If there is one thing I can truly appreciate about the era I grew up in, it’s how patriotic everyone was at the time. Most of us had parents that had fought in WWII. Some had grandparents that fought in WWI and many folks had seen battle in Korea. By the time I was old enough to understand the concept of war, I saw neighborhood boys going off to Vietnam and the day came when my older brother arrived home to tell my parents he had just enlisted into the Air Force. That was the first time I can truly remember being afraid for someone else. I was torn between that fear and the pride I had for what he was about to do. The Vietnam War was on the nightly news. Watching it on a black and white tv did nothing to hide the horrors of war. I just wanted my brother to be ok.
We still said the Pledge of Allegiance in school every morning. I would stand stiffly with my hand over my heart, looking straight at that flag in the corner of our classroom, saying the words of commitment to my country, and hearing my fellow classmates doing the same.
“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.”
I would get goose bumps when I said it. I would choke up too. I never realized how much I missed saying it until I started going to my township meetings where we say it each month before the meeting begins. I feel just as strongly now as then and for more mature reasons. I still get choked up. It brings back the day I first enlisted and the strength I found in those words. I swore an oath as a child, reinforced it each time I said it, renewed it on the day I enlisted, and have never forgotten why or how much it means to me. Don’t even get me started on the national anthem. That still makes me tear up.
The point is that I grew up at a time when everyone I knew meant those things when they said them. We were proud to be Americans. We were proud of those who had fought for our freedom and the freedom of others. It didn’t matter what political party your thoughts and beliefs leaned towards, there was a common bond and goal. No one talked down about our country. Flags flew proudly at many homes. In school, everything was just reinforced in a way we all understood and accepted. We were going to stand together and do what needed to be done to protect our country and our families. We were passionate in our beliefs. We didn’t live in fear. We knew we were the greatest nation on earth.
I find the fact that our pledge says, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” ironic. It’s the line that says it all, represents the basis of our nation, and one we’ve apparently forgotten. While we were founded on Christianity, our founding fathers had the forethought to use inclusive language, not wanting any persons who came to this country to be persecuted for being different. Yet, for as long as it took for women to gain some of the same rights that men had, the language didn’t match what was truly happening. It definitely doesn’t ring true for our current state of affairs on immigration.
Indivisible implies a strength of character where common sense would prevail and nothing would ever be so overpowering that we’d lose that cohesiveness. “United we stand, divided we fall,” said Abraham Lincoln. Those brilliant men understood the premise that we needed to be able to come together and find a way to work with one another under any circumstances. It’s certainly not where we are right now.
Liberty and justice for all were considered rights. The first 10 amendments, or Bill of Rights, of the Constitution, dealt with these two very important topics. They were meant to protect us in our freedoms and against injustice. We have definitely lost sight of just what those two words mean. We fall short on the justice in so many ways and it’s certainly not working for all. While so many of us have ancestors who were immigrants that arrived here a few generations ago, we tend to forget how they did their best to become an American, to embrace a way of life they didn’t have in the “old country”. They passed down those sentiments to parents who raised us to appreciate what we had and to strive to do better in all things. Not to take for granted what had been given to us and to be willing to fight to keep it.
So, while we enjoy our fireworks, our picnics, and our red, white, and blue outfits, let’s not forget that we are celebrating a day that marked our freedom from oppression, freedom from an unjust government, and created the atmosphere from which passionate hearts and minds set up the Constitution. A new land where freedom to speak, to bear arms, to practice our faith, and to not be unfairly treated was the new norm. Maybe we don’t need to make America great again. Maybe we just need to get back to seeing things the way our founding fathers did. It’s not that hard. They’ve already written down the instructions.
Happy 4th of July everyone!