Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dissing the Pledge Shows True Stripes

Many conservatives point to liberals like Barak Obama and Nancy Pelosi, accusing their ilk of wreaking havoc on traditional pillars of American society.

"Look at their political track records," conservatives sputter in frustration, "for all the proof anybody needs as to how they're misguiding our country."

Yet, while the Obama's and Pelosi's of the Beltway do indeed wreak havoc on social policy in our country, are they the only ones leading our country astray? Are they the ones charting the course, or are they giving voice to the warped sensibilities of significant segments of American society? Oftentimes, instead of symbols, aren't they symptoms of what's taking place within the general populace of the United States, and how ordinary voters are thinking and acting? Might liberal politicians on the national stage be not so much the cause of what conservatives identify as America's problems as they are expressions of those problems?

Take, for example, our liberal brethren's increasingly provocative animosity towards the Pledge of Allegiance. A couple of weeks ago, NBC staged a crafty little publicity ploy by omitting the words "under God" from a video montage shown at the start of their US Open golf coverage. I say publicity ploy because NBC's feeble "we forgot" excuse doesn't withstand muster, especially on a pre-produced video package which undoubtedly was scrutinized by editors paid to catch obvious mistakes like that.

Personally, I suspect NBC figured they needed something to juice up interest in their golf coverage, even if, on balance, it was negative interest. Particularly when it comes to televising a mercurial sport like golf. You know no network would pull a stunt like that before a major football game.

Is this City Named for Left-Wing Eugenics?

Then there's the majority of city council members in Eugene, Oregon, who decided the Pledge of Allegiance is divisive.

Well, maybe they've proved the Pledge can be divisive, but not in their favor, when considering how less liberal Americans have reacted to their lack of patriotism.

Councilmember Mike Clark had proposed starting each council meeting with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. He considered it an innocent nod to Eugene's few conservatives who feel as though the liberal mantra of "tolerance" ceases to apply outside Democratic party headquarters. Plus, how many other civic organizations across America already start their meetings in a similar fashion? What could be the harm?

According to six of the eight councilmembers, however, there's plenty of harm in the Pledge. One councilmember, George Brown, told Fox News that it "does not unite us," and another, Betty Taylor, compared reciting the Pledge to reading a portion of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto before council meetings.

(The next time you get frustrated with your local representatives, think about the outlandish hyperbole and vitriol you'd have to endure in Eugene, Oregon.)

Eventually, a compromise of sorts was hashed out by the council so that the Pledge could be recited before meetings close to major patriotic holidays. But the media had already gotten wind of the story, and damage to Eugene's civic reputation was about to be unleashed.

Or was it?

What are the chances any of this will hurt these local incumbents the next time they run for office? Like anyplace else in the United States, Eugene's councilmembers have been elected into office by a majority of voters. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that the Council represents the mindsets and worldviews of its constituents.

Ever since 1776, this type of local, grass-roots advocacy has spread like weeds in the summer rain, affecting the voting patterns of all sorts of people on all sorts of issues. Some of it is good, and some of it isn't. Even low voter turnout influences who gets elected to offices from city halls to governorships to the presidency. Some voters become enamored by politicians who sound a lot like Rush Limbaugh, and some voters hear what they want to hear from, well, the type of people who sit on Eugene's city council.

In a way, it's rather difficult to envision how Eugene's electorate could vote for politicians they probably consider moderately liberal, like Obama and Pelosi. Neither of these two Democrats have made any extraordinary efforts to veil at least a tacit belief in God. Does it gall the left-wing people of Eugene to hear Obama end his speeches with "God bless the United States of America?"

Regular readers to this blog know that I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh. But neither am I a fan of any farcical fanaticism which, by denying the Judeo-Christian virtues of the United States, denigrates the very values which give us our civic freedoms.

What What You Do in Freedom Says About You

Some people compare the controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance to Constitutional protections for burning the American flag. Yes, you legally have the right to refuse to recite the Pledge. And yes, you legally have the right to burn our national flag. But the performance of either of those rights doesn't mean you're not proving yourself to be ignorant of their symbolism.

To those who do it, burning the American flag may symbolize contempt for governmental policy, fury at social attitudes, or some other disagreement with a facet of American life. But the flag represents our country as a whole, not necessarily individual people in it. So if you're burning the flag, you're not just demonstrating disrespect against a group of people who may have crafted a law you dislike, but against the very people who've died so you have the right to burn it in the first place. Which kinda proves that your desire to burn the American flag says more negative things about you than the country you think you're desecrating. After all, our soldiers may have died so you could burn the flag, but does doing so respect their memory?

By the same token, the Pledge of Allegiance is a personal affirmation of the totality of America's reality, warts and all. Not wanting to recite it demonstrates a surprising lack of historical knowledge, considering how enlightened most people who disown the Pledge like to consider themselves. Read up on the Second Continental Congress and the drafting of our Constitution to learn about how America's early leaders had to put aside some closely-held opinions and compromise for the sake of the country as a whole.

That's what the United States used to represent. In a republic, it should be normal for nobody to be completely happy with everything taking place in the body politic. That's because working together in government requires compromise. Deliberately extricating yourself from the processes and challenges of unity, therefore, says more negative things about you than the country that's trying to hammer together some sort of consensus that we can all live with.

Of course, if the main reason you don't want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance has to do with its reference to God, then you're only further making a mockery of the very tolerance you claim to espouse. If you don't believe in God, then yes, you're in the minority in this country, and the rest of us will allow you to not utter those two words during your recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. And for that you should be thankful.

If, still, you disagree with the entire Pledge, then although it sounds like a trite cop-out by right-wing fringe groups, perhaps you should consider whether you might fit better in some other country than the United States of America.

And, oh yeah: like the joke says, forgo the use of any currency with "Under God" printed or stamped on it, too.

After all, you wouldn't want to contaminate your wallet.
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