especially “The Children.” In fact, I propose that television should be the next great frontier of the courts’ purgative efforts. I offer the following example as Exhibit A.

My wife loves to watch shows in which madcap decorators transform rooms in a house owned by someone else. They typically produce a dramatically creative result, which they present to the owners as a fait accompli. The show is entertaining up to the point when the owners walk into the redecorated room with eyes covered.

When they open their eyes, things come apart – dramatically speaking. The amazed owners (usually a couple) then walk around holding their heads (usually, each holding his/her own head) and exclaiming “OMyGAWD!” about 100 times, with varying degrees of fervor – sometimes reaching a kind of shriek. This takes about five minutes of air time, during which (as my community theater director used to say) the show dies.

I find that I can no longer stand these repeated exclamations, and must absent myself from the TV-room when this part of the redecorating adventure is reached – often suppressing a strong urge to throw up. New York women repeatedly intoning the phrase through their noses, with a 2-syllable pronunciation of “GAW-ud,” particularly offend my genteel Virginia ear. I know this is outrageously regionalist and sexist, but there it is. (So sue me.)

The careless expression, “OMiGawd,” has become, in our vernacular, what “My Goodness,” “I declare” or “Well, I swanee” (grandma’s favorite) used to be. We think nothing of it now. Children on the playground say it with impunity, whereas they might be severely disciplined for uttering a common Anglo-Saxon term for bodily excrement. (I asked my 6-year-old grand-daughter what people say on the shows when they see the new rooms. She answered correctly, down to perfect mimicking of the nasal intonation.)

If the name of Allah were used as carelessly and vulgarly in America as is the name of the Judeo-Christian God, Muslim Imams would long ago have pronounced a fatwa and declared jihad on us. (Indeed, perhaps they already have.) I considered this stratagem, but the legal complexities of a fatwa are beyond me. Besides, my Arabic is pretty poor.

My proposal for eliminating public utterances of God’s name is actually quite modest. I suggest coining a new term to replace the objectionable phrase – perhaps “OMiG,” for example. The surprised couple on the TV show could be instructed to walk around exclaiming, “OMiG! OMiG!” with increasing emotion. Kneeling down and softly pounding the floor while chanting it would add a dramatic touch. Or perhaps they could simply carry a sign with “OMiG” printed on it. This would free them to engage in more interesting conversation about the room’s new features.

Alternatively, one owner could carry the OMiG-sign and keep up a steady chant of “OMiG, OMiG…” with suitable gestures – perhaps even with a musical accompaniment – while the other converses with the designers. The OMiG-repetition would then take on a quasi-religious cast, rendering it both less and more objectionable at the same time:

  • Less objectionable, because religious people will be affirmed and inspired by the worshipful style of the utterances, instead of offended by careless use of the Lord’s name;
  • More objectionable because the OMiG-mantra will seem genuinely religious, and therefore become a new concern for the ACLU, instead of simply a careless vulgarism.

As Confucius (might have) said: ‘Truly, seeds of new problem hide in every solution...’ 

In artistic terms, these stylistic changes would actually improve the TV program’s efficiency by eliminating all the dead time needed for repeating OMyGAWD dozens of times. As they say in the trade, this would “tighten it up.” Because of the saved time, producers might be able to present an extra transformation-project on each program.

Inventive ways of doing this part of the show would add color, drama, religious appreciation, and even a certain offbeat humor. It might come to be known as the “OMiG Segment” in the format. Other shows might adopt it as well. (‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, the OMiG portion of our show…’) It would also be perfect for those shows which feature clips of people crashing and splashing while trying to soar over a row of garbage bins on a Vespa; etc. A crowd of spectators could be instructed to shout “OMiG! OMiG!” as the bravura act concludes.

If voluntary cooperation of this kind can’t be obtained, then the courts should step in and order the objectionable portions of these shows blocked – at least, the audio. God or Gaw-ud (either pronunciation, as the case may be) should not be heard on the air.

If the courts can accomplish this one thing, then whatever else they want to do is OK with me. (Allow men to marry their goldfish or their cars; require separate rest-rooms for 25 different genders; etc.) Judge Moore has shown that you have to pick the ground you’re going to fight over, and I’ve decided that this is mine. I’ve reached my limit of hearing women saying “OMyGAWD” through their noses, and I’m not going to take it any more.

If the price has to be that judges won’t say, “May Allah save this honorable court” in the future, I can live with that. Ditto for choruses of “Praise to Buddah” at high school football games. They’re outta here! Also, I won’t mind if the president never mentions Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or any of the umpteen other Hindu deities in his speeches. They don’t mean a thing to me. (As Lou Costello famously cried: “I don’t even know what I’m talkin’ about!”)

So all power to the courts! Everything religious must go! Stamp it all out!

OMiG, OMiG, and OMiG!

If this be treason, make the most of it.” (Patrick Henry)