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Opinion / Uncategorized


Last Friday, I took my son to school.

There was a car accident on a major thoroughfare and traffic was diverted to side streets. As a result, our ten minute drive became twenty and we arrived just in time for the school’s weekly “flag ceremony.” (Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we delayed it for about sixty seconds while the principal waited patiently for me to deliver Oliver to his Kindergarten teacher, whose students were intentionally placed in the front row of the amphitheater.)

I wanted nothing less than to remain an object of attention, but one doesn’t scuttle off during the pledge of allegiance, so I stood to the side and shared in the rite with 400 schoolchildren and their teachers. I watched in amazement as my little boy recited the pledge perfectly (it hadn’t occurred to him to tell me that he knew it and it hadn’t occurred to him to ask him). Suddenly, and maybe for the first time, I found myself really listening to the words and wondering how I feel about the promise we are asking our children to make every school day.

Pledging allegiance to anything is a pretty weighty concept for a Kindergartener.

But I suppose it is not unreasonable to ask even small children to acknowledge that they are bound by a social contract to one another and expected to abide by the rules which govern our society. Swearing an oath to the Republic for which it stands is a bit dicier, given that it is comprised of actual human beings who aren’t always deserving of our loyalty, but if we consider “the Republic” as a form of government, rather than the individuals who govern, then I believe I can support my son’s allegiance to it.

We are indeed citizens of one unified nation, rather than the sovereign state of California (although that might be cool), and if we interpret “under God” to mean that certain unalienable rights are granted us innately, rather than by legislative mandate, then I can set aside my concerns about non-secularity.

We work with students and families every day for whom the American dream is all but unattainable.

The rest of the pledge, however, gives me pause, starting with the word “indivisible.”

Our nation appears to be growing more divisible with each passing year. Partisan polarization has increased dramatically during the last generation, reaching a fever pitch during the current administration and culminating (we hope) with the deplorable spectacle that resulted in a two-week government shutdown earlier this month. When red states speak of secession in a manner serious enough to warrant a White House response, any declaration of indivisibility becomes suspect.

Politics is, and has always been, about compromise, which makes these recent tactics so troubling. But what I find even more troubling are the issues over which they are being employed. 144 House Republicans voted to risk global economic turmoil rather than support a plan to offer the working poor affordable health care. If it’s a stretch to call ourselves indivisible, then it’s downright dishonest to claim that we unanimously stand for liberty and justice for all.

We work with students and families every day for whom the American dream is all but unattainable.

These kids say the pledge every day, too. And if we ask them put their hands over their hearts and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, shouldn’t the Republic pledge allegiance to them as well?

I want to believe that what we are experiencing right now are growing pains. As our nation continues along its inevitable path of evolution, there will be those who are stretched beyond their comfort level. But to heed their cries would be to stunt our growth. As Senator Elizabeth Warren noted, “…hostage tactics are the last resort of those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights through Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in court.”

I am looking forward to a day, hopefully soon, when this faction will be rendered irrelevant, and our government will no longer be threatened by their desperate ploys to impose an ideology on a country that has grown past it. Maybe then I will be able to hear a group of schoolchildren recite their pledge of allegiance without feeling a twinge of discomfort.

I enjoyed a continental breakfast this morning, compliments of the Region 10 technical assistance team, for which I am certain no federal funds were expended.

Author Profile: @steveamick

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