- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

We used to salute the flag every morning before class started when I was in elementary school, and doing so gave us a sense of unity despite the fact that Jim Crow used to bolt the doors to facilities funded with my parents' tax dollars. And when the civil-rights movement heated up during the 1960s, the words "liberty and justice for all" were certainly not mere words in a recitation to a flag that waved the same in segregated school houses in Washington as it did on the battleships in Norfolk and elsewhere.
The movement and the pledge meant that where America had been was as important as where America was headed. Indeed, where America, or more precisely, Americans, are headed is the question of the day. To be sure, if our system of public education is any indication of where we're headed, then we've got further to go than we think. Our youngsters of today, in case you missed the editorial yesterday, can't even point to their home states on a map.
That's right. We spend inordinate time separating paper from plastic and segregating ourselves by race, religion and gender, while our children can't distinguish North Carolina from Virginia, according to results from the 2001 geography exam administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
This ought to be alarming, because if our children don't know where they are then they are lost. Not lost, of course, in the sense of a child being abducted or running away from home, although those are frightening circumstances. But the fact that our children often do not even know where they are should send off alarms. This is especially so in 2002, when globalization via any medium or voice of your choice means that not only is it important for our children to find common threads around the world, but that our families insinuate a sense of heritage and unity and patriotism right here in the good old U.S. of A.
It also is important in light of the idiots on the 9th Circuit of the Court of Appeals in San Francisco, who on Wednesday ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance violates the U.S. Constitution because of two words. You do know the pledge? How about the original pledge, which was written in the post-Reconstruction era by a Baptist minister and later appended by President Eisenhower when Americans were bristling at the encroachment of the Soