“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
~ Francis Julius Bellamy, 1892
Hang with me for a moment…
About 10 minutes into the calming, quiet stillness of mind I was enjoying during this morning’s meditation practice, I was abruptly interrupted. Salty water was backing up behind my closed eyes, when a tear broke through like a cracked dam and rolled down my left cheek. I realized I was silently reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – the 1954 (and current) amended version. It evolved into a mantra chant of sorts… with liberty and justice for all… repeating those six words many times as the dam broke, tears multiplied, drenching my face.
We are not there – yet. It’s been 240 years since our ancestors declared our independence in hot pursuit of freedom. Liberty and justice for all. Still, here we are, 240 years later, we are no better at holding the baton of accountability – liberty and justice for all – than we were. We keep dropping the baton in our rhetoric-rich, action-empty attempts to deliver it – liberty and justice for ALL.
What hurts my spirit and is fracturing my love of this country, my country, the mighty US-of-A, is our crippling inability to honor punctuation. Period. There’s a period after the word all. Every time. Interestingly, iterations The Pledge endured one thing didn’t change…the period. And we’re still ignoring it too. Two-hundred-and-forty years later, our actions, our attitudes, and our behaviors are bankrupt of love for the period at the end of this specific sentence. We continue to conjoin proverbial commas or semi-colon to conjunct exceptions, sustain division, separation and restriction. I am heartbroken. Because I love you. I love my neighbor. I love the stranger I’ve yet to meet. I love the person who acts, thinks, looks, prays, believes differently as I do. I’m ok with it. I want you to have sanctuary: the privileges, the resources, the opportunities as I do, without conformity or inhumane, loveless conditions. That is honor and respect as the adoption of Francis’ words were intended to be. It makes sense to me, I empathize with Mr. Bellamy’s daughter’s objection to the 1954 changes; they epitomizes the exception, surrounded by commas.
“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.“
~ Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President
Jefferson, a chief architect in getting us here, the USA, himself imperfect, was wise in articulating he misguided sanctimony we were and continue to confront. Something I believe the simplicity of Mr. Bellamy’s tender words inspired.
My plea: Please stop bastardizing what we’re suppose be about; liberty and justice for all. No exceptions. No exclusions. Please stop it. Stop giving it lip service. Please actually do it. Abide by the period. Give allegiance to it. For this, I salute you in hopeful reverence.
I love you. ALL. Period.