I remember reciting that pledge every morning in school at the beginning of class; however, it was with the under God addition that had been inserted in 1954 during the communist threat insanity. Even as a young child, I was quite proud when I spoke those words. “I am an American,” I thought. “This is what it means to be an American.” I believed that we were better and smarter than all the people who were unfortunate enough to live in the other not-so-privileged countries of the world. The propaganda had worked.
Then I got older. I stopped taking everything for granted and started questioning things. I now subscribe to the Mark Twain and George Carlin philosophies of not letting education get in the way of our learning and not just teaching our kids to read, but to question what they read and to question everything. I don’t want to naively believe everything or blindly follow anyone. I want to use my intelligence to sort out the information for myself and make my decisions based on my own conclusions.
So what does it really mean to be an American?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a very different answer, especially if you poll folks from various parts of the world. Perhaps at one time, America was the greatest country in the world. Maybe it still is. After all, we are one of the super powers, but how long will that last? Some Asian countries are catching up and surpassing us, specifically in regard to technology. There are even other countries that can boast a much higher quality standard of living than we can here in the good old U.S. of A.
One day, the same thing that happened to the British Empire will inevitably happen to America. We’ll wake up to find that some other country’s citizens are enjoying a better way of life. Those people will be living a healthier lifestyle – physically, emotionally, politically, and financially – one that will make their country the object of envy, the place where others will dream of living, leaving us to live out the American nightmare. Until that day comes, we’ll arrogantly continue to believe that we’re the greatest nation around.
Just what does make us so special?
If your answer is that our freedom sets us apart from other countries, maybe you’re right. However, our freedoms are slowly being chipped away to foster the special interests of the few – the large corporations with ulterior motives and ultra-conservative religious groups who have conveniently forgotten that our freedom of religion includes ALL religions, not just their own. Capitalism is no longer the dream tool of every American trying to make a better life for themselves; it serves a higher master – the elitist few who would gladly step on every single insignificant American who would dare to question their methods, beliefs and/or integrity.
Perhaps this is the hidden meaning behind the pledge and what we are actually saying:
I pledge allegiance to the Almighty Dollar of the Unsuspecting States of America, and to the Giant Corporations for which it stands, one nation, under CEOs supervision, with censorship and injustice for all but the CEOs.
On the other hand, the mantra that the greedy monster corporate CEOs must recite each and every morning probably goes something like this:
I pledge allegiance to the Almighty Dollar, may it always inundate my personal bank account, leeching the public whose money I gladly take and whose lives I shape through my selfish influence in our easily manipulated joke of a government. God bless the American dream. Amen. Hallelujah.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying or implying that all corporate CEOs are greedy and/or right-wing Christians. I know that there are CEOs of smaller corporations who do not subscribe to such pledges or mantras and who run corporate entities merely for legal and accounting purposes, some of which are local mom-and-pop establishments trying to better their communities. I’m talking about the giants, the BPs and Monsantos of the world. Whether or not they actually credit God for their obscene wealth and power is purely speculative on my part, of course.
Just keep in mind that what some might refer to as God’s blessing – as in a CEO’s statement of having been blessed with financial prosperity – could be considered a curse by those whose own prosperity has been squelched in order that others may become über-prosperous. My mantra? Everything in moderation. Balance is essential and the scales are tipping precariously in the wrong direction.
For example, buried within the fine print of spending bill HR 933 that President Obama signed on March 26, 2013, was Section 735, the Farmer Assurance Provision. This stipulation effectively strips the government of any power to stop the sale or planting of the controversial genetically modified (GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds. This provision has since been nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act because that company has been at the front line of the GMO wars, touting the betterment of the public food supply and conservation measures for farmers through it’s genetic manipulation of our food. This war has spawned more battles, prompting other entities to eagerly jump on the let’s-transform-the-food-without-label-requirements band wagon, such as the dairy industry who now wants to add aspartame to milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., all for the so-called public good – without having to let the public know that it is an ingredient in their products.
I don’t know about everyone else, but when somebody decides to take away my right to make informed decisions about what I consume, I get more than just a little outraged. There are people who would dare to define who I can or can’t marry. There are others who want to limit my access to resources because of my gender, sex, or race. Others want to determine what foods or ingredients should go into my body, while there are also those people hell bent on making decisions for me as a woman about what can’t come out of my body as well. Yes, I speak of overly zealous pro-life activists, but that’s a subject for another blog.
Again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying or implying that people can’t have their own opinions or beliefs. America was founded in part on such freedom. What I am saying is that it’s okay to try to improve something for the public good; however, it’s not okay to try to hide it from us. If you want to add to or change something in a product, what’s the harm in listing all of the ingredients unless there’s an unscrupulous reason for subterfuge? If you take away the people’s right to make informed decisions, you take away their rights. Period. Where does it stop? As an American, I value my rights. Should I start worrying about getting arrested for wearing purple on a Sunday?
Now I know where this is going – all of the proud-to-be-gun-toting Americans are going stand up and cheer their support of this notion, crying about how it’s not right for someone to try to take away their right to bear arms. Last time I checked, this right has never been in any danger of getting repealed. In the matter of improving public safety, increased gun control measures do not equate to making it illegal for everyone to own firearms. Again, this is a subject for another blog, but mentioning it here is relevant because changing the conditions for how one acquires weaponry seems to be all about perception and the issue has been steeped in propaganda from both sides. While I certainly don’t want a psychotic serial killer to be able to purchase a gun without having to first pass a background check, I am smart enough to know that if he wants one badly enough, he’ll find a way around the system. Making it harder to get a gun won’t infringe upon the rights of people who have no serious mental illnesses or criminal history. They can continue to enjoy their freedom to shoot and kill people or animals – which is, after all, the sole purpose of any weapon. But I digress…
Maybe I am naive and I do live in a dream world because I think it would serve a greater purpose to find a way to balance out those scales of justice that our blindfolded icon seems to be ignoring. Voltaire (not Uncle Ben from Spiderman) said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Social responsibility is not just limited to the wealthy, although they certainly have a marvelous advantage; it is the duty of every single citizen. We may not all be endowed with an over-abundance of money, but we do all have time and energy that we can use to devote ourselves to a cause, to voice our concerns for improving what needs to be improved, and to help those who need help. While many don’t tap into that resource to make an effort to inspire changes, there are still those who do. Perhaps that is what being an American, what being a human, is all about.
Instead of mindlessly reciting a memorized pledge of our allegiance to an ambiguous flag, we should think about what that flag really stands for first. Does it need a little mending? Are the ideals that it represents outdated? Is it fine just the way it is? Most importantly, what can we do to make it the most glorious flag in the universe?
Call me a geek, but I would like to see a Star Trek world where money is no longer important and everyone works for the advancement of humanity. Maybe we should throw away all the flags of the world and this is what we should be reciting instead:
I pledge allegiance to the Earth and all the Life which it supports, one planet, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.
Disclaimer: This blog editorial does not reflect the opinions or beliefs of all Americans. I hold fast to my freedom to express these opinions just as I respect your right to disagree with them.