June 26, 2002

Right Hand Over Heart, Ready Begin

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic for which is stands
One nation under God
With liberty and justice for all

What is going on here? Twice in a day my life is imitating, well, the news.

Just yesterday, on the Metro, my eldest daughter (who has joined her sister and I on our daily commutes for the next three weeks) started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. When I asked her just who she was pledging allegiance to, she replied “God” with a beautiful smile that reflected her confidence. And, this just in, a federal appeals court has just ruled that the Pledge is an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion and cannot be recited in schools.”

“No honey,” I replied. “You’re pledging allegiance to the many sacrifices people have made so that we could live like we do in this country.” I had to choose my words carefully. I was, afterall, speaking to an almost six year old.

But many adults don’t get it either. Many think we’re actually pledging alligiance to the flag itself, rather than the acts it represents. I’m reminded of a quote by Franklin K. Lane, former Secretary of the Interior, who stated in a 1914 Flag Day address: “I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be an American. I don’t always agree with the policies of our government and of big business. But I realize, especially after 9/11 lifted the veil of ignorance from many of our eyes, that we do live a privileged life here. And I thank those who have fought on the battlefields, the courtrooms, and on the streets to keep these freedoms. I feel it’s my responsibility, though, to pass this message down to my children: the flag is the symbol and we should respect the acts it represents.

So the courts see the Pledge as violating our sacrosanct right to the separation of church and state. It’s the “under God” they are objecting to.

“Everybody stand. Right hand over heart. Ready. Begin.” The verse we so closely associate with our early years and fresh school mornings is to be recited no more.

Update: The decision to prohibit children from saying the Pledge has been stayed until it can be reviewed by a panel of judges. There is a good interview on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, Alfred Goodwin, who issued the decision. I especially like:

The former Oregon Supreme Court justice was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Nixon in 1971. He was born in Washington and is a self-professed cowboy who, evidently, shoots from the hip.

Finally! A role model. (via Q Daily News)

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