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Meaningless Words
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I Don't Say the Pledge of Allegiance Anymore


By James Donahue


I have attended public meetings all of my life. People still like to start these meetings by doing something formal, like saying a prayer and saluting the flag.


I have been saying the "Pledge of Allegiance" all my life, ever since learning it in grade school. We said it every day in public school and I have been reciting it for years with city councils, county boards and township officials.


Everybody knows the words by heart. In fact, we all have said the pledge so many times, and so frequently, I would guess that we recite the words by route, not giving much thought to their meaning.


A few years ago I started thinking about those words, which I suppose was inevitable for a word jockey such as myself. I was shocked when I realized that what we are saying in that pledge, and what we are living, are two different things.


The biggest problem I have with the pledge is that it says "and to the republic for which it (our flag) stands." Nobody talks about our republic anymore. The key word we use is "democracy." I have to admit that we are a democracy, but we are no longer a republic, at least under the old definition as I learned it in government class. The United States hasn’t been that for a very long time.


Even now, with revised dictionaries, there remain somewhat subtle differences between a republic and a democracy. But the definitions have become so blurred over the years that the dictionary describes both in very similar terms.


Originally a republic.was “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives elected by the people to vote on their behalf."


Recently our dictionaries add that a republic can also be “a state in which the head of government is not a monarch.” That definition gets pretty broad.


A democracy, on the other hand was a government in which the power is shared by the common people. It also was described as a majority (or mob) rule. Because of the way the word “democracy” is being used in contemporary times, however, a revised definition now adds that it is a “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.”


That is not how we learned it in high school government class. The lines between the two forms of government then were much more distinct.


It is because we claim to have turned our system into a democracy that it can't be a republic. Oh, we have all of the appearances of being a republic. We elect our representatives to Washington and we send them to our state capitols and to our county court houses, our city  and village councils and township boards to conduct the business of government. And they are supposed to cast votes that represent the interest of the people in their voting districts back home. But does anybody believe, for one minute, that they are really doing this?


Local councils and even county boards might still be listening to the people in their home precincts, but elected officials who go to state and federal jobs are strongly influenced by high-pressure lobbyists who represent whatever organization or business that has enough money and power to buy their votes. The interests of the constituent back home are rarely considered. To appease the home crowd, a certain amount of the money the government robs from us each week in taxes is filtered back into local government coffers so our legislators can give the appearance of doing their job. And that, is as good as it gets.


When you think about it, we don't really have a democracy in the United States either. We have a lot of people being cleverly controlled by a few very powerful men, mostly wealthy business leaders. We labor for these people for a mere minimal wage and think we are doing just fine. In actuality, we are slaves. We are bombarded daily with carefully prepared propaganda so that we believe (a.) we are free, (b.) we have free thought, (c.) our destiny is in our own hands, and (d.) our government will take care of us.


It is all a big lie. Consider the current struggle for public health care, something most other developed nations of the world have been offering successfully for years. The Obama Administration is not the first to try to accomplish this badly needed government funded service. It has always been soundly defeated by power interest groups willing to spend a lot of money for extensive public relations campaigns that turn the masses against their own best interest.


We think we have free elections, but in reality they are controlled. Think about the strange events surrounding the 2000 presidential election if you don't think you can believe this. Out of all of the millions of voters who went to the polls in this country, what would the odds be that the two leading candidates would come down to such a horse race in the very state controlled by George W. Bush's brother?


And this brings me to the next part of the pledge to the flag that troubles me. We say in our pledge that we believe the flag stands for "justice for all."


Even though the Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore polled the popular vote in the United States, Mr. Bush was handed this high office by the Supreme Court, which everyone knows is largely Republican in its makeup. Was it justice to block a second vote count in certain precincts that would have tipped the scales for Gore?


And what about the appellate court decision that reversed a federal court's anti-trust decision against Bill Gates' great Microsoft empire? That the richest man in the world mysteriously got a panel of appeals court judges to turn the scales in his favor should not have been a surprise. After all, money is involved here. It buys justice. But it doesn't promise "justice for all." Justice is only assured for the rich.


The rest of us are going to have to live with the Microsoft products that Mr. Gates crams down our throats. That is because we want our PCs to act like Macintosh computers but we understand that to make everything work, our machines must have a Gates stamp of approval.


There is yet another word in that pledge that bothers me a lot. It is the word "liberty." No one in this country can truly say they possess this.


Following is the definition of liberty from the American Heritage Dictionary:


Liberty is (a.) The condition of being free from restriction or control. (b.) The right to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing. (c.) The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.


While it is true that Americans enjoy more freedom that people in most other parts of the world, true liberty for the masses is quickly deteriorating. Unfortunately, we agreed to give much of it away after 9-11 in exchange for a government promise of public safety. We are not sure it was a good trade.


This is why I no longer recite the pledge of allegiance when everyone around me does it. I still stand in reverence to the flag however. I knew her glory when it really meant something. And I still believe this nation to be the best place in the world to be living. I just refuse to recite a bunch of words that are no longer true.