Skip to comments.One Nation, Under ... ?
Posted on 10/19/2001 9:15:55 AM PDT by Starmaker
Mob rule is truly an ugly thing and is certainly an obstacle to scholarly endeavors. How many times has history witnessed the repression of those who pursue enlightenment? Why must the judicious among us be forced to grovel under the threat of persecution from torch-bearing, callow hordes? For whatever irrational reasons and however unfair the practice, once again the drive for an accurate understanding and full application of the Constitution of the United States has been thwarted. Or so the School Board of Madison, Wisconsin and its ideological allies surely think.
After days in the national media spotlight, 20,000 critical phone calls, a couple of contentious board meetings and a few recall threats thrown in for good measure, Madison´s school board had been compelled to abandon its solution to a recent state budget provision. This provision requires all public schools to provide students the opportunity for a daily show of patriotism. But in order to make such a practice more palatable to the few teachers and parents who object to such archaic displays, and to remain in keeping with dogmatic, politically correct "thought", the least offensive option was chosen. In lieu of the Pledge of Allegiance, by a vote of 3-2 the board approved the playing of the national anthem, minus the words. The words, you see, were considered by some parents to be "too militaristic". Oh, the horror!
The objection to, and the de facto ban on, the recital of the Pledge were based on the same time tested arguments that thoroughly misrepresented the First Amendment to the Constitution. The contention is that the inclusion of the words "under God" in this little verse is a violation of the constitutionally mandated "separation of church and state". Unfortunately there is no provision or statement within the constitution that specifically mentions such a separation. But then again, the perversion of the words within this document and the distortion of the meanings behind them are commonplace.
If the subject matter weren´t so serious and the consequences not so dire, this willingness by many to see things in the Constitution that are not there, and to ignore things which clearly are, would be laughable. One of the most commonly victimized areas is the Second Amendment. Although consisting of merely a single sentence and being worded quite plainly in stating, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed", the amendment is regularly bastardized and often outright rejected. This unambiguous wording is hardly a deterrent to those who seek to perpetually expand the restrictions on the ownership of weapons. Such factions are often comforted by convincing themselves that the Founding Father could not have possibly foreseen the devastating advances in weapons technology and, had they known, would not have included such language.
Contrary to this reasoning, at the time of the ratification, the tiny standing army and the insignificant national military budget made it a simple matter for a small group of armed civilians to rival the military might of the US armed forces, as was evident during The Whisky Rebellion in 1794. Moreover, during The War of 1812, the United States Navy consisted of only 23 ships with a total of 556 naval guns, whereas the privately owned American fleet numbered 517 vessels with nearly 3000 guns. But even these glaring facts did not convince this nation to disarm American citizens, because it was known that the best counter balance to the inherently oppressive nature of government is an armed citizenry. Today no group of people or collection of corporations could hope to match the firepower of the US government. Popular thought notwithstanding, the public today represents far less of an overall "threat" to national stability than did Americans of the past.
Certainly, the most creative "interpretation" of the Constitution is that which recognizes a woman´s supposed "right to abortion". Irrespective of one´s personal beliefs regarding this practice, the reality is that such a guarantee does not now, nor has it ever, existed. It is only after the highly inventive reading of our national charter and the creative application of the unstated and equally nebulous "right to privacy" that such a provision can be manufactured. Though a "fetus" is certainly human and definitely alive, the rejection of these truths, coupled with afore mentioned constitutional slight-of-hand and (presto, change-o) abortion is not only legal but it has been bestowed a type of constitutional dignity. Houdini would be envious.
While the misreading of the constitution and the feigning of the original intent of the Founders is typical, by far the most readily accepted of such distortions is the perception that the First Amendment stipulates a blanket restriction of any and all expressions of piety within the public domain. But despite how much it obviously pains the dogged opponents of all public displays of faith, the drafters of the constitution were not only highly educated but devoutly religious men; two concepts that many on the left find to be mutually exclusive. This is not to say, however, that some of them did not have overt distrusts of the power of religious institutions when existing as official branches of government. As such, the correct and logical balance was struck when formulating the Constitution. The position was for the government of the United States to have no position at all.
The general, lackluster grasp that most Americans have on the English language may make the wording of the Constitution seem lofty, but in truth this document is constructed in manifestly simple and overwhelming direct terms. Where referencing religion, the First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". This is not cryptic. This is not complicated. And this most certainly isn´t wording that can only be translated by an elitist, chosen few, regardless of what constitutional lawyers may think. The intent is clearly that the government is prohibited from either helping religious institutions or hindering the ability of the public to pursue their faith.
