Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anchor of Liberty

We've all grown up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; every morning at school, in offices and at assemblies. How much thought do we give to that pledge and its meaning?

I pledge allegiance to the flag... What is a flag? Webster’s describes it as a piece of cloth or bunting with distinctive colors, patterns or symbolic devices used as a state symbol. In general it is an easily recognized symbol of a nation or group. Our flag has gone through many incarnations from the Grand Union flag of the revolution through an ever increasing number of stars as states were added to the Union. The flag of the United States, “Old Glory,” has flown proudly as the ensign on ships protecting our shipping from both the British, and Barbary pirates, in the 1800'’s, from the crest of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima in World War II to the moon and beyond, as painted on Voyager, now on its way to the stars. Sadly, it has flown just as proudly at Wounded Knee, Manzanar, Mai Lai and Fallujah.

Of the United States of America... What is the United States of America? It is a vast country, bounded on the East and West by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, by Canada to the North and Mexico to the South, not to mention Alaska and Hawaii beyond those boundaries. It is the home of diverse people and cultures and has every extreme of climate and geology.

And to the Republic for which it stands... What is a Republic? “It is a state or nation in which the supreme power rests in all the citizens entitled to vote (the electorate) and is exercised by representatives elected directly or indirectly by them and responsible to them.” What is it that makes our republic so unique in the annals of history? It is the three documents bequeathed to us by the founders of our nation, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The founders of this nation had had their fill of autocratic government, unresponsive to the needs and wishes of its citizens. The Declaration of Independence spelled out that every person had the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inalienable means that it cannot be taken away or abridged. It also declared that every man had the right to rebel against those rights being infringed. After a long and bitter campaign, the United States of America was born. A Constitutional Convention was held in which the framework of government was hammered out. When completed, it was a remarkably brief document consisting of seven articles which concisely spelled out the rights, privileges and obligations of all three branches of government and how each of the three should provide a system of checks and balances on the others so that no branch of the government could assume dictatorial power or infringe upon the rights of the people. Included was the process by which the Constitution could be amended. When the Constitutional Convention had drafted the document, almost as an afterthought it was decided that there should be an enumeration of simple acknowledged principles of the rights of man. The list of an American citizen’s rights was to be an absolute barrier to infringement by the government upon the citizenry. (An interesting fact; If you carefully read the Bill of Rights, you will note that it does not enumerate our rights, it forbids the government from interfering with or taking away these rights. The rights are inherent.) These were added as the first ten amendments to the Constitution and called the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the irrevocable law of the land, the nation’s ultimate guarantee of human dignity for every American.

One Nation, under God, indivisible...The First Amendment declares the separation of church and state, but nowhere does it state that belief in a Supreme Being is something that cannot be professed publicly or shown in public places. Neither does it ban prayer in public. Rather, the separation of church and state was to guard against the growth of any sort of ruling theocracy such as had been seen throughout much of human history, where the church ruled and dictated human behavior according to its particular beliefs. Indivisible because since the civil war, we have hung together as one nation despite our differences.

With Liberty and Justice for all. Those ten amendments are that guarantee. They cannot be abridged regardless of expediency. Nowhere else in the world does a citizen enjoy the enumerated rights and benefits guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The President takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as do the Senate and the House. The Supreme Court is to enforce those Constitutional guarantees and see that neither of the other two branches of government violates or tries to set aside those rights. It is the duty of every citizen to see that the Constitution and Bill of Rights is protected. Without them, the United States of America is nothing special, just another big country ruling its people any way it sees fit. And the people become no more than servants of the state.

I would urge everyone to obtain a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution including the Bill of Rights and study them carefully. It is only by knowledge that we can acquire wisdom and only by informed wisdom that we can maintain our unique and inalienable rights and freedoms.


  1. The government's addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 was a mistake, which should be corrected. Under our Constitution, the government has no business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country. The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds, and it certainly has no business assembling citizens' children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge--affirmation of a god and all--as a daily routine.

  2. Hi Doug,

    You make a good point. The "under God" was inserted when the US was engaged in an ill conceived cold war with "Godless Communism."

    The first amendment guarantees religious freedom, which includes the freedom not to believe. and should not force an atheist to acknowledge the existence of a God, nor does it allow an atheist to dictate that there shall be no public religious observances because he or she doesn't believe in them and therefore finds them offensive.

    One freedom that should not exist is the freedom for anyone or any government to force people to believe or not believe in a religion, a philosophy, a political philosophy or to, in any way, obstruct freedom of thought or opinion.