Saturday, September 17, 2016

I Pledge Allegiance...

Last week,  I heard a segment on NPR about patriotic rituals such as saying the Pledge of Allegiance or standing for the National Anthem.  One statement by a young person was hard for me.  She said she could not recite the Pledge of Allegiance because saying that our republic has "liberty and justice for all" is false.  I get that.  And I certainly respect anyone's right to participate or not participate in saying the Pledge.  What bothers me is that "the republic, for which it stands" is an idea and that idea really does mean liberty and justice for all.  We have never had - and no real nation ever will have - perfect liberty and justice. What we pledge allegiance to is the idea that such a nation can exist.  I bet that 150+ years ago when Abraham Lincoln made his long-remembered remarks at Gettysburg, he knew well that this idea would never be perfectly realized.  He knew that what he himself had done to preserve it was not perfect.  But he really did believe in the idea.  This idea is the source of everything that has ever been good about the United States and everything that will ever be good about us, our children or our children's children.  We cannot abandon this idea because we have not lived up to it - even collectively.  Even if we see endemic and systemic injustice and prejudice, we have to see that as not who we are.  And we need our children to see that.  We don't need to make them say the Pledge or even stand when others do, but we do need them to have faith that this idea really can "long endure" and that there really can be "a new birth of freedom" in the United States.  

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