Monday, September 19, 2005

To clarify: my views on this whole Pledge business

Based on a comment by an anonymous passerby on my blog, I'd like to clarify my original rant about the sudden "unconstitutionality" (apparently I've decided that's a word) of the Pledge of Allegiance. (Thank you, by the way, to said anonymous commenter for making me clarify my thoughts.)

After talking to some friends and doing some Internet research, I've since discovered that the phrase "under God" was not originally in the Pledge. It was added during the 1950s when communism was a huge fear in democratic America and the government was obsessed with proving their purity and worth through 'godliness' to distinguish themselves from the "godless Commies." That's also around the time when they added E Pluribus Unum to our paper money. Click here for details. Good to know that the original Pledge was not religiously based.

I also went back to reread the article I linked in my last post concerning what was deemed unconstitutional. Turns out, the Pledge isn't considered unconstitutional, but the saying of the Pledge as is has been declared unconstitutional.

Semantics. That's all that is, my friends.

I agree that the "under God" phrase is offensive. I agree it should not be shoved down the throats of our children if they are not brought up Christian (or even if they are, but their parents still have a problem with the symbolic shoving down the throat). I do not agree, however, that the Pledge should be stricken from the memory and heart of this nation.

I stick to my original statement that the Pledge is a symbol of our country; so much more than a bunch of words we're forced to recite in elementary school. I was also required to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. Being able to recite "We the People of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union..." (and so on) seemed a chore at the time, but now I think of it as a way to take personal ownership of another of our country's great symbols. And I think there is real worth in having that connection. It includes me a part of the American culture. It makes me stop and consider for a brief moment every time I hear those familiar words what they mean to me as an American citizen and what they mean to my country.

I will not say that America has it completely right (especially with Bush in power for 5 years now). I will not say that America is even close to perfect. I will not say that I agree with everything that our country does or that our country's leaders stand for. But that's the beauty of this country. I don't have to agree. That's what those American symbols stand for. The Flag, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty, the Pledge. To me, they all come together to symbolize two things: my rights to freedom as an American citizen and the unity of our great nation under those freedoms.

They also symbolize each of your individual rights to disagree with everything I've just said here. And I respect that. I welcome that. I support that. It's the American way.

In the end, America does many things wrong. There are many days when I wonder why anyone could love this country. There are those times when I think maybe I'll move to Canada or France or somewhere else but here. But those days pass. (How wonderful it is not to be persecuted for having those feelings or to be in fear for even daring to think those thoughts!) But America also does many things right. (Who keeps score about whether they do more right than wrong? Not me. I don't feel the need.) And when I sit and think about it, as I'm doing right now, I don't know that I could easily pick up and leave. I'm too deeply rooted in the American culture. I'm proud to be an American. The Pledge, among all the others, is a symbol of that pride.

Maybe some think that I'm brainwashed into an American-culture-pushing-idiot who can't think for myself. I don't think I am. And I don't think teaching kids about all of those symbols early on (even making them recite the Pledge) is a tactic in brainwashing or unfair force-feeding. I think it's our duty as a country to continue the culture we've created, to continue the pride in our country through the symbols we have rooted in our history.

Take out the "under God" phrase. Make that unconstitutional. But don't make the recitation of the Pledge unconstitutional, thereby completely obliterating a symbol of our American pride.

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