Morning chores done. I have to go to work soon, but I have half an hour or so to write before I need to get ready to leave. When my marriage was collapsing and I was tossed on the waves of divorce, I couldn’t focus enough to write. Maybe the occasional black tirade, either tucked away or emailed to a sympathetic ear. But that was all I could focus on. The collapse of my world and the ominous future that faced me. Oh, it still haunts a substantial number of my waking (and sleeping) hours, but now other things are interesting me. I am writing like mad. It feels wonderful.
Aside from these blogs, which once were irregular, coming several times a month, I am cranking out stuff for the Monitor as fast as they will take them. Should be one coming out tomorrow. And today I’ll be working on another. It comes as a reflection on something I heard. I and another individual in town were criticized by some local busybody for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at an official function. It was implied that I was ungrateful and disrespectful because of it.
I’ve written about this before. A good number of years ago I thought long and hard about it and decided the Pledge wasn’t for me. The reasons are many. Topmost is that it makes no sense to me. I am pledging allegiance to a flag. Alright, the flag, by tradition, symbolizes a nation; “the republic for which it stands”. So I’m saying I’ll support this nation in all things, presumably right or wrong, disregarding all other nations. What if our country declared war for reasons that I thought were utterly wrong and unjustified? Given the utter lack of judgement and wisdom displayed by the current administration, it is easy to imagine. I could not in good conscience support this action, and might even go over to support the other side against the United States.
I am a humanist. I feel kinship to all other human beings. National boundaries are arbitrary divisions, based on geography, culture, and history, subject to change at any time. I admire the accomplishments of Sweden or Great Britain or India or Ecuador, because they are human accomplishments. The evil done by Syria, China, or the United States angers and frustrates me, because these are human actions agains other human beings, other creatures, or the planet we all share. The flag is irrelevant.
There are other problems with the Pledge. In our current state, we are hardly “one nation, indivisible.” We are violently divided and actively hostile towards one another. (Never mind the “under God” that got stuck in there during the fifties for political reasons). The Pledge was written at a time when we were still recovering from a war that literally divided us. We managed to pull together, at least superficially, for several decades, but the divides have never really gone away. Factions are still at war with other factions, groups are determined to oppress and dominate other groups. As for “liberty and justice for all”, well, that is a myth. How much liberty and justice any citizen enjoys is largely dependent on race, ethnicity, class, and income.
There are certain things I do appreciate about this nation. I have the freedom not to say the Pledge if I don’t want to, and I have the freedom to write about why. And those who disagree with me are equally free to disagree and to criticize me for it. I appreciate the limited socialism we enjoy, which provides a highway system, public education, Social Security, and Medicaid. I am glad for government support of libraries, arts, and museums. I am grateful for the EPA and other regulatory agencies which protect our environment and ensure that our food is fit to eat and our water fit to drink. I am grateful for national parks and NASA.
You may notice that most of these institutions are presently under siege by an administration determined to underfund, defund, and dismantle them in order to pump yet more money into an already insanely bloated military and national security machine. I could not be more opposed. Is this what I am supposed to pledge my allegiance to? I don’t think so.
Others may feel differently, especially veterans and those of a different generation. I get that. The symbolic meaning of the Pledge and its recitation is deeply significant to them. So I stand with quiet respect while they face the flag with their hands on their hearts. I do not mock them; I do not make a show of my lack of participation. Those whose eyes are focused on the flag are unlikely to notice what I am doing (or not doing). I fail to see what business it is of theirs anyway.
With the editor’s blessing some version of this will be appearing in the Monitor sometime soon. A free press is the greatest strength of a free nation. And that is something I am willing pledge my support for.