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If Only We Believed the Pledge of Allegiance.

February 11, 2019

page1-1199px-Pledge-of-Allegiance-to-the-Flag-by-Irving-Caesar.pdf

 

 

Ironically, it was in January 2017 when I blogged about the new pledge of allegiance under Individual #1. What I did not realize, was just how prophetic it was, and how many purported United States citizens would live as if they believed it over the real one.

Now, in 2019, I think it is time to remind ourselves what the original says and what it means for this country. Thirty-one words that define what it means to be an American, words that if we really did believe them, would go a long way to healing this nation.

Stop any ten people on the street and I doubt any one of them would know the history of the pledge and I am not sure just how many would be able to recite the words.  The pledge was the brain child of Francis Bellamy, a minister, who in 1892 wrote it hoping citizens of any country could use it. The original simply said:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923 it was changed to read:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

And finally in 1954 the words under God were inserted giving us the version many of us recited every day in school. One thing I did not know, is that the controversy over making students recite the pledge started as early as 1935, long before these two words were added. There have been many challenges over the years, but today one does not have to stand nor recite the pledge if they so choose. That however, is not the point of this blog.

Let us examine what the words say and is the pledge worth preserving!

It is fitting that the first word is “I“. Each of has a responsibility as to what kind of country we are. It is easy to sit back and let other people take the reins, but as individuals, we each are responsible. The most significant way this manifests itself is in voting. The adage, every vote counts, could not be more true than in today’s political environment. It is tempting to want voting to be mandatory, like in Australia, but more important, is an informed electorate. In 2016,  58% of eligible voters went to the polls, while high for an election, it says a lot about the apathy of the other 42%.

The word pledge is from the Latin, plebium, to undertake, to make a serious promise to do what comes after. Obviously, 42% per cent of citizens did not take it seriously in 2016.

Allegiance: loyalty or commitment to a superior or to a group or cause. This one is the biggie. It is what caused the first challenge to be brought before the Supreme Court (see the link above). If we are to be honest, what this means is more of a commitment to one’s country, again voting being a good example of showing commitment.

To the flag: this is where the rubber meets the road. While our flag is special and there are rules about its use and care, it is a symbol. The problem is the meaning of that symbol has changed and been compromised. The link is to a blog I wrote on July 4th, 2012. Sadly the division I described regarding our flag has widened. Once a symbol of a country united it is now used to rip us apart.

of the United States of America: As the flag has become a symbol of division, this country is no longer united, but split into red and blue, and like the wall 45 would love to build, it seems we are unable to get over our differences.

and to the Republic: This may be one of the more important parts of the pledge. It reminds us that we are not a democracy, but a republic. To know the difference is to understand what is wrong with our current political mess. The key being a constitution that guarantees the same rights to all citizens, which currently is not the case, at least in practice.

for which it stands: Where once this meant that America was a place that the world could look to for leadership, inspiration, support, and hope: the last two years have eroded that image. Maybe it is time for all of us to take a knee!

one nation,: As has been said in many ways above, we are far from being one nation and have definitely been divided. One nation does not mean we all have to agree, but when those disagreements tear into the fabric of who we are, then we have a problem. When we refuse to listen to opposite opinions or fail to try to see the other side of an issue, we are beyond repair.

under God: i am surprised that this was allowed to be put in. The Constitution is clear regarding the separation of church and state. The problem as I see it is that while God is not defined, the implication of it being a Christian God has taken hold and perpetuates the false idea that this is a Christian nation.

indivisible: This word means unable to be divided or separated. In the current political climate, this small word is almost laughable. We are more divided than ever, at least more than I can ever remember. Yes, we had division in the Civil War, and have always had differing view points, but the gap today seems almost wider than ever. For the United States to be what it was meant to be, this is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

with liberty and justice for all: The irony of this is many who would insist the pledge be recited, who stand up when we play the national anthem, are the last to live by these final words. White supremacy, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, love it or leave it, are ideas and beliefs that undermine the concepts of liberty and justice for all. The us and them mentality takes the wind out of the sails of the ship of liberty and justice. As Leonard Cohen says in his poem, “Democracy” –

Sail on, sail on, O mighty Ship of State! To the Shores of Need Past the Reefs of Greed Through the Squalls of Hate Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

Imagine a country where the words to our pledge were taken to heart, implemented and practiced in everyday life. A country that raised the flag as a symbol of hope, equality, justice, respect, and liberty. A nation, undivided, indivisible. A country that symbolizes what a people can become when all are treated fairly. Imagine the United States of America as it was meant to be. That will be the day the pledge of allegiance becomes worthy of recitation.

 

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