15 June 2004

one nation, indivisible

For those who haven't been reading the news, Supreme Court decided yesterday that Newdon did not have standing in his Pledge of Allegiance case, thereby neatly skirting the constitutional issue that held my interest (and the interest of many others, I would assume) for at least the past several months. I can't be the only one who noticed the irony of them deciding this case on Flag Day. Anyway, only three Justices, Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Thomas, wrote opinions--under different analyses--on the merits, all stating that the "under God" addition 50 years ago was constitutional. For those of you who need me to back up a step further: some guy in California brought a case claiming the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional (under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment) with the inclusion of the phrase "under God." He brought the case on behalf of his school-aged daughter, but there was some question of standing because he and the mother are divorced, and the mother is the custodial parent.

Well, at least we've cleared up a tiny little area of family law. Apparently, noncustodial parents can't bitch to the judicial system about their children being made to say the Pledge in school.

But let's set aside for a moment the Supreme Court's actual decision (or lack thereof) on the Pledge of Allegiance case yesterday. I don't see why I can't have my own little argument right here. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only (monotheistic) religious person who is actually offended by the inclusion of "under God," rather than just understanding of why some other people might be. I never gave much thought to it in school when I was growing up--and that is the problem. Invocation of a deity--whether you believe in that particular deity or not--is disrespectful when said without reverence or even mere consideration of your words.

Of course I am also deeply troubled by the devisiveness of requiring schoolchildren to say the Pledge with an "opt-out." I remember one girl in my class in elementary school who sat out the Pledge every day; even after someone explaiined to me that it was because of her religion (Jehovah's Witness), I thought it was W-E-I-R-D...because that's how may kids think. (Of course, she also didn't bring in cupcakes on her birthday, which I thought was M-E-A-N. On the other hand, I'm sure people thought many odd things about me for never eating hot dogs and hamburgers in the cafetaria or on school trips.)

And beyond the JW, who sit out the Pledge because they find it to be an inappropriate form of prayer (giving allegiance to the nation), there's also the many atheists in this country who do not believe in God. Oh, and also those funny people who belong to those odd little polytheistic, pagan, or animistic religions that have only been around on this planet for about twice as long as Christianity. But they, of course, are insignificant. (Need I actually invoke the sarcasm tag?)

Someone else pointed out, even if you are a monotheist who's cool with the God thing, the arrogance of thinking that God particularly favors our country. Heh.

Finally, the "historical" argument frustrates me because the original Pledge did not have "under God" in it. (It was added during the Communists-Are-Evil era as a way of scaring off those atheist pinko bastards.) Yes, a generation and a half (or so) of us grew up saying the Pledge this way, and it would sound funny to our ears if we relearned it. So what? A while ago, when this case was argued before the Court, William Safire wrote a NYTimes column complaining about the very same thing--in the other direction. Having learned the original Pledge growing up, he thought the phrase "under God" disrupted the flow of the thing.

What will I do when I have children of my own? Well, first of all, let's keep in mind that I only get about 50% of the decision-making power when it comes to raising the kids. If it were up to me, I'd like to tell them to recite the Pledge along with their classmates, omitting the phrase "under God." I would teach them that this was the original form of the Pledge, and explain the many reasons why the addition of that phrase was troublesome to many people and rather unnecessary althogether. Of course, I'll be doing this while sending them to a religious school (or after? Do they even say the Pledge at Orthodox day schools, or do they go straight froom Shacharit to Social Studies?), so that will look pleasantly hypocritical. Oh well. So I'm a hypocrite. I can live with that.

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