“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.”
Pledge of Allegiance
Listen to those amazing words. What hope they hold. These are words for us to continue to engage as we work to make them true. In spite of the fact that the framers of these great words were lying when they penned them the first time because they were not thinking of the native people who were already here when they arrived, nor the Africans they brought here. Their inability to see beyond white men when they were writing these words helped to create the world we find ourselves living in today.
So hoping for a nation that is indivisible while creating a divided world by virtue of leaving out a large percentage of the folks that were currently living in the nation was problematic. When these words were written there was no consideration of the rights of anyone except white men, and the long road of history has proven that path to be flawed.
Today we find ourselves in the place where many of our young people are saying “no, I will not continue to affirm these words in a nation that does not seem to have the will to make them so,” and it is interesting to see the hostility with which their protest is being met. What is the problem with having people in the nation stand together to proclaim that it is important for the nation to live up to its claim? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a similar cry during the time he worked so diligently to get this nation to rise up to the claims of the Constitution.
One often hears it said, “we should say the pledge and sing the anthem because these are proclamations about what we want the country to be, even if it is not.” Well, yes and no. We are here together and we should work very hard to be one nation, but when it becomes clear that some among us do not ever intend for all of us to be one nation, then things have to be challenged.
The beauty of this nation is that we can make those challenges in peaceful and constructive ways and that change can come. The beauty of attempting to be a democracy even though we fall short in so many ways lies in the fact that people can protest and still be patriots.
I am with the young folks who take a knee to the pledge and the anthem. They have found a peaceful way to protest, and I hear in their cry that they want this nation to be what it claims to be: One nation under God that is working to make sure that all of its people truly have liberty and justice. It is a reasonable expectation.
Actually it is a hopeful sign that young folks continue to believe they can be agents of change in spite of the ways in which structural oppression continues to thrive around race, class and gender.
If we sit quietly and reflect upon this presidential election cycle we have to conclude that there is more work to do than we might have imagined a few years ago, but we are a group of people striving to be one nation under God. Perhaps that is the beauty of having a pledge that holds up high ideals.
The hope is that we will continue to strive to live into the truth of those words that were penned by flawed folks for a nation of flawed people. But, in spite of that fact — striving continually to be indivisible and one nation under God.
Our courageous young folks and all of those who are young at heart need to stay conscious and keep striving.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at email@example.com.