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.
Remember that? Many of us “old-timers” recited the Pledge of Allegiance to start our school day.
Students at the Lorain County Joint Vocational School in Oberlin, Ohio, recently began reciting the pledge after not doing so for generations.
The effort is student-led and voluntary. It was a student’s idea to recite the pledge, and that student leads his peers in the recitation each morning.
“Students have been very respectful,” Principal Jill Petitti said in an interview with The Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria, Ohio. “For the most part they’ve been participating. I’ve heard multiple people say that they love to start their day this way.”
The student, John Owen, offered this explanation:
“With so much going on in the nation, in news, and even in the NFL, I think the pledge will instill in students that it’s OK to be a patriotic person.”
What a refreshing story.
Our young people offer a wonderful hope for America’s future.
We adults often focus on the negative:
- Reciting the pledge must be voluntary so no one gets offended.
- The words “under God,” added in 1954, violate separation of church and state in the eyes of many.
Students, however, focus on patriotism.
The themes of the pledge are worth pursuing.
Are we indivisible? Do we offer liberty and justice for all?
The ongoing debate in Congress to even pass a budget questions our ability to be indivisible at the moment. Our president is divisive in his tweets – even his own party gets blindsided by his words on occasion.
But it’s not only our political leaders who can’t get along. Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, explains it this way in the current issue of the AARP Bulletin:
… the divisions in this country are exacerbated by the fact that so many people get their news from only one source – and sources that have differing viewpoints often don’t even share a common set of facts – which makes it difficult to have a meaningful discussion and debate.
In that light, are we still one nation? Are we indivisible?
Indivisible means not divisible; not separable into parts; incapable of being divided:
one nation indivisible.
Are we incapable of being divided?
That’s a strong word.
Democrats and Republicans still vote in the same room. Men and women still live and work together. People of differing races and ethnicities work, play and socialize together, to varying degrees.
Despite our differences.
Yes, we are indivisible. We survived a Civil War. We will survive the current divisiveness. And we will be a better country for it.
“Liberty,” according to my hard-cover Webster’s dictionary, offers this definition:
- The quality or state of being free; (a) the power to do as one pleases (b) freedom from physical restraint (c) freedom from arbitrary or despotic control (d) the positive enjoyment of various social, political or economic rights and privileges (e) the power of choice
“The power to do as one pleases” is not unlimited. Taken to the extreme, that might mean I’ll show up for work whenever I want to. The boss wouldn’t appreciate that because my job wouldn’t get done.
Having said that, we are free to choose our relationships, careers, where we live, how we worship, what we do in our spare time, etc. Much of this we take for granted, even though people in many other countries don’t have these liberties.
We also are free from physical restraints and from arbitrary or despotic control – which is why we are shocked when these liberties are taken away. The couple who tortured their 13 children in California come to mind. Larry Nassar also does. Sickening. These adults violated everything our nation stands for.
And we have the freedom to get involved in whatever social, political or economic causes we choose, or not.
My dictionary defines “justice” this way:
- (a) the maintenance or administration of what is just esp. by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or judgments (b) judge (c) the administration of law esp. the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
- (a) the quality of being just, impartial or fair
Google offers this definition:
Just behavior or treatment. A concern for justice, peace and genuine respect for people.
Dictionary.com talks about moral rightness and lawfulness as well.
We debate morals all the time and we can add or delete laws, but “genuine respect for people” should be the guiding principle for how we decide them. We can’t be just, impartial or fair if we do not respect all people.
In public arenas, I don’t see much “genuine respect for people.”
Jenkins, the AARP CEO, sums it up:
Restoring civility to public discourse begins with each of us individually: how we talk to and relate to one another, taking the extra step to understand why a person believes differently than we do, and being able to disagree with one another while still respecting the other person.
Are we indivisible, offering liberty and justice to all?
Perhaps we should revive the Pledge of Allegiance, not just in schools, but post it on a wall in workplaces and public spots as well.
It offers a message worth adhering to.