Those objecting to the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools maintain that making reference to a deity, no matter how brief and nonspecific is tantamount to the establishment of an official, state religion. In a political, social atmosphere brimming with self-serving exaggerations, this one rises to the top as being particularly obscene. How one can equate the utterance of a few nondescript words to the taking of legislative action towards the establishment of a theocratic system of government is beyond me. The attempt is not just silly, but certifiably paranoid.
Actions taken by those suffering from this mania, in the courtrooms of America, come far closer to a prohibition of "the free exercise thereof". I suppose that the evisceration of religious freedoms that has taken place over recent decades is technically OK, considering that "Congress" has passed no laws specific to the restriction of religious expression. Such repressive guidelines have been manufactured by courts, which have no authority to draft laws. But who does and who doesn´t possess this authority is another minor constitutional detail that is regularly disregarded.
An essential part of the argument to remove all references to G-d from anything "public", is the idea that activities occurring in or around any institution, property, or organization that receives public funding have the official sanction of the government. But what in this country is immune to being, in some imaginative way, connected to government cash? Our roads are federally funded and companies who build and maintain them are subject to federal employment guidelines. Washington has the power to regulate interstate commerce and therefore, any business using the interstate transportation system can be dictated to. What business doesn´t? During recent debates on the school vouchers, the inference was that by not taxing parents for public school expenses that this would be "giving" them money to be used in the support of private educational institutions. And make no mistake about it, once such a system was in place, soon thereafter would come the government mandates. I´m sure ideologues who embrace this reasoning feel obligated to thank their local mugger for providing them with money, by not robbing them.
A claimed violation of the "separation of church and state" is not the sole objection by those seeking a permanent ban on the Pledge of Allegiance and other, similar works. There is an assortment of protests. Some are rooted in the view of America as a racist state. Others rise from the impression that we are an imperialist and vindictive world power. Still more spring from the noble crusade to save anyone and everyone from torment of being offended. But no repudiation will carry as much weight as those presumably founded in the Constitution.
In a society such as our, there is no shortage of people attempting to appear righteous. In fact it could probably be designated our national pastime. Clearly, nothing better facilitates sanctimonious posturing than does the occasional reference to the supreme law of the land. Yet no amount of passion will provide value to a point-of-view that has its foundations laid in ignorance or innovative distortions.
Please allow me to present an insightful commentary made years ago by Red Skelton.
" .Getting back to school, I remember a teacher that I had. Now I only went, I went through the seventh grade. I left home when I was 10 years old because I was hungry."
"And ... this is true. I worked in the summer and went to school in the winter. But, I had this one teacher, he was the principal of the Harrison school, in Vincennes, Indiana. To me, this was the greatest teacher, a real sage of ...of my time, anyhow."
"He had such wisdom. We were all reciting the Pledge of Allegiance one day, and he walked over. This little old teacher ... Mr. Lasswell was his name."
"He said: 'I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?'"
- - Me; an individual; a committee of one.
- - Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.
- - My love and my devotion.
To the Flag
- - Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of courage; and wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.
Of The United
- - That means that we have all come together.
- - Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided by imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common cause, and that is love of country, of America
. And to the Republic
- - Republic--a sovereign state in which power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands
- - One Nation--meaning, so blessed by God.
- - Incapable of being divided.
- - Which is Freedom; the right of power for one to live his own life, without fears, threats, or any sort of retaliation.
- - The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.
- - For All--that means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.
And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that be eliminated from schools, too?
Red Skelton ( July 18, 1913 - Sept 17, 1997)
Thanks Red, "Good Night ... and ... God Bless"
The Pledge of Allegiance
Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897).
Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex.
The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader's Digest of its day. Its owner and editor, Daniel Ford, had hired Francis in 1891 as his assistant when Francis was pressured into leaving his Baptist church in Boston because of his socialist sermons. As a member of his congregation, Ford had enjoyed Francis's sermons. Ford later founded the liberal and often controversial Ford Hall Forum, located in downtown Boston.
In 1892 Francis Bellamy was also a chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. As its chairman, he prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute - his 'Pledge of Allegiance.'
His original Pledge read as follows: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * 'to' added in October, 1892. ]
Dr. Mortimer Adler, American philosopher and last living founder of the Great Books program at Saint John's College, has analyzed these ideas in his book, The Six Great Ideas. He argues that the three great ideas of the American political tradition are 'equality, liberty and justice for all.' 'Justice' mediates between the often conflicting goals of 'liberty' and 'equality.'
In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the 'leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.
In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.
Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.