Liberty and Justice…for all?

In 1892, the United States Pledge of Allegiance was written by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy. Today, US citizens are likely familiar with the refrain:

“”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.”

What some may not know is that this is not the original wording.  In 1954, the words “under God” were added to the pledge.  Prior to that, the Pledge read:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Even this, however, was not the original form of the Pledge.  The year 1923 saw the addition of the words ‘the Flag of the United States of America’ to the Pledge.  The original Pledge of Allegiance read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

(I find the random capitalization to be really amusing. There is no reason for either ‘flag’ or ‘republic’ to be capitalized.  It’s as silly as religious people capitalizing random religious words.)

I take issue with the forced recitation of the Pledge, especially in public schools.  Young children are not taught what it means to pledge allegiance to their country. They’re just taught to do so and told it’s the right and proper thing to do.  What is so great about pledging your loyalty to a flag, or a country? Moreover, why should one be compelled to do so?  It does nothing more than enforce blind patriotism in people who are often too young to fully understand what they are doing and why.  That way often leads to nationalism and jingoism.  As seen in the War on Terror, many Americans blindly supported the United States’ actions overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan-which, while ostensibly under the cover of capturing those responsible for the September 11th attacks, involved invading a sovereign nation and engaging in actions that led to the death of innocents (according to a Brown University study, 132,000 civilians were killed in 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan).  The killing of innocent people is completely at odds with the notion of ‘liberty and justice for all’.  Teaching our youth that the United States is a great country, without equal, and dedicated to concepts such as justice, fairness, equality, and liberty before they can understand those concepts and analyze whether the actions of the US are in line with those concepts breeds nothing more than blind loyalty.  Such loyalty can result in people glossing over, or completely ignoring the fact that throughout the history of the US, the government has not embodied the concepts of justice, fairness, equality, and liberty for all.

“Really?” some might ask.

“Fuck, yes.” I’d likely respond.

“Explain yourself!” some might respond.

“Go educate yourself, you who are online and capable of employing the Google on your own” might often be a response back from me.

This time, I won’t go that route.  I’ll spoonfeed the smugnoramuses (portmanteau of ‘smug’ and ‘ignoramus’) out there…a little.

Examples of the United States not living up to the concepts of ‘liberty and justice for all’ (aside from the aforementioned killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan):

The genocide of First Nation people in the United States.

The treatment of African-Americans as slaves in the United States.

Japanese-American internment camps-in the USA-during WWII.

Women as second class citizens in the US.

The United States has a long history-that continues to this day-of treating people really shitty. That’s why I love the claims of right wing extremists who long for the days of yesteryear when the US was a bastion of morality and a shining example of all that is good in the world (where. is. my. puke. bucket). Are they talking about those bygone days like this:

Slave life varied greatly depending on many factors.

Life on the fields meant working sunup to sundown six days a week and having food sometimes not suitable for an animal to eat. Plantation slaves lived in small shacks with a dirt floor and little or no furniture. Life on large plantations with a cruel overseer was oftentimes the worst.

Perhaps they’re referring to these good ole’ days of the Sand Creek Massacre:

However, Chivington ignored the symbol of peace and surrender, raising his arm for attack. An easy victory at hand, cannons and rifles began to pound upon the camp as the Indians scattered in panic. The frenzied soldiers began to charge, hunting down men, women, and children, shooting them unmercifully. A few warriors managed to fight back allowing some members of the camp to escape across the stream.

One man, Silas Soule, a Massachusetts abolitionist, refused to follow Colonel Chivington’s orders. He did not allow his cavalry company to fire into the crowd.

The troops kept up their indiscriminate assault for most of the day, during which numerous atrocities were committed. One lieutenant was said to have killed and scalped three women and five children who had surrendered and were screaming for mercy. Finally breaking off their attack they returned to the camp killing all the wounded they could find before mutilating and scalping the dead, including pregnant women, children and babies. They then plundered the teepees and divided up the Indians’ horse herd before leaving.

When the attack was over, as many as 150 Indians lay dead, most of which were old men, women and children. In the meantime, the cavalry lost only 9 or ten men, with about three dozen wounded. Black Kettle and his wife followed the others up the stream bed, his wife being shot several times, but somehow managed to survive

Or maybe they’re thinking of the days when wives could be legally raped by their husbands:

It was not until the late 1970s that anyone was convicted of raping his spouse in the United States. Before then, criminal codes typically included a “marital rape exemption,” or provision barring prosecution for the rape of one’s spouse. Such laws reflected then popularly held views that only stranger rape constituted “real rape” or that forced sex is a “wifely duty.”

This thinking mirrored the common law presumption, in effect for hundreds of years, that spouses should be exempt from prosecution. It was based in a theory articulated by Matthew Hale, [Chief Justice in England in the 17th century,who] “wrote: “[t]he husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto the husband which she cannot retract.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, numerous states adopted laws criminalizing marital rape, and by July 1993, it was illegal in every state to rape your spouse.

(Incidentally, North Carolina was the last state to decide “hey women have the right to be protected from marital rape” in 19-fucking-93).

There are many more examples of the failure of the United States to live up to the principles of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Perhaps our government ought to focus on teaching children what it means to be good people.  They ought to teach them the principles of egalitarianism and humanism.  They need to teach what the concepts mean, why they are important, and show how each and every one of us can live up to these concepts. This needs to be taught to kids at appropriate ages, and needs to be ongoing, with no whitewashing.  Teach the good AND the bad.

Also, the US ought to lead by example.  A good start?  Arresting Darren Wilson.

Liberty and Justice…for all?