Longbottom Letter - 09/23/09

I pledge allegiance ... as I have now, for more than 70 years. I was years out of school before "under God" was added during the Eisenhower Administration. Although it disrupted the rhythm, I had no problems with the revised pledge. Its meaning had been explained to us in grade (elementary) school. Those who now parrot the words might be well-served by reading the following paragraph. Caution from that point on!

Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original pledge in August 1892. Bellamy's own account of his pledge: "The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the 'republic for which it stands.' ... And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation - the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches."

Using the author's own words, our allegiance (devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause) is to the One Nation, indivisible. He reminds us that we have already fought the most terrible war of our existence to keep it united. That war cost at least 618,000 American lives. It is celebrated now as a romantic era personified by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. The radical right has chosen Rhett Butler's words as its guide: "Frankly, I don't give a damn."

We are on a collision course with another great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. A 21st century Civil War may not count as many casualties. It will certainly be less romantic. Current rhetoric promises terrorist attacks and assassinations by radicals who preach revolution, insurrection and secession. Is that truly what any American citizen wants? Is it what the "birthers and deathers" want? Is it what you want? What happened to patriotism? What happened to our Pledge of Allegiance?

Once more, it is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Milt Longbottom