Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Pledge

I admit to being somewhat conflicted concerning the Pledge of Allegiance controversy.

The Pledge remains a strong memory of my childhood, all of us in our classrooms standing united, hands on hearts, reciting this promise. At School, at Church, at Cub Scout meetings and other places, all would respectfully join together.

As I grew older it became less reverent and respectful. Not that we were unpatriotic, but we were youth. It didn't matter.

When I joined the Air Force, it was again important, though perhaps not quite as important as the Oath of Enlistment, and the Star Spangled Banner.

And as it is now under attack it makes me wonder, how have we as a country changed so much in a mere 40 years or so.

It isn't just the Pledge. Any mention of God causes knees to jerk wildly. People have taken the 1st Amendment establishment clause far from it's intended meaning, and seek to remove all reference to God from our society.

There will soon, I predict, be a call to remove God from our money, to sand off the architectural symbols in our public buildings, to edit the Constitution and any thing else they can.

Now, looking at the divisive "under God" in the pledge, first let me say, yes I know it was only added to the Pledge in the 50's. Regardless, I don't see it as establishing any manner of religion. It establishes, to me, a metaphor that we exist united before all to see, God and people alike. It establishes our equality as people before God and before each other. It doesn't say which God, or which faith, it's just a metaphor. I frankly see it as a historical reference as much as anything, an indication of certain facets of our history. It reflect where our country was, and how it was founded. Anyone who looks to our history and cannot see faith as a facet of it is blind.

Having said that, I also see no reason to compel anyone to say those words if they do not believe them. I am not a big one for forced pledges and allegiance in the first place. Compulsory pledges lack the force of conviction usually. It is rote obedience, not allegiance. It is hollow and meaningless.

The pledge should be spoken from the heart as an affirmation of the belief and the participation in something greater then individual wants and desires. It's an affiliation, a bond with freedom as our goal and prize. It's a proclamation of voluntary membership in a society that values us as much as it does me.

And in that respect, what's wrong with people actually giving something back to the system that they take so much from? All these freedoms they abuse, all in the name of the liberty that provides them the freedom. We should be honored to pledge our alliance to the concepts of liberty.

So I guess what I am saying, is that I see no particular reason to remove the words from the pledge. It was put there for a reason, and that reason is now a part of our culture and history. They hurt no one, they impy no particular faith, they are just a symbol.

But, if the take the Under God back out, it won't change anything to me. Those people of faith or the people who revere the tradition will silently (or maybe not so silently) insert it anyway, even as some athiest omit it now. And besides that, the core of what the pledge means will remain, the ideals that it represents will remain.

The important thing is not whether you say God, the important thing is whether you are saying it with conviction.

The following words were spoken by the late Red Skelton on his television program as he related the story of his teacher, Mr. Laswell, who felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite in class each day.

Now, more than ever, listen to the meaning of these words. They seem very appropriate...

"I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?"

me, an individual, a committee of one.
dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.
my love and my devotion.
To the flag
our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there's respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job!
that means that we have all come together.
individual communities that have united into 48 great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that's love for country.
And to the republic
a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the
people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands, one nation
one nation, meaning "so blessed by God"
incapable of being divided.
With liberty
which is freedom -- the right of power to live one's own life without threats, fear or some sort of retaliation.
And Justice
the principle or quality of dealing fairly with others.
For all
which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country and two words have been added to the pledge of Allegiance...
Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer and that would be eliminated from schools too?