Monday, May 27, 2013

A Pledge of Allegiance

We live in a world of words.  It seems, for example, that no public figure is able to answer a “yes or no” question with either of those perfectly servicable responses.  Instead they pour out a dump truck load of obfuscations until one is unsure whether the question was answered at all.  Nothing is so straightforward that our politicians cannot hide it in a jumble of words.  So in the context of word economy I’d like to take a look at our  Pledge of Allegiance as it stands today.

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.

Thirty-one words.  Are they all necessary?  Are they all meaningful?

First let’s look at the often controversial 1950's addition, under God.  The culprit here, the real inconsistency, is its association with, one Nation.   In Webster’s New World Dictionary we read: “Nation - A stable, historically developed community of people with a territory, economic life, distinctive culture, and language in common.”  We’re not even close.  We are a group of 'nations' assembled under a single government, but with ethnic and cultural differences as profound as if we were separated by oceans instead of streets.  Our heterogeneity is our strength as a country.  If we were a nation, the controversy over under God wouldn’t exist, it would either be there or not as the common culture saw fit.  So we can eliminate the entire phrase in the quest for meaning and accuracy.

Lets take a look at the next word, indivisible.  Again, we are not.  We are divided: politically, socially, culturally and economically, to name a few current divisions.  We were once even divided into two warring countries.  Read regularly and you cannot avoid divisions we establish in our vocabulary: black/white, Liberal/Conservative, rich/poor, and gay/straight are a few that come to mind.  I'm sure you can think of many more without really trying.  We are not indivisible.

How about with liberty and justice for all?  It should be fairly clear that the degree of liberty and justice available to any individual is a function of that person’s financial status, race, and belief system.  We are able to deny liberty at this point in our history without due process, under the rubrics of patriotism and homeland security, so we can’t claim justice for all in any real sense.  We can aspire to the meaning of the phrase, but we can not claim it as ours.

That leaves us with I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.  Not bad.  That actually says all that needs to be said.  We are a republic, a group of states united under a single Constitution that establishes our freedoms and their limits.  It is a template that we can lay over our diverse society to both bound and encourage it.  It works.

Perhaps if we limited The Pledge of Allegiance to these twenty concise words we would afford ourselves an opportunity to think about the sentence each time we recite it and appreciate the profound simplicity in its meaning.  We are people of the United States of America, a republic built on diversity, many nations working together to build and sustain the integrity and emotional wealth that we all cherish and have struggled among ourselves to attain.  Though not a nation, we are, in every meaningful sense of the word, a family, supporting each other and arguing with each other within this grand and plentiful land we call the USA.

During my seven years in the Air Force I saluted the flag many times, always with the sense that it was a symbol, that I was really saluting the land behind it.  The most important part of my pledge will always be to the Republic for which it stands.   Why clutter our allegiance up with platitudes that don’t mean anything?           

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Writing on a Rainy Sunday

This morning I laze on my sofa listening to the rain that prevents me from checking another outdoor chore off my list.  Our cats, Zorro and Elvis, who usually crowd my feet or pin my legs with their furry selves, are elsewhere in the house.  Carol is in her office, either answering emails or playing FreeCell.  I have some work I could attend to in the large back garage which is in desperate need of cleaning and organizing.  I'll attack that this afternoon, but right now when the ancient clock across the room has not yet announced eight, I will write.

I am working on two separate stories.  Neither has revealed its ending yet but both are moving along.  I think the easier one will find completion in the next week, the harder one maybe never.  That one scares me because the character that has grown and developed in it, and whom I have grown to like, may turn out to be a serial killer.  I don't want him to.  Those of you who write fiction will probably understand.  When a character is born, he or she is maleable but soon grows in ways that the writer, to be true to the developing story, must honor.

My writing is so strongly character based that the storyline I intend is often rejected in its development and turned in a direction more attuned to the person who has grown from my tappings on the keyboard.  If the tale takes a direction I cannot tolerate, my only recourse is to abandon it, for the driving character would not accept a course alteration more to my liking.

About my possible serial killer - I'm not rejecting the storyline, yet, but I must steel myself to write it and to be true to the tale, in spite of being repulsed by the idea.  If I am willing to put repulsion aside I will be able to continue.  But maybe my character is of a different darkness he has not yet revealed to me, so I will not have to worry.  The only way to find out is to take him and his story further along its path and see.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writing [of] Wrongs and Thinking About What's Right

I'm here first to apologize to my blog readers (both of you) for my month plus absence.  I've mentioned before that I intended this space to be a vehicle for my meandering mind to wander freely along whatever path it chose.  I never intended it to be a place for me to air political worries and annoyances. However, so many recent events have cluttered my addled brain with frustrating thoughts there was no room for musing to emerge in the way I wish.   In order to exorcize this demon I've decided to exercise some first amendment rights and speak out the major insanity that now grips us.

Okay, the thing receiving the most hype on the internet and in print is Gun Control. The bill that failed to get the required votes in the Senate, S.150.RS- Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, is 125 pages long; 95 of those pages are a list of weapons exempted from the ban (I read it.)  There is nothing in this bill that requires current owners of these weapons to turn them in, nor is there anything requiring current owners of large capacity magazines to turn them in, or exempt their use.  Whatever it is that caused gun lobbies to become constipated with fear, is not visible in the bill.

Social networks - read Facebook - are rife with demands that the NRA change its stance (not happening) and that congress grow a set and defy the gun lobby (also not happening.)  The problem with demands in the case of the gun lobby is that they further constrict the sphincter of the fearful.  The problem with demands in the case of congress is that they only work when written in the memo line of a large check.  So what do we do?  We vote!  But our vote doesn't count, you say?  It sure won't if you don't use it.

Only 57.5% of eligible voters actually exercised their right in the 2012 election.  Put in more understandable terms, over 93,000,000 Americans who could have voted, didn't.  That's just wrong.

Now maybe I can get back to my mental meanderings with the hope that this country starts making sense, and supports candidates with a backbone, and a heart.