Monday, October 03, 2011

Are We Living Up to "The Pledge?"

I’ve been contemplating what the Pledge of Allegiance really means and whether the values it communicates are really being upheld in these days of our “stalemate government” in Washington. One columnist I read touched on it in a couple of sentences, which made me think about it more broadly.

First, what does the Pledge say? I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The Pledge is recited by our elected officials with hand on heart in multiple ceremonies during their terms.

So what does it mean? The Pledge speaks to nationalism. It speaks to loyalty, a commitment to freedom, fairness and justice under our legal system. But it also addresses the “oneness” of our nation, our unity -- implying that we are together, that we are indivisible. It points out that there is a higher power.

Certainly I do not question the sincerity of our elected officials and their commitment to our form of government or our democratic society. Sometimes I just think they forget about the “oneness” part, that we must be indivisible. I’m not talking about physical separation, as in the Civil War. No, not at all. But I am talking about realistic compromise, the modus operandi that has carried this country forward, which is necessary to enable us to be indivisible. Today, those we elected to represent us are communicating division, contrary to what they have pledged. And this is division on a major scale. You know the examples: the debt ceiling debate, the job plan, food safety regulations, etc. Little can get done. Further, since our Pledge is imbued with nationalism, are our representatives acting in the national interest?

In a recent conversation I had with Evan Bayh, the former senator from Indiana who resigned because of the divisiveness, he told me he is pessimistic: he doesn’t see things changing for the next five or six years.

I urge those we sent to Washington to lift their sights and support what is so fundamental to our nation’s success.

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