‘God Bless America’ by John Oliver Killens

Killens, John Oliver 1952

God Bless America by John Oliver Killens, 1952

The magic trick:

Intersecting two points of conflict

Get ready, today’s story hits you from multiple angles. It’s just really, really good.

It takes two points of conflicts and intersects them into a single powerhouse of a story.

One – we meet a young married couple on the night before the husband is shipping out to fight in the Korean War. Obviously, that is a situation ripe with emotion and drama.

Two – the husband, an African-American, is facing a crisis of cause. He believes in America. He believes in his opportunity to defend the country; sees it as his right and opportunity as a black man. But things aren’t so simple as the story progresses. Obviously, that is a situation ripe with emotion and drama.

Most writers would be thrilled to have just one of these conflicts at the center of a story. “God Bless America” explores both at once. And that’s quite a trick on Killens’s part.

The selection:

Joe stopped in front of Cleo and made himself speak calmly, “Look, hon, it isn’t like it used to be at all. Why can’t you take my word for it? They’re integrating colored soldiers now. And anyhow, what the hell’s the use of getting all heated up about it? I got to go. That’s all there is to it.”

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