Writings and observations

Words that don’t come

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“I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.”

Period.

With all this B.S. about people kneeling during our National Anthem – and the millions that seem to miss the point of the demonstration entirely – I’ve got a confession to make. Attending events where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited has become a problem for me.

I first noticed this some weeks back. A weekly service club session was being opened with the usual prayer and “The Pledge.” About halfway through the recitation, I realized I’d stopped speaking. Just quit midpoint without any conscious thought.

Later, given my outsized sense of curiosity, I wondered about the sudden realization – trying to figure out how long this absence of full verbal citizenship participation had been going on. I couldn’t determine an exact time or date but it seemed clear this experience had happened before. So, the next thought was to ask “why?” That was much easier to determine.

The phrase “one nation” has not applied to my native country for far too many years. We are NOT “one nation.” We’re a badly fractured nation. And it’s getting worse.

GOP pollster Pat Caddell and EMC Research have done some serious examinations of our national psyche. Using multiple methodologies, they’ve determined two-thirds of us believe we have no voice in government. More than that, 73-percent of us believe our government no longer rules with the “consent of the governed.” Us. You and me.

“People like to say the country is more divided than ever,” Caddell says. “But, in fact, the country is united in believing two things: the political class does not represent them and the system is rigged against them.”

Here’s one of his proofs. He posed a hypothetical race for President – Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and Candidate “Smith” about whom nothing was known except Smith was running on a platform of “reform.” The results? Clinton 24 percent – Christie 12 percent – Smith 55 percent. Anyone see a Trump here?

There were other questions Caddell has asked for years – significantly the one dealing with trust in government. A record 79 percent responded they trust government to do the right thing “never” or only “some of the time.” More than 75 percent said politicians didn’t care for people like them – the highest percentage since 1952. Just ten years ago, 50 percent disagreed.

“One nation?” Hardly.

The next words – “under God” – have always been troublesome. They weren’t part of the original pledge – added in the 1950’s after a lot of debate by a Congress seeing imagined Communists behind every tree. Despite ascribing phony claims of “Christian patriotism” much later by the radical crowd, many of our founders were quite pointed about their actions and some had no direct relationship to a “Supreme Being.” While many were religious in their own lives – and at least one was an ordained minister – Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others clearly delineated a separation from “divine” inference in their works. Those associations with “Christianity” and “God” were created later – many years later.

The “under God” inclusion also seems to me to rule out full participation of citizenship or full-throated “love of country” by those who may not believe in the God so many of us casually refer to as if only we had divine understanding and a close relationship. What about Atheists or Deists or others not given to believing in the God referred to in the words “under God?” Can they fully subscribe to the Pledge or are they promising “allegiance” to something they don’t truly believe in?

Then you come to “liberty and justice for all.” Anyone here want to make the case those words ring true? Anyone? I can’t. Deprivation and injustice are too common in our nation. “Liberty” and “justice” have been denied for so many. I cannot say those words with conviction. It’s simply untrue.

None of this should be taken as a lessening of love of country or some sort of reduced belief on my part in the greatness and promise of America. Not a word. But, if others are having trouble with our National Anthem and the traditional Pledge of Allegiance as serious expressions of citizenship “for all,” maybe it’s time for some editing. Maybe we ought to look at where this nation really is and create a new set of words more in keeping with our realities. Maybe we need to change the whole thing.

Or maybe – just maybe – we ought to change conditions in our country. Maybe “The Pledge” is still appropriate but we’ve allowed too many nutcase voices to distract us from the true meaning of the words. Maybe the ignorance and self-service pervading our politics need to be rooted out and replaced with thoughtful, intelligent minds that can reshape our nation to those values described in “The Pledge.” Maybe it is WE who’ve failed the real meaning of those words and have let them become just innocuous phrases we recite without feeling. Without conviction.

Surely we can be a nation like that again. Where reciting “The Pledge” is more than just a duty. Where it can again become an individual yet all-inclusive honor.

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