Before we get into this I’d like say that, unlike some of my other posts, I intend no disrespect towards anyone here. I believe we can all be proud of our country and it’s accomplishments and at the same time be critical of ourselves and our country, recognizing we still have more to achieve.
Back in middle and high school I’d refuse to say the pledge of allegiance. However, especially on Veteran’s and Memorial Day I’d at least stand out of respect. For me, it wasn’t about being disruptive, cool, or rebelling just to rebel because that’s what teenagers do. I had my reasons and have developed more with time. And in case you forgotten the words since you were in school, here they are – “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.”
Let’s get this one out of the way right now. It’s probably the most well known and controversial issue concerning the pledge. Those words became added in 1954 and did not appear in the original text. It’s easy enough to just not say those two words “under God,” but in America we have the freedom of religion and worship, or not worship, as we please. The phrase itself is hypocritical to that core American value. People who believe in a different god, or gods, or no god at all. The Constitution reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” While the pledge itself is not a law, it is our official pledge passed by Congress and it is in conflict with the essence of the constitutional excerpt above by respecting an establishment of religion- technically many religions which have a single god.
Ideally, our nation is supposed to be a republic- a government where the people elect representatives to… well, represent their ideals and interests. Nearly half of Congress are millionaires. Google “millionaires in congress” and click any of the articles that pop up, or, just go to images for some pie charts! Then if you Google “average income in USA” the information is answered right at the top: $60,528- which is almost a million dollars short of a million dollars. The median income is even less. The US is oft called “The Great Melting Pot,” but Congress is not. Congress has become more diverse both in terms of gender and ethnicity, but it’s still 75% old white males. The average American 39, women make up 50% of the American population, but only 17% of Congress. There’s also a disparity in religious diversity.They are out of touch with the average and majority of Americans in age, income, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, and probably sexual orientation. So, how can these members of Congress be said to truly represent their constituents? There’s a link to a helpful info-graphic at the the bottom.
We are a fairly divided nation. Blacks have higher incarceration rates and less access to social mobility than whites. Race divides us. Religion divides us. Political affiliation divides us. Congress get’s along as well two child siblings who both want the remote control and watch their own show. President Obama recently vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, but it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with that decision. Republicans and Democrats have been giving “facts” that are exactly opposite. There can’t be two versions of a fact. Someone’s lying. According to Congress it would and would not create jobs, it would and would not hurt the environment, it would and would not help make America’s energy needs secure. Turn on the news, or “The Daily Show” and the same is usually true for every other issue from marriage and gender equality to healthcare. Even when they agree, they bicker about syntax. Republicans say ISIS is a threat to America and we need to bomb them. Obama agrees and has done just that with drones. But since he’s not calling the Islamic extremists, he’s not doing enough, despite his reasonable argument that ISIS are just terrorists because they do not represent religion and shouldn’t be given any validity in that regard.
Liberty And Justice In Different Amounts For Different People
I already mentioned the disparity in black and white incarceration rates, but it goes further than that. Remember that big economic crisis in 2008 that was totally avoidable, but happened? Yeah, there are people who are responsible for that. There have been no arrests. But plenty of protesters have been arrested. People get arrested all the time for lame reasons and we have for profit prisons making money off of people committing crimes. Wealthier people enjoy more liberty than less wealthy people, and more (or less) justice depending how you look at it. You ever see a story about a celebrity driving drunk, but nothing really happens? But if you, or I, did the same thing we’d probably loose our license, get a massive fine, and then loose our jobs because we just lost our mode of transportation to work. Do we even have to go over economic inequality, or how super rich people and corporations influence elections? Or how women are paid less than men for the same work? Or how some people can get married and others can’t?
Forgetting The Vets
A Facebook friend posted a political cartoon depicting a classroom with a child refusing to stand for the pledge and a veteran in a wheelchair with the teacher saying she’d like to introduce someone who can’t stand for defending his right to not stand during the pledge. But I don’t think veterans should be standing either because our country is letting them down. They’re treated as somewhat disposable. Remember that Veterans Affairs scandal that happened not too long ago? While going to college I met several Veterans and they had similar stories. They have been getting the run around, cutting through red tape, and waiting seemingly endlessly to receive their benefits. Many vets come home with what we used to call “Shell Shock” now called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and some of them never receive the proper care. And like George Carlin once said, maybe if we kept the scarier sounding name they’d be getting the care and support they deserve. Others come back with missing limbs, brain damage, and countless other injuries and do not receive enough support to become rehabilitated or keep themselves and their families afloat economically. Statistics vary, but between 25% and 12% of the homeless population are veterans and that’s despicable. There’ll be a link at the bottom for more information which also shows inequality between the ethnicity of veterans and the rates of homelessness.
It’s for these reasons I will not say the pledge of allegiance. I respect and admire those who serve in our armed forces but we have let them down. We have let ourselves down. We are not living up to the ideals our nation was founded on and too often we’re guilty of doing the exact opposite. If we do say the pledge, we are pledging our allegiance to the flag of a republic which does not exist anymore. The pledge is a lie and until we fix these problems I will not say it. We can all be critical of our nation while still having respect for those who serve and protect us. We can abstain from saying the pledge with false promises and still want those promises to be fulfilled. We may not be everything we want to be as espoused in the pledge, but we can still aspire and work towards that end and we can still love our country in spite of it’s flaws not just because it’s our home, but because even though our society isn’t currently living up to it’s ideals, I believe that most, if not all of us, regardless of race, gender, class, or political affiliation, we want to live up to those ideals in earnest.
Diversity Info-graphic: http://ivn.us/2013/04/11/congress-is-not-representative-of-americas-diversity/
Homeless Veterans: http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/
~David T. Kukulkan~