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   EDITORIAL: Let's Pledge To Say What We Mean, Mean What We Say, and Think for Ourselves

EDITORIAL:

Let's Pledge To Say What We Mean, Mean What We Say, and Think for Ourselves

Congress is searching for reasons why the phrase "under God " as recited in public schools as part of the morning ritual pledge to the flag, does not conflict with the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

So far the best reason they have come up with is that, through many years of rote usage (48 years, actually), the phrase has become void of meaning.

Well, if that is the case (let it be so stipulated ), then what about the rest of the pledge? Is the flag itself, after so many years of ubiquitous display, also now devoid of meaning? And what about the "republic for which it stands"? This is a peculiar phrase, because the definition of a "republic" is a state with a president. Well, we have just pledged allegiance to the United States of America, so the identity of the "republic for which it stands" is a mystery.

Another problem is "liberty and justice for all." We have never had liberty and justice for all in this country, and still don't. Women didn't have the right to vote until well into the 20th Century. We needed civil rights legislation in the l960's to solidify the rights of African Americans to vote and participate fully in our society. Most states still don't allow convicted felons to vote even after serving their term. We still don't extend the "full blessings " promised in the Declaration of Independence to gay couples.

The Constitution actually conferred the full benefits of citizenship only to rich white men, and the record of the last 250 years is a record of the attempt to keep it that way. That's why we love to have strict constructionists on the Supreme Court.

In point of fact, the whole concept of citizenship was left to the states to decide, but fortunately (aside from Florida, perhaps) the states have allowed their citizens to vote in national elections.

So, when we ask our children to recite the "pledge," we are asking them not only to believe in something before they have reached the age of reason, to recognize some God (no doubt in the 1954 Eisenhower years it was a Christian God) which they may or may not come to believe in, and to be complicit in the lie that we either have or even desire liberty and justice for all.

We should be teaching our children to form their own opinions and have freedom of thought, and not to recite meaningless pledges.


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This story was published on July 3, 2002.
  
JULY 2002
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