Marolt: A pledge to modernize our allegiance
Is it too late to talk about patriotism? I mean, it is more than a week past the Fourth of July.
Let’s begin with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
No, I didn’t screw it up. That’s how it was originally written. It’s not like the Declaration of Independence, which was pretty much a one-shot deal that wouldn’t make sense to tinker with after the fact.
It’s not as sacrosanct as the Constitution, either. That document lays out the rules we live by. Sure, the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule pretty much take care of everything, but they’re hard to follow, and you can’t run a government without wiggle room. We needed something with a little flexibility without being totally mutable. Its words were considered deliberately by some of the smartest people in this country’s history, besides Steve Jobs, so we are careful about handing out good grades for creative interpretation of it but not completely closed-minded if we see something in it for us.
The Pledge of Allegiance, on the other hand, while distinctly American in origin, didn’t come about in such dramatic fashion as these other works. It was basically a marketing slogan that won a competition designed to sell flags to schools and magazine subscriptions to children. The author of the patriotic sales pitch was a socialist. It was changed four times from its original format in 1892 until it finally was adopted by Congress in 1942.
I mention this so that you don’t think it blasphemous that I now recommend we change it again. The pledge obviously was written in simpler times and with simpler motives behind it. It’s time to adapt it to what our country has evolved into since 1892.
First of all, few Americans today will pledge unwavering allegiance to our country. That’s why we have offshore bank accounts, all-American athletic-shoe companies in Indonesia and one-way airline tickets to just about anywhere for escape from being drafted into another unjust war.
For another thing, our flag is no longer what commands respect throughout the world. Freely waving it overseas is about as likely to get you lynched as congratulated these days. We are not globally loved. Thankfully, though, if you pull out a handful of Ben Franklins, you will be welcome just about anywhere.
Then there’s the thing about Democrats and Republicans. It’s no secret that our two political parties neither like nor respect each other. Crisis used to be the glue that held our nation together, but recent calamities have seemed to divide us even more. It’s the blame game, and it is more contentious than Scrabble without a pocket dictionary.
We are divided economically, as well. The rich are getting richer while the middle class is getting poorer. Sure, we all get to vote, but the choices are limited to the two candidates or causes that sail to the forefront on winds fanned by disposable dollar bills.
God has been a point of contention in the pledge, too. He wasn’t mentioned in the original version and then was added in 1948. Ever since, there’s been a fight about whether to keep him in or out. I’m sure all the bickering and vitriol pleases him. His is the name we are afraid to say except when we cuss. There are so many euphemisms for the G-word that surely we can pick one that’s cool and inoffensive.
Finally, there’s the part about liberty and justice for all. What does “all” mean? Is it literally everyone or just those whom the higher power put here or helped get through the process of becoming a bona fide citizen? Certainly nobody expects us to stand up for liberty and justice for all 6 billion human beings. It’s enough just to take care of those of us who are legally registered to vote and have Social Security taxes deducted from our paychecks.
All said, a modern revision of the pledge might go something like this:
“I pledge allegiance, for the most part, to the greenback of the United States of America and to the plutocracy for which it creates a positive balance of trade, one bifurcated nation, under karma, split down the middle over everything, with liberty and justice for all who are born here and a few others lucky enough to get a shot at wading through the bureaucracy.”
It’s either this or trying to live up to the standards of the previous version.
Roger Marolt thinks it will be a lot easier to change the Pledge of Allegiance than stick to the spirit of the older version. Contact him at email@example.com.
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