Friday, July 1, 2011

Revised Pledge and Religious Pride

In the final round of the U.S. Open, there was a video featuring children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with patriotic imagery, soldiers and landmarks in D.C. So, you’d ask, what’s the problem? Well, it’s half and half technically. On the one hand, the recitation took out the phrase added into the pledge in 1954, “under God,” But on the other hand, it also took out part of the pledge that was in the original version, “indivisible,” NBC promptly apologized, and even made a second apology later in the week, after Twitter exploded with statements lambasting NBC for the controversy. This demonstrates a few things, one of which amazes me a lot: people still care about golf even slightly. More importantly, and to be serious, it shows people care about their country, even though political apathy and inaction (myself included) still exists on religious or political grounds. Patriotic indignation about small groups editing the pledge could be justified if there was a larger portion removed, but it was only three words, two of which are still contested to this day as to whether they are constitutional or even prudent considering the vast religious diversity of the U.S.

But it makes some sense to get riled up about removing part of the original pledge’s wording, even if it doesn’t completely alter the general intent. If “with liberty and justice for all” is still maintained, then it isn’t as huge a problem as taking out “indivisible”. But then, the “indivisible” part might be more pertinent these days alongside “with liberty and justice for all” since there are calls across some states, such as Texas, for secession, dividing the country. And equal rights for gays and lesbians are also quite debatable, even with New York legislating gay marriage recently, making the total number of states over 1/10 of the country. Most people are getting bent out of shape over something that was, in all likelihood, a mistake or an isolated incident of one group trying to selectively censor something, which won’t happen again. I’m a bit miffed, but I’m more than willing to sacrifice the word “indivisible” in the pledge if it also removes “under God,” which I think is ironically divisive in itself. So in actuality, it seems to solve that problem of conflict that results from “under God’s” insertion into the pledge, which makes the country divisible by God believers and non-God believers.

The real contention is in the form of the Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins, who spoke about gay marriage in my “Gay Marriage Does Not Equal Anarchy” post. His group is very conservative by nature, so they’ll pick up on any controversy of a religious or political nature that clashes with their values and then boycott it, protest it or send angry letters pleading changes in policy, among other options. This time, they’re asking NBC to recite the pledge daily. I could see their request being fair if it was on a weekly basis, maybe, but not daily. There’s plenty of other stuff the free market advertising can do with that time and patriotism through school recitation and sport based traditions of the pledge seems to enforce that notion of respecting the flag and the values it stands for well enough without TV stations doing it as well.

Perkins at least had a good idea in the form of suggesting that NBC run a program detailing the history of the pledge and the reasoning behind adding “under God” in the Cold War. It would be a way to educate people, though I’m skeptical as to whether Perkins’ intent is to educate neutrally and impartially or try to communicate some ridiculous historical revisionism that says the U.S. is a Christian nation or some such drivel. It would be nice to present different perspectives and look into the context of the writing of the pledge as well as the context when it was altered. But if it’s just some attempt to push this notion of the founding fathers wanting Jesus to have a special place in the government, they’d be sorely mistaken just on the face of men of that time being more private with their religion. They believed in Christianity, probably traditional, but nonetheless, religion wasn’t something they made a part of government beyond private affairs, which admittedly aren’t as private, such as Congress where they open with a prayer.

All in all, this incident should be put behind us and left in the dust. There are plenty of other important issues to focus on, like getting gay marriage legalized in more states, advocating more education about secularism and evolutionary theory and other concerns we can all get on board with to one extent or another. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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