“Indivisible?”

“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.”

Growing up in the United States, I began every school morning by facing the American flag and repeating what is called the “Pledge of Allegiance.” When I was in third grade I had to adjust to the addition of the phrase “under God” which had just been inserted in light of a “Communist threat” said to be afoot. The “Pledge” was such a normal part of the day that I never gave it much thought until high school.

In high school, as I became more aware of racial injustice and the conflict now known as the Vietnam War, I found it difficult to recite the Pledge, and merely stood while it was repeated. And in recent years when flag salutes and the national anthem are regular parts of many events, I still struggle with the disparity between the ideals of my country and its reality.

This morning, as my nation reveals itself to be nearly evenly divided between two very different visions, I reflected back to one word in the Pledge–indivisible. Written in 1892, only thirty years after the Civil War, the Pledge stressed that we were one country, not two as had existed for the brief time of the Confederate States of America. The voting on November 4 starkly demonstrates that we are quite divisible. And as Abraham Lincoln said, echoing the New Testament, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” While he was referring to slavery and freedom, the same truth prevails today.

Democracy on the grand scale of our country remains a fragile experiment. Unless we find our way forward together, I am afraid the experiment will come to an untimely end.

30 thoughts on ““Indivisible?”

  1. It sounds as if the Biden/Trump split will divide your country in much the same way as Brexit divided the UK… why on earth can’t these men learn to live peaceably and with understanding and tolerance?! From my side of the pond, I really, really hope that Trump’s days in public office are over and that enough people will see sense that he won’t cause any lasting damage…………… fingers crossed.

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  2. Thanks for reminding us that the “Under God part was an afterthought and not part of the original pledge. And thanks for reminding us that patriotism and “love of country” are complex and that knee-jerk nationalism is always problematic.

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  3. I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school. The idea of pledging to a flag seems a bit strange to me now but the concepts are still valid. I agree with you that democracy feels especially fragile these days. I pray we survive the great experiment.

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  4. Democracy looks fragile in other places too because of a lack of respect between people of different views, and anger stirred up by those who benefit by stirring it up. China and Russia will no doubt use it to validate strong non-democratic leadership.

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  5. I am visiting you today from my adult blog, Elizabeth. I think I would repeat those words of the pledge as it is something wonderful to aim for. Without a goal we have no direction. Achieving goals is often hard and the road is fraught with trials. My country is also very fractured and the dream of a rainbow nation of Nelson Mandela has never felt further away than right now. A lot of people who could contribute so much to the economy are leaving because they fear for their lives in a country that seems to be becoming completely lawless.

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  6. We never had a pledge, though we were once expected to stand up when the national anthem was played at the end of films in the cinema. That was the closest I ever got to any form,of nationalism in my life. We are used to living in a divided country here. The United Kingdom is far from being even remotely ‘united’, and is better seen as four countries currently existing under a shaky coalition that many would like to see broken up.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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        1. We are very different. There are lots of ‘sayings. We say “It’s grim up north”. They call us ‘Soft southerners’, and so on. Many are worse than that, and cannot be written on a family blog. And there are accents that are completely unintelligible up there too. It’s like a different language. This is the accent in the north-east of England, it is known as Geordie. This is really spoken like that up there! 🙂

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        2. Those two clips were wonderful. It reminds me of the vestiges of New England accents that still survive. They are much less evident than 50 years ago,thanks to television, and I miss them.

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  7. For every school day of my 35 years we began the day with the pledge. Having multiple family members serve in the military I respect the goals and hopes of the pledge. I also had respect for the students who chose not to participate. Our fractured country is veering too far away from the ideal.

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  8. being in an originally colonised country of New Zealand – allegiance was to King and country now under the auspices of Queen Elizabeth in the UK. We sang often God Save our Gracious Queen or it was played in movie theatres, school prize givings and so forth. Then another anthem related our our country was created that starts God of nations at thy feet (with many lines and verses) and that now more common but not ear bashed with it… I don’t think we sang every verse but you were expected to know at least one verse of each…and now if possible the our own one in Maori.

    I remember seeing early sitcoms from the States with people “pledging their allegiance” but I didn’t realise for a long time it was part of daily school life. I understand there are other countries that have similar stance at the beginning of the school day…

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