We met during a political forum about five years ago. At the time, he was a liberal but because of his faith he was opposed to abortion. We had a lot in common politically and became friends. He moved to California, married, opened a restaurant and became an American citizen. It didn’t take long before we started talking politics and his American citizenship experience. Our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag became the topic for our conversation.
Jokingly, he said he may not legally be an American citizen because he refused to recite all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance during the swearing in ceremony for citizenship. To him, “one nation under God” is not something he could swear allegiance to. It inferred the United States was God’s chosen country and as a result government seemed to think it could do whatever it wanted to the rest of the world with impunity. And he made a good point. He loved America, its people, politics and opportunities but not its leaning towards a Judeo-Christian theocratic government. He is a Muslim and wants to remain a free Muslim, that’s why he came to America. My Indian friend has nothing to be concerned about.
In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. Originally it read, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954, during the Cold War with Russia, the words “under God” were added as a way to differentiate the United States from the concept of communist state atheism. So, in our effort to fight communism, we established a Christian state to fight atheism. Coincidently, we have been at war with non-believers ever since. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
In the late 1950s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group whose beliefs preclude swearing loyalty to any power other than God, objected to policies in public schools requiring students to swear an oath to the flag. They objected on the grounds that their rights to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment were being violated by such requirements. They had a good argument. Back in 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that “compulsory unification of opinion” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance violates the First Amendment. So, the compulsory unified pledge swearing allegiance to our flag to gain citizenship could be a violation of constitutional rights new Americans are swearing to uphold.
It might be time to revise our Pledge of Allegiance. We no are longer a group of “united states.” We are not a nation that is “indivisible.” The fulcrum of the middle class balancing the extremes of wealth and poverty is being eroded by the division of extreme politics. Blue-state values of social justice, women’s rights, individual freedom, personal liberty and separation of church from state guaranteed in our Constitution are surrounded by Red theocratic states determined to deny all Americans their legal Constitutional rights in exchange for a Christian-based antiquated catechism of moral codes.
The revision of our pledge to our great American flag and divided republic should remind us that if we don’t stand united and respect each other’s personal and political rights, then divided we will fall.
All elected legislators should pledge political compromise to legislate laws, not based on personal gain, hate or individual religious values, but for the protection of everyone’s individual freedoms.
A pledge is a promise. If the Democrats would promise to stop hating the G.W. Bush Republican era in the White House and the Republicans agreed to stop hating President Obama because of the color of his skin, we could all pledge our allegiance to our flag that would truly represent one nation unified under the banner of liberty, freedom and justice for all.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.