Two days after the recent long-awaited health care reform bill was signed into law, President Obama spoke in Iowa to explain that it might not be such a bad thing after all for the United States to inch closer to being a civilized country. “Leaders of the Republican Party,” he said, “called the passage of this bill ‘Armageddon.' Armageddon! End of freedom as we know it! So after I signed the bill I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling. Some cracks opening up in the earth! Turned out it was a nice day!'' If it really had been Armageddon, what might we have expected to happen?
The New Testament’s Book of Revelation (or The Apocalypse, as it is sometimes called) alludes to a great world-ending battle between good and evil, and in Chapter 16, Verse 16, almost as an aside, it is mentioned that the warring forces will meet at a place called Armageddon. The word is from the Hebrew har megiddo (Mount Megiddo). Megiddo was an ancient city founded about 5,000 years ago and the site of many battles throughout history, including World War I. Events at the final Armageddon may possibly include heat, fire, darkness, lightning, thunder, earthquakes, hail, rivers and oceans turned to blood, and quite a bit of blaspheming, according to the Good Book.
Teddy Roosevelt made the term “Armageddon” politically famous in Chicago, on August 6, 1912, when he left the Republican Party (or acknowledged that it had left him) and founded the Progressive Party, telling his adherents, perhaps a wee bit overdramatically: “Our cause is based on the eternal principles of righteousness … to you who gird yourselves for this great new fight in the never-ending warfare for the good of humankind, I say in closing: We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.”
Well, maybe. Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected that year, and the world did not come to an end. In any event “Armageddon” has entered the political vocabulary. It has a nice, apocalyptic ring to it, suggesting both “armies” and “God,” and politicians of certain persuasions toss it around to characterize their attempt to prevent almost any measure to which they are opposed but do not have the votes to stop.
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has not been to Armageddon, and it is not high on his list of places he would like to visit.
If I should go to Armageddon,
Full-girded for a fight,
I think my senses all would deaden
And I wouldn’t sleep at night.
I’d be a flop at Armageddon,
The foe would have his way.
My arms and legs would both be leaden
As I went to the fray.
I think I’ll pass on Armageddon,
All that fire and smoke
Would likely cause my eyes to redden
And make me cough and choke.
At Armageddon, I would lose,
And things would be quite vile.
Instead I’ll take a Caribbean cruise,
That’s really more my style.