Letter from the Editor

Monday, March 31, 2003

Silly debate over Pledge of Allegiance

You know, I never could hit the necessary notes to sing that National Anthem. Truth be known, some of the parts I just silently mouthed rather than putting out clunker notes to incite giggling from the girls in the third grade choir.

And my memory was never much to brag about. I tried to learn the Declaration of Independence once, but I couldn't pronounce "Usurpations," and it got me a B- in fifth grade Social Studies.

(Don't laugh - how many of us can, right now, off the top of our heads, recite the preamble to our Constitution? It's kind of sad that a majority of citizens don't know by heart the single eloquent sentence that defines our national identity.)

Now, the Pledge of Allegiance was a saving grace for a lot of kids. It somehow seemed to come pretty naturally, and though I haven't been asked to say it for more years than I care to count up, I still could do so passably - it was that ingrained.

I have to think to dredge up our office 800 phone number, sometimes have to look up my own Social Security number, and can't for the life of me remember all the words to Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle." The Pledge, the Lord's Prayer, those "Schoolhouse Rock" jingles though, I've got down until death do us part.

And then, they want to go and change the Pledge on me. "They" being the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Newdow v. United States Congress ruling, which suggests that the words "under God" need to be removed in order for the Pledge to be said in schools.

What? And mess up the generations of people like me who have that comforting little patriotic message Etch-A-Sketched into our souls? Say it ain't so.

And now House members have voted in a resolution reaffirming Congressional "support" for the pledge, and calling for the Supreme Court to get involved too.

Hey, why in the heck are we even talking about this foolishness? We're in the middle of a war, the economy is more messed up than Ozzy Osbourne's family - do we really need to go messing around with a children's pledge? I suppose next we'll be making old rock stars censor "Stairway to Heaven." Sheesh.

The Court of Appeals on February 8 upheld the ruling that in effect bans the Pledge of Allegiance from almost 10 million schoolchildren in nine states to date. They said it "impermissibly coerces a religious act."

As far as I know, no teachers are holding guns to the children's heads and making them pledge allegiance to the flag or the country, though try as I might, I can't see where it would hurt anyone to make that voluntary pledge.

Sometimes, in our rush to be politically correct, we lose sight of what is important. Buy into current politics or otherwise, it is vital to take collective pride in one's country, and to express unity in what it stands for. Without that, we wouldn't have much hope of its success.

If the Pledge is "impermissible" to learn in school, so is the Declaration of Independence, since it speaks of unalienable rights endowed by "their Creator." That's gotta be all wrong. And the Constitution is no good either. How dare it speak of "prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] or abridging the freedom of speech" in its First Amendment?

Why isn't "under God" free speech, I wonder.

I have all the respect in the world for our courts and our Congress, but frankly, they should have better things to do than bluster over a children's Pledge.

Our local Representative, Steve King, rightly voted in favor of leaving the Pledge of Allegiance intact, although may overstate it a bit to insist that, " The Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic act that unites this nation."

It seems clear that we are not united, certainly not on the current warfare, and seldom on any other issue. Maybe that's part of the beauty of democracy, not having to agree. At any rate, it would seem the one thing we could agree on would be the freedom of speech.

So why can't a teacher lead a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance again? And why can't a kid say the words "under God?" And why can't a spiritual be sung by a choir, or a benediction read at a graduation?

Oh, yeah, that would be coercing religion on people. The only thing I resented being forced upon me in school was Algebra II.

Now that was coercion...

"Indivisible, under God." I'm okay with that. And even if they aren't original, I'm not sure I'm okay with a court telling anyone to change the words to anything.

Let's do what we need to do for a peaceful world. Let's work on the economy and feed the homeless and grow opportunity and support our schools and farms.

That shouldn't leave time for government to worry about messing with things like the Pledge of Allegiance. Have mercy, I'm too old to memorize something different now.