10. The Pledge, According To Norcross

06/14/2011

“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.”

Today is Flag Day.  It was on this date in 1777 that the Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

I knew that I would be writing something today.  I also knew that, after I wrote about the interpretations of the Pledge Of Allegiance from Red Skelton and John Wayne, I have been thinking of my own interpretation.  And it seems to me that Flag Day would be the right time to post this entry.

Now, keep in mind that I have drawn my inspiration from both Mr. Skelton and Mr. Wayne, and there may be places where I may — no, make that will — sound similar to both.  And there may be a couple of other inspirations that will creep in as well.

So without further ado, here is my interpretation of the Pledge Of Allegiance:

I . . .

Me, an individual, one of some 300 million such individuals who call this great country home.

Pledge . . .

Promise, swear, affirm, or aver.  Give my solemn word of honor.

Allegiance . . .

Loyalty or fealty, respect, devotion.  My alignment with the principles and tenets of this country.

To the Flag . . .

Old Glory.  The Stars And Stripes.  The Star-Spangled Banner.  Thirteen red and white stripes that symbolize how our country began, and 50 white stars on a blue field that represent who we are today.  Wherever it flies, from Detroit to Houston, from New York to LA, from the sands of Iwo Jima to the Sea Of Tranquility on the Moon, it stands as a beacon of hope and a symbol of liberty for all.  May it always remain such a symbol.

Of the United States Of America,

We began as 13 very different colonies, coming together to overthrow the bonds of a common tyrant.  We formed a union, believing that the union would be greater than the sum of the individual colonies.  Or to use the line often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “We must hang together, or we shall surely hang separately.”

After winning our independence as a nation, we grew, extending to new territories the same concepts of liberty that were behind the founding of this country.  And each of these new states were treated as equals; it does not matter if a state was one of the original 13, or if it was one of those that most recently joined the Union, all are the same.

And to the Republic for which it stands,

Republic — A form of government where the citizens choose those who will lead them.  It is those elected leaders are accountable to the citizens, and not the citizens who are accountable to the leaders.  And if those leaders ever forget that little fact, they not only could, but they should face the wrath and displeasure of those who put them in power at the ballot box.

One Nation,

Our ancestors came from every corner of Earth, all seeking what is now called The American Dream.  The Great Seal of this country carries the Latin phrase E pluribus unum — out of many, one.

Under God,

Our government does not allow the establishment of a state religion.  People living in America have the freedom to choose whatever form of worship they want, and the variety of churches, synagogues, and cathedrals are testament to every faith known to mankind.  But the freedom of religion should never be equated with the freedom from religion.  Our government, whether federal or local, should be allowed to recognize and acknowledge the role religion has played and continues to play in the life of our nation without it being seen as an endorsement of any one religion.

Indivisible,

Our nation was forged in the fires of revolution.  That unity was sundered in the throes of a civil war that pitted neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and brother against brother.  But that civil war not only shattered this nation; it served as the furnace that reforged it into something even stronger than it was before.

With Liberty . . .

The underlying concept of America is personal liberty.  The opportunity to live your life as you see fit to do so, as long as doing so does not violate the laws of the land.

And Justice . . .

We are a nation of laws.  Not forced upon the people by a king or other hereditary lord, but debated and written by the representatives elected by the people, and often proposed by the people to and through their representatives.  Our courts see to it that those laws are carried out fairly and justly; that all who come to them seeking redress or justice are treated equally, irrespective of race, creed, color, or status.

For All.

We believe that justice denied to anyone is an injustice to everyone.  Our government is not perfect, but we try to see that when an inequity arises, it is dealt with as best as we possibly can.  One part of the Preamble to our Constitution states, “in order to form a more perfect Union,” and while that goal may never be fully achieved, it does not mean that we do not try.

Okay, that is what the Pledge Of Allegiance means to me.  What do those words mean to you?

***jn***

Advertisements

4. The Pledge, According To Red And The Duke

04/09/2011

When you hear the name Red Skelton, the first thing that most likely comes to mind is comedy.  And while he was a master of comedy, something that I remember even more about Red Skelton is his explanation of the Pledge Of Allegiance.

A few days ago, I discovered a video clip of this performance on YouTube.  I am not particularly surprised that it is on YouTube (in multiple versions, no less); I am perhaps more surprised that I did not think to search for it earlier.  According to the introduction on one clip, Skelton first performed the sketch on his CBS variety show on January 14, 1969.  That introduction also mentioned that it has been read into the Congressional Record twice.

In the performance, Skelton talked about his grade school principal, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Lasswell, and how one day Mr. Lasswell lectured the students following the recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance.  Mr. Lasswell had the impression that the students were finding the recitation monotonous.  “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word.”

With that, he began to break down the Pledge phrase by phrase, word by word, explaining the meaning behind each word and phrase.  Mr. Lasswell’s words certainly had an impact on Skelton, for him to remember them so clearly decades later.

Skelton ended the performance by saying, “Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge Of Allegiance — ‘Under God.’  Wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?”  I would think that this calmly stated line from this gentle man has to be the most stinging rebuke ever delivered to those who feel that freedom of religion means freedom from religion.

As I have said, I found multiple versions of this performance on YouTube.  The link below, however, probably has the best audio and video quality:

I am somewhat uncertain as to how I stumbled across this performance.  When I did, though, I found a link to another interpretation of the Pledge Of Allegiance, this one by John Wayne.  It starts with the Duke reciting the Pledge.  Then, as a chorus begins reciting it again, he asks, “What do those words mean to you?”  He then proceeds to give his own phrase-by-phrase breakdown of the Pledge.  One line that I particularly like describes America as “A land where . . . the ballot box is the sword, and the people, its wielder.”  Wayne’s description is different from Skelton’s, but no less accurate.  His interpretation can be found here:

There is one other version of the Pledge Of Allegiance that I found while watching the above two interpretations.  This one features Don La Fontaine, the narrator of probably thousands of movie trailers.  If you have ever heard a trailer that begins, “In a world where . . . ,” then you are familiar with La Fontaine and his distinctive voice.  This one does not have any interpretation, just La Fontaine reciting the Pledge, and the US Army Band playing in the background:

***jn***