Warehouse K
Empty Words
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Jailed For Not Reciting The Pledge

By James Donahue

It was troublesome to read about a judge in Tupelo, Mississippi, who found a lawyer in his courtroom in contempt for refusing to join in a pledge of allegiance to the United States flag.

Judge Talmadge Littlejohn sent lawyer Danny Lampley to jail for five hours after Lampley, who has a reputation for fighting for free speech rights, refused a judicial order to join everyone else in standing up and reciting the time worn pledge.

Lampley was in court to represent a client in a divorce case.

Most Americans know all of the words to the pledge because we were forced to stand up, face the flag, put our hands over our hearts, and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning before school started. We also were required to say the Lord’s Prayer. That was before the courts ruled that forcing children to say a Christian prayer was unconstitutional. The prayers were stopped. But saying the pledge may still be required.

I know it was still being done at the start of a lot of government meetings that I covered as a news reporter over the years. I stopped saying the pledge years ago after I took the time one day to examine what the words in the pledge were declaring. I discovered that there was a lot of misconception packed in that spoken oath and I could no longer stand up in public and make such a statement.

For example, the pledge declares that we are giving allegiance to “the republic” for which our flag stands. While it is true that our forefathers wanted to establish America as a republic, and they drafted the framework for such a government, we stopped being a real republic a very long time ago. We rarely use the word. Most of the time we call our system of government a democracy, which is something very different. And I am not sure if we are even a democracy.

According to dictionaries, however, the definitions of republic and democracy have become somewhat blurred over the years so they are both described in somewhat 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.”

Indeed, we elect representatives from the districts in which we live. These people go to either the nation’s capital or to the capital of the state, the county seat or the seat of government in the community in which we live and supposedly act on our behalf on managing the affairs of government. But we all know that once these people get in office and begin taking bribes from the lobbyists representing big business or special interest groups, their allegiance to the folks that elected them falters. This is especially true at state and federal government levels. Thus we no longer are a working republic. The elected people in office mostly represent big business interests.

Since the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can be considered individuals and legally make financial campaign contributions, the collapse of any resemblance of a republic has become even clearer. Big corporations and big money interests, not only from America, but from all over the world, now influence what is going on in Washington.

A democracy is defined as a government in which the power is shared by the common people. This might, at one time, have been considered a definition of a republic. But it also defines a form of majority or mob rule. Except for the strange influence of the Tea Party movement on this year’s political activities, we cannot truly describe our government as operating under mob rule. While it appears to be a dysfunctional pack of radicals, the Tea Party candidates have enjoyed the strong financial backing of power figures from the extreme right.

It would be wrong to describe all of the people elected to government office as corrupted in one broad stroke of a pen. We have known a good number of honest citizens who have gone to Washington and our state capitals and worked very hard to do the jobs they were elected to do. But we also know that they have been largely overwhelmed by the growing level of corruption and big money interests hanging out in the shadows.

Also we have noticed that the closer to home these elected representatives work, like in county, city and township offices, the better the system works. Yet even during my years of attending and covering county board meetings, I have seen good honest people fall victim to the secret exchange of the dollar bill. Greed has been the destroyer of our republic.

What we have in the United States is a lot of people being cleverly controlled by a very powerful and wealthy few. We labor for these people for a mere minimal wage and for a long time, when most of us had jobs, a roof over our heads and a decent car in our driveway, we thought we were doing just fine.

We have been bombarded constantly be carefully prepared propaganda so that we believe that we are free, we have free thought, our destiny remains in our own hands and that our government will take care of us.

Now that the chips are down, however, we are beginning to wake up to the fact that it has all been a big lie. We think we have free elections, but in reality they are controlled. When you think about the strange events surrounding the past presidential elections, and the odd goings on preceding this fall’s mid-term elections, anybody with half a brain must suspect something is out of whack.

There is more in the pledge to the flag that we find troublesome. For example, there is a line that says the flag stands for “justice for all.” Anybody that really believes the courts in our nation hand out fair and equal justice for everybody has been sadly disillusioned.

Indeed, there is “justice” for the wealthy because they can pay the high cost of good legal counsel. For these people, even if they are guilty, they can usually have criminal or civil cases against them dramatically reduced or dismissed altogether. Everybody else gets herded into a pen where they are offered “free” legal counsel by half-wit lawyers in cheap suits that offer the same advice: “Take a plea bargain and plead guilty” Once folks do this, they are fined, usually jailed, and in the end, ordered to pay the cost of that court appointed lawyer.

In reality there is no justice for people who cannot afford to buy it.

The pledge also includes the promise of “liberty for all.” But liberty is something most of us lack. The American Heritage Dictionary describes liberty as “the condition of being free from restriction or control; the right to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing, and the condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude or forced labor.”

While Americans enjoy more freedom than people in many other parts of the world, true liberty for the masses is deteriorating fast. For example we agreed to give much of our freedom away after 9-11 in exchange for a government promise of public safety. Now we are hindered in travel, our telephones and e-mails and cell phones are tapped, hidden cameras record almost every public move we make, and we all live under certain forms of restriction and control. There are certain words or phrases we dare not speak aloud on public telephone lines or on the Internet for fear of being subjects of intense scrutiny by federal investigators.

Those who hold jobs today often work long hard hours for low wages and fear the possibility of losing that job, sometimes over the slightest infraction. Without a job people are unable to provide for their families and maintain rent or house payments. Thus, in a sense, we cannot say we are free from servitude or forced labor.

This is why I applaud the lawyer who chose jail instead of submitting to a judicial order to recite the pledge in that Mississippi courtroom. It is why I no longer recite the pledge of allegiance when everyone around me is acting like zombies and reciting it.

I still stand with the crowd in reverence to the flag, however. I knew its glory when it really meant something. And I still believe this nation remains among the best places in the world to be living. I also believe it still may be possible to restore our nation to what it once was. I just refuse to recite a bunch of words that fail to properly describe a government awash in corruption, greed and self-interest.