Friday, April 27, 2012

This Land is Your Land

Ah, the Pledge of Allegiance controversy has come to Falmouth.
Was our selectman trying to undermine the basic freedoms upon which our country was built? Or was she just trying to shorten up a lengthy meeting by eliminating something unnecessary in order to get to the important matters at hand?
Whatever those important matter may have been the media instead picked up on the subject most likely to cause the biggest stir - her decision not to start the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.
After that little else mattered: administrative salaries, school budgets, wind turbines, yet another road race permit; whatever came next paled in comparison to that initial omission.
Now Falmouth is making the news, but not for anything significant.
Now Melissa Freitag is being called, among other things, a socialist. I don't know if she is or not but I know someone who was - the original writer of the Pledge.
I sometimes think there's a misconception that the Pledge of Allegiance was handed to Moses along with the Ten Commandments.
It wasn't.
It wasn't written by the founding fathers either.
It was written by an employee of the magazine Youth's Companion as part of the celebration surrounding the 400th anniversary of Columbus not really discovering America.
That anniversary was celebrated in a big way at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892. The same world's fair that brought us the Ferris wheel, shredded wheat, spray paint, picture postcards, and the hamburger.
Francis Bellamy is credited with penning the original Pledge. According to "The Pledge of Allegiance," by Christine Webster, Francis Bellamy was "noted for his socialist and patriotic beliefs." In addition to being a socialist, Francis Bellamy was, like his father before him, a Baptist minister. Even with his theological background, he wasn't compelled to mention God in his Pledge.
This is how the original Pledge went: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
The pledge has been changed more than once from the original 22 words Bellamy penned. The words "under God" were the the last two to be added, more than 50 years after the Pledge of Allegiance was written.
According to Webster's book the initial purpose of the Pledge was to spur unity between schoolchildren living in northern and southern states, many of whom had family members still smarting from Civil War wounds both physical and mental. A mutual love of their flag, the editors of Youth's Companion hoped, would lead to the country towards a more unified, indivisible, front.
Instead of unity, what we have now are people working tirelessly to divide the country over whether on not the pledge should be said in schools or at town meetings.
It's interesting to note that the original words "one nation indivisible" which was really the heart of the Pledge have now been divided themselves by the placement of the phrase under God. Words with stemmed from an amendment to the Pledge proposed by the Knights of Columbus during the height of the Cold War in 1952 and approved as a change by then President Eisenhower in 1954.
Maybe it's this history, along with the Pledge in its original form that should be recited outside town hall next Monday night at 6:55 PM.

song: This Land is Your Land • artist: Woody Guthrie

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