We are continuing down a path that began long before Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem. That is the path of disrespect for America and what America stands for. It is an expression of hate. You may find that objectionable but to declare that you are protesting the anthem or the flag over your perception of the existence of systematic racism by the police and America you cannot claim it is not about the anthem or the flag. The Anthem and Flag embody what America was, is, and will be! They are a vehicle by which every American can express his/her loyalty and allegiance to America. If there are flaws in our system and in our interpersonal relations disrespecting the flag and fanning the flames of hate are not the solution, they are an extension of the problem.
Johnny Cash, the country star is reported to have said, “I believe in your 1st Amendment Right to burn the flag if you choose, but I also believe in my 2nd Amendment Right to keep and bear arms and I’ll shoot you if you burn mine.” I am not advocating that kind of violence for the terribleness of the former does not justify the latter, it only makes the divide greater. I hold the Flag, the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance in high esteem. I am a Vietnam veteran and consider myself a patriotic American and a devoted Christian. God is first in my life, family is next, and country follows them. The Pledge is more than a statement of respect and an expression of allegiance it is a commitment to adherence to the values, principles, freedoms, and rights that every American citizen is blessed with. There are few countries in this world where one could openly burn the flag and publicly disrespect the anthem of that nation. America affords that liberty and yet those who exercise that liberty do so without a full comprehension of the damage they do in their actions.
In our original pledge of allegiance to our Republic, which was established by God, penned in 1892 by Reverend Francis Bellamy was used by educators in Chicago during the 400th celebration of Columbus landing in the New World. In 1923-1924, the phrase, “the flag of the United States of America” was added to replace Bellamy’s original wording, “my flag.” The Pledge then became: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” You will no doubt notice a missing phrase, “under God.” .” In 1942 the Pledge was officially added to the U.S. Flag Code but the phrase “under God” was not added until 1954. It was birthed largely as the result of a sermon preached by the Reverend George Docherty of Scotland, who was, at that time, serving as pastor just two blocks from the White House at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. On February 7, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was sitting in the front row with numerous Senators and Congressmen. The sermon reviewed how the hand of God was evident in American history and how America had taken the precepts of the Bible and incorporated them into American life and culture. He declared that America had continuously acknowledged God as being essential to our foundational American identity.
The Reverend Docherty went into a lengthy conversation he had had with his son and in that conversation, the matter of the pledge of allegiance came up. He reminded the audience that the beginning of each school day there was the Pledge of Allegiance. It was so commonplace that no one would expect any other beginning. Reverend Docherty related his preparation for a Lincoln Day celebration and in his studies, he discovered how frequently Mr. Lincoln used the phrase, “under God” and wondered why that phrase had not been included in the American Pledge. From the beginning of our founding, it is evident that certain basic principles were laid down not only by the Founding Fathers who began their first proclamation with the words, “In the name of God, Amen,” but also by the Framers of the Declaration of Independence. In that document they declared that “all men were created equal” and there can be no creation without a creator. This was a clear revealing of their cognizance of the hand and influence of the Creator in the formulation of the American Republic.
Including the phrase, “under God” immediately separates our Pledge from the Communistic and Socialist governments of the world who disbelieve the existence of God. It presents our view and interpretation of the meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in a much different light than in those nations. When Mr. Lincoln used the phrase, “Under God” it was a reminder to all Americans that the United States that our only basis and source for our true freedom is God. After the sermon, President Eisenhower approached the pastor and said, “I think you’ve got something!” The next day, a bill was introduced to add “Under God” to our pledge and the members of Congress acknowledge that the sermon was the catalyst and inspiration to take this action. Four months later President Eisenhower signed the bill that included “Under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance.
When I think of what America means, I am always conscious of the sacrifices that have been made throughout our history to establish and preserve the Republic in which “all men are deemed to have been created equal” and have “God-given rights that no government or man can or should infringe.” Our Republic has a Constitution that details the pathway to implementing new laws, rules, and regulations and that deserves our respect. The National Anthem is an expression of the treasure we have in our Free Constitutional Republic. When you disrespect it, you trash the very precepts and principles that were the basis for founding a nation so wonderfully free that you can disrespect it without fear of incarceration or execution. You may have problems with various institutions, organizations, or arms of government but you should never allow your dissatisfaction grow to the point of disrespecting the sacrifices of the men and women who paid the ultimate price to afford you that freedom.
The flames of hatred are burning high today and disrespecting the anthem, or the flag of the Republic will not resolve the problems that exist. Disrespect breeds contempt and contempt drive wedges that produce impasses virtually assuring there can be no compromise or common understanding. It becomes “my way or no way” and both sides rigidly stand unwilling to honestly discuss the issues of concern. If you value Freedom and Liberty and want to preserve the Constitutional Republic, our Founders fought for and our Framers formulated a Pledge of Allegiance is not too much to ask. I am not asking that you blindly follow and never express your dissatisfaction but out of respect for the sacrifices that have been made and out of an appreciation for our Freedom and Liberty, I ask that you stand for the Anthem and realize that the Pledge of Allegiance is not a declaration that there are no problems but that this Republic affords the priceless Freedom and Liberty and that treasure is too valuable to lose.
God bless you and God bless America is my prayer and desire!