In case you haven’t already heard, last Friday the full panel of judges in the 9th Circuit Court refused to reconsider the controversial Pledge ruling. President Bush and other politicians once again denounced the decision.
The court has since stayed it’s own decision yet again pending a hearing by the Supreme Court. Without that stay school children in 9 States would have ceased reciting the Pledge as a daily ritual on March 10th. John
AsshatAshcroft immediately went about showing how ignorant of the issue he truly is:
“The Justice Department will spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag,” Ashcroft said.
“We will defend the ability of Americans to declare their patriotism through the time-honored tradition of voluntarily reciting the pledge.”
First off, there’s nothing stopping all citizens from reciting the Pledge if they want to. You can recite whatever version of the Pledge you want pretty much wherever you want. There’s also nothing stopping the schools from having kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance in it’s original form, which does not include the words “under God”. The schools just aren’t allowed to use the current version because the words “under God” turn it from being a patriotic expression into a religious prayer of sorts.
Secondly, many schools require reciting the Pledge which makes the activity no longer a “voluntary” act. By why quibble about facts when knee-jerk rhetoric is so much easier to work with? I shouldn’t be surprised, Ashcroft has shown he has very little understanding of most of the issues he likes to rant about.
E.J. Montini of The Arizona Republic newspaper had a very good op-ed piece about this issue yesterday. In it he talks about a conversation he had with a school teacher who had brought up the Pledge issue with her students after word of the court’s decision to let their ruling stand became public. In this discussion the teacher brought up the fact that her students, and probably a great number of other people in America, don’t really seem to understand just what the hell they’re pledging allegiance to.
“The kids were split on whether the ‘under God’ part belonged in the pledge or not,” the teacher said. “Most found it perfectly OK. Even good. One student asked how we’d feel if it said “under Allah.” It was a good discussion. Until I asked what I thought was a fairly simple question.” She very innocently said, “By the way, who can define ‘republic,’ as in when we say ‘the republic for which it stands?’”
Silence. No more hands in the air. No more talk. So, the teacher began asking specific kids. “One told me confidently, ‘Republic means a democracy,’ ” she said. “When I answered, ‘No, not really,’ he looked shocked.”
Right now you’re probably scrambling for a dictionary. You learned this. Maybe. Me, too. Luckily, the teacher was kind enough not to ask for the answer. She continued, “I talked about how in a republic individuals are vested with rights, as we are, while in a democracy the majority simply rules. I spoke of how the U.S. has elements of both systems. I talked about how individual rights are what keep us from a kind of mob rule. In a democracy the citizens are the government. In a republic, the government works for the citizens. It has authority to govern, but it cannot trample on individual rights.”
For example, an individual’s right not to have religion forced upon him.”
I can relate to this teacher as I have tried to explain that same simple concept to folks who have challenged my support for the Pledge ruling and I’ve asked many of them that same question with regards to what a “Republic” is. Most haven’t a clue. When I explain what it is and how it works, that whole individual rights thing, a lot of them don’t care if that’s how it’s “supposed” to work. They can’t seem to reconcile their need to enforce some form of mandatory expression of patriotism with the fact that in it’s current form it violates the concepts behind the very thing they would supposedly be pledging their allegiance to. I think a better Pledge for these people would go something like this:
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag for a System of Government with precepts I have no intention of actually honoring. And to the Mob Rule that will arise due to my willful ignorance, which will guarantee liberty and justice, only for those of like mind. The rest of you should either fall in line with us or go to some other country where they actually try to respect the rights the government claims you have.