The other day I found myself at a Veteran’s Day observance that included the Pledge of Allegiance. I stood up, put my hand over my heart and recited the oath.
I have to admit that it had been awhile. At first, I didn’t think I would remember the all the words; but I made it through.
Unfortunately, while saying the pledge, I had a troubling revelation.
The pledge was an empty promise. It spoke of ideals and rights that America doesn’t represent. It affirmed lofty notions and high principles that we don’t even try to live up to.
The original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. A Baptist minister and Christian Socialist, Bellamy had originally considered using the words “equality” and “fraternity” in the salute, but deemed them too controversial because so many factions in our “indivisible” nation opposed equal rights for women and African-Americans. And, though Bellamy was a minister, the early versions of the pledge were secular and did not include the words “under God.” The phrase mandating that we prostrate ourselves and our nation before a Judeo-Christian deity wasn’t introduced until June 14, 1954.
In its current form, the Pledge of Allegiance has been amended four times. It was originally composed with prevailing winds in mind and similarly revised along the way. As I recited the pledge on Veteran’s Day, it occurred to me that it’s time for another revision.
For starters, we don’t constitute one nation united under God any more than we comprise one nation united under a red, white and blue barber pole. Beyond that, the term “divisible” far more accurately describes us than its exalted counterpart “indivisible.” And all the “liberty and justice for all” malarkey—we shouldn’t even go there.
Saying the Pledge of Allegiance always sounds nice, but reality doesn’t rest in a cadence. It exists in our efforts to fulfill the ideals that the pledge affirms. If we’re not working towards the fruition of those noble goals, the pledge is meaningless. And if any of us are disqualified or denied his or her right to pursue those ideals, our meritorious oath is hollow.
Here in Texas, the ignoble 2005 “Marriage Amendment” to the state constitution, which forbade the recognition of same-sex couples and prohibited any branch of government from offering them relationship-based benefits, denied a viable, productive segment of our community the application to and enjoyment of some very basic tenets of “liberty” and “justice.” And the recent repeal of Proposition 8 in California was another glaring travesty. To grant our friends and neighbors a right and then take it away via mob rule clearly evidences the fact that we are perpetually “divisible,” especially in regards to sexual orientation.
Ultimately, our so-called ideals of “liberty” and “justice” and “indivisibility” are simply PR myths we like to trumpet and parade around about for the sake of appearances. When it comes to truly establishing and maintaining such aims, we fall woefully short.
But we could fix a lot of this mess by revising the last line of the pledge. If it read “one heterosexual nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all straight people,” it would obviously allow us to seem less counterfeit.
A gay family friend of mine serves in the U.S. Military. I often wonder how he feels risking his life, serving his country, knowing that his neighbors back home shun him–but doing his duty anyway.
Could there be any better way to demonstrate our appreciation for his service than granting him the same rights and privileges that all Americans are supposed to enjoy? Why should he be asked to fight for ideals that don’t apply to him? Why does he put his life on the line for a bunch of hypocrites?
The U.S. Military’s current policy on homosexuality is “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” If it isn’t brought up, the brass doesn’t have to address it.
Perhaps the same principle should be exercised regarding the pledge. It we don’t recite this flawed oath, then we don’t have to delude ourselves or lie to the victims of our charade.