Starting in childhood, I stood and said the pledge of allegiance dutifully, patriotically and willingly. We were taught patriotism, yet now I have come to believe that that much we were taught were mistruths or outright lies. I am beginning to question how I should respond at this stage of my life.
I’ve always loved the 4th of July too and celebrated it wholeheartedly. As children, we often had parades and dressed up in costumes as Betsy Ross or Uncle Sam. I’ve enjoyed the patriotic music, the parades, the fireworks and outdoor celebrations all of my life. But in the past few years, it has become harder to celebrate a country that is not what I once thought it was.
My father served a few years in the Air Force back during the Korean War aftermath. Four of my uncles went to Europe in World War 2 and luckily came home. My mother often hosted military personnel at Thanksgiving dinners who were stationed nearby. I’ve always respected those who have served, and honored them for that sacrifice. Now my nephew has joined the Army and I am less than happy about it because our world is teetering on the edge of possible war with someone in high office making poor choices and decisions. Plus, we’ve entered many wars in my lifetime that were stupid and unnecessary, and caused thousands to die for no good reason!
Viet Nam and Iraq were such wars. My first protest was against Bush going into Iraq; then I opposed going into Afghanistan as I didn’t feel it was the right action or target. It appears that the GOP leaders for decades have put us into endless wars, often starting them without a plan of exit, or with a truthful reason to start them in the first place. I think those who wage war should be on the front lines fighting! Instead, countless young men and women die due to the whims of the elite, who only seek to make a profit, obtain profit-making oil, or to settle some grudge.
Now, ‘45’ has taken our country into new and dangerous directions by assassinating a Middle East leader recently. I don’t believe their stories about imminent threats much like the lies of the WMD’s in Iraq.
In the past three years, we’ve also seen:
- Our leader making fun of people with disabilities
- Muslim bans
- Rise in white supremacism and Nazism, hate crimes and anti-Semitism
- Black men and women killed by police for no good reason
- Women’s rights and LBTQ rights being stripped and squashed
- Environmental protections for safe water, air, land and animals being dismantled
- More animals and birds going extinct and 45’s children killing endangered species
- A ballooning national debt
- Obamacare being dismantled and prices for prescription drugs rising
- Tax breaks given to the rich; more and more poverty
- Refugees being turned away (many from climate crisis), families separated at the border and young children put in cages
- The rise in dictator-like tendencies and the promotion of oligarchs, while dismissing our treaties and allies
- Agreements broken or tossed to the wind…climate, Iran nuclear deals, NATO alliances
- More that I have not mentioned
Even though there are still many good Americans with ideals, many trying to improve our country and fight the battles mentioned above, we have a faction of our government trying to undermine our democracy. It’s hard to pledge allegiance to those who are promoting the list above and much more.
It’s not the country I was taught it is anymore; perhaps it never was. How many lies have we been told? We’ve captured and sold slaves, we’ve killed native Americans and moved them to some of the worst land in the states, we’ve incarcerated Japanese Americans, we misused our natural resources, pillared and plundered our lands, water and air. Racism, sexism and other isms still run deep into our American psyche. We are supposed to be the greatest nation on earth. Yet millions don’t have health care, millions sleep on the streets in poverty, millions of students have so much debt that they may never pay it off, millions are undernourished or starving. Refugees come to this supposed land of plenty, only to be separated, starved and caged.
It’s time to ask individually, what kind of country am I pledging my allegiance to? Does it deserve our respect? Are we really free? How can we be the greatest country on earth when we have so many problems? How can we salute, put our hand on our heart, or stand to say the pledge? Maybe our pledge should be to get rid of the tyrants, to work to strengthen our democracy, our ideals, our values of diversity and inclusion? Meanwhile, right now can you say you are truly proud to be an American and stand for the pledge of allegiance? I don’t think I can.