Friday, February 26, 2010

You will recite after me. . . . or else

The pledge of Allegiance has come a long way from a short declaration appearing in a Christian Socialist Children's magazine in 1892 to its current status as a somewhat longer treasured icon of patriotic sentiment and theological affirmation recited by young and old in all sorts of settings. That was back when Socialism and Christianity were seen as allied ideas and back when our country was pumping itself up and cheering on its urge to empire and celebrating it's chauvinistic urges.

It's hard to overestimate the fanatical insistence of Americans that all must swear an oath that calls this secular Republic a "Nation under God," hard as that may be to define, and calls upon us to be an eternal ally of a piece of cloth. A few years ago , when someone in California filed suit against a school district claiming forced recitation of a religious oath was unconstitutional (it is) half the cars on my local roads, thousands of miles away had "Under God" painted on their windows by irate owners who were clearly in opposition to a citizen's right not to have official religious beliefs forced upon them and their children. The kind of people who hold an annual claim to victimhood and insist that no one impede their right to force religious observance on others. Freedom and justice for all? What are you, a damned Liberal?

67 years ago, or three score and 7 if you prefer, the Supreme Court ruled that forced recitation was a violation of the first amendment and that was a decade before the "Under God" was added by President Eisenhower to help make the USSR look more satanic at the expense of Americans who don't believe in disembodied spirits living in the sky.

You have to ask yourself; if it's unconstitutional to force a citizen to declare a political position, how much more unlawful is it to insist he declare religious feelings not his own?

Not lawful enough to dissuade a Maryland school teacher from shouting at, demanding recitation and finally having a student taken into custody by the police amidst a chorus of mockery for exercising the rights we love to flaunt in front of the world as "Our Freedoms."

In the American madhouse, where asking children to listen to an introduction by the President is compared with Pol Pot and the slaughter of millions, where government administered health insurance is compared with Hitler and Fascism and the very idea of progress is "Marxist," what should we say about people who are not only comfortable with forcing their political and religious views down the throats of other people's children? Well, we've run out of outrageous hyperbole, thanks to Fox and the Republicans. Most of us aren't quite smart or even sane enough to understand a careful explanation of how we have given away our birthright and become the same kind of oppressors our forefathers tried to escape by coming here and that we' don't have a hell of a lot to brag about in the freedom department that most other countries have more of.
Do yourself a favor - support the ACLU, because freedom can't protect itself and all the guns and bombs and battleships can't bring it back once Americans throw it away.

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