July 5, 2002


A Clutch of Nettles
By Virginia Dare


One nation, indefensible


Talk about being conflicted, O Best Beloved. I am practically beside myself at this latest turn of events.

I'm referring to the opinion handed down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (in San Francisco, where else?) that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause. The original suit was filed by the atheist father of a second grader. I hesitate to say that the second grader herself is an atheist because I don't believe children have the ability to make informed decisions about such things. She may indeed grow up to be an atheist, or a lesbian, or a vegan, or a liberal Democrat. Since she's from Sacramento, she may grow up to be a combination of the above.

But that's not my problem. It gives me enormous pleasure, bordering on euphoria, to learn that the Pledge of Allegiance, a jingoistic mishmash of misdirected patriotic sentiment, has been challenged by anyone. It was originally devised by Francis Bellamy, who chaired a committee of state superintendents of the National Education Association in 1892. Bellamy was a believer in a planned economy, carefully controlled by the government, which would give the American middle class political, social, and economic equality; he was the brother of Edward (Looking Backward) Bellamy, and — not to put too fine a point on it — both men were looking forward impatiently to the paradise of socialism. The Pledge was intended to be used in ceremonies commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. (OK, or some Caribbean island. Work with me here.) Francis Bellamy endorsed "liberty and justice," but there seems to have been a hidden agenda shading his interpretation of those words.

My own problem with the Pledge is its idiotic exaltation of the flag. No country other than the United State encourages its citizens to pledge fealty to a multicolored polyester banner. (Which today may very well be made in China, but let's not go there.) If the country of my birth comported itself in such a way as to merit the loyalty of any free person, I might see nothing wrong with pledging allegiance to that country — although I'd like to think about it before making an absolute statement on the topic. But being asked to pledge my loyalty and sacred honor to a symbol, and a symbol of something that doesn't really exist any more, if it ever did — that's a stalking-horse of another color.

I'm not real hot on the One Nation, Indivisible part, either. It's a sentiment that serves as a slap in the face to anyone who truly understands and sympathizes with the Southern States' position on the topic of Mr. Lincoln's four-year massacre. The dictatorial nation that my forefathers struggled to free themselves from is not the object of my patriotic devotion.

Nonetheless I'm really exasperated by this latest little example of judicial heartburn, because it's just one more instance of flagrant disregard for sanity and civility by idiots who try to twist the Establishment Clause into something it was never meant to be. The slavering anti-Christian minority has been slashing and burning all available symbols of old-fashioned decency and civility for years.

Reflect for a moment: It's quite all right to have publicly funded monuments to the Holocaust, and it's an occasion to cut his heart out when any heedless wretch objects to the erection of a statue of Quetzalcoatl using tax money, but God help us all if a Christian mentions God. Funny; but just last year, on holiday abroad, I heard repeated references to God from Hindu tour guides, who were talking about Rama at the time. Back in the U.S.-of-Whatever, Joe Lieberman talked about God relentlessly during his campaign, but that didn't raise hackles. And what about "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet," a proposition that everyone has heard more than a few times since last fall? Yet the court decision specifically points out that a holder of certain non-Judeo-Christian beliefs could regard the Pledge as an attempt to "enforce a 'religious orthodoxy' of monotheism."

When a small village in Maryland banished Santa Claus from its December civic parade, scores of outraged citizens dressed up in red suits with white fur trim and turned out on the street to protest. The latest disorder of the court seems to have sparked a similar outcry all across the country. But I think that the selective upholding of the rights of the Few against the sensibilities of the overwhelming Many has become so pervasive that the Pledge will bite the dust.

Talk about being conflicted.

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