I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG
OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS -
ONE NATION UNDER GOD,
Like many children, I grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school. Every student turned and faced the flag with his or her right hand over their heart, and the sacred words were recited in unison. It was how we began each day and we all knew the words by heart. We didn’t always know what they all meant when placed together in the pledge, but we at least knew the words. This ritual went on day after day, month after month, until I was in Junior High School. Then things began to change. The Civil Rights movement was beginning, riots and protests were becoming commonplace. Watts. Kent State. Watergate. Vietnam. Draft cards and bras going up in smoke. The 1968 Democratic National Convention and civil unrest boiling out of control just outside its doors. It seemed as if the world had lost its mind, and the sacred pledge began to lose some of its sanctity, at least to some. Those who stood and faced the flag with their hands over their hearts were mocked. The flag itself was being desecrated on the six o’clock news, and patriotism was fast becoming frowned upon.
Over the years I have never forgotten the Pledge, and over the years the words have taken on a special meaning to me. I’d like to share that meaning with you.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag”
I swear and unchanging and an undying affection the flag of my country. It is a symbol of the freedom and the liberty guaranteed to me by the Constitution of this, the greatest of all nations. It is a beacon of hope to millions around the world who know and understand what that flag stands for, and it is a terrifying thing to behold for tyrants and dictators and oppressors because it is a direct threat to their abominable way of life. It may only be a piece of colorful cloth to some. Something to be derided and desecrated, but to me it is something that I cherish. It is something that I willingly volunteered my life to defend, and it is something that I will proudly wave and defend until the day I die.
“Of the United States of America”
We are fifty individual states. Each with our own sense of purpose, our own laws, our own likes and dislikes, and yet we are united as one. This is how we began over 200 years ago when we banded together to throw off the chains of tyranny and oppression and live as free men and women, beholden to no one but ourselves. Dependent upon nothing but our independence, our ingenuity, our strength in numbers, our perseverance, our spirit and our God. Willing and eager to live our lives independent of one another, but willing at the first hint of a threat to our independence or the independence of our fellow Americans, to unite together for the common good, the common welfare, the common benefit of our fellow Americans.
“And to the republic for which it stands”
Republic. That is an awesome and awe inspiring word. It means that We the People of the United States of America have established a system of laws, complete with checks and balances to prevent any abuse of those laws, which allow us to live as free men and women in safety and with the assurance that our elected officials are there to serve us, and that if they fail to serve us to be removed from office and replaced with those that will. It means that we have the right, not privilege but right of dissent. We have the right to free speech and we have the right to have our speech heard. We the People are the governing body of this Republic, and no one person and no one group will ever again dictate to us how, or why, or where or if we live. This is our right, and this is what the word Republic means to me, and this is what our flag stands for.
“One nation under God”
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, and became part of the U.S. Flag code in 1942. In 1954 the words “Under God” were added by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Congress to the Pledge. Although there were many then, as now, that argue the words should not have been added and that they are a violation of the First Amendment establishment clause. I disagree. Federal law, state constitutions, our currency and the presidential oath already contained references to God. The addition of these two words simply cemented into law something that the people of this country already knew. We are a land blessed by God, and a people who worship God. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making any law respecting the establishment of religion. These two words do not establish a religion, they recognize an already established belief of the people of this country. A people who can and do worship God freely, just as the First Amendment guarantees.
We are, as a people and as a country indivisible. We are united in our common primary purpose as Americans to be free. We may disagree on many things, but not on that. As hard as our enemies have tried and continue to try to sever our common bond and divide us and dispel our unity, they have always failed and they will continue to fail.
Freedom. It is a precious gift that others look upon with longing and jealousy and hatred born of their lack of freedom. We, as free men and women, can go where we want, do what we want, live how we want, worship how we want, buy and sell what we want as long as we do not violate any of the laws which we have enacted through our elected officials. We do no answer to any king or queen or emperor or imam or sheik. This is freedom. This is liberty.
The wheels of justice may be slow, and often are, but they grind finely and thoroughly. No one person or group of people are above the law and all are held accountable equally. Whether a person be homeless and unemployed, without property or money, or whether they be a multi-billionaire or the President of the United States, all are equal in the eyes of the law, and each citizen is dealt with fairly according to our laws.
Everyone single citizen in the United States of America is equal. No one is better than or lower than anyone else. I bow my knee to no man. I may choose to show respect or deference to one individual over another, but that is my choice. I am not commanded or required to. As the old saying goes, we each put our pants on one leg at a time. So every American citizen, whether male or female, young or old, rich or poor, black, white, or brown – all are equal.
There is a caveat to this equality, however, as this does not mean, nor does it imply that everyone must share everything equally when it comes to personal gain. Each individual is equally allowed to succeed or fail according to their own will, their own choices, and no citizen is allowed to benefit at the expense of another. The equality and freedom we enjoy as Americans comes with a degree of responsibility. It is called “self-responsibility.” Our fellow Americans are there to help, through the auspices of the federal government, should any American need that help. But the key word here is help. Not enable. Not subsidize. But help, and help is a temporary thing. Each American is responsible to succeed or fail on his or her own merits. Not on the merits of others.
This is what the Pledge of Allegiance means to me. There are those in years past and throughout our history who have worked to pervert this, and there are those who still work to pervert this pledge, and always for their own benefit. In my eyes, they are enemies of We the People. Some of them are part of government, and some of them are among the governed. Because of their actions they are a threat to the very fabric of our existence as free men and women. They are a threat to the security of our nation, and I often times think they are a greater threat than any threat that exists thousands of miles away in a foreign land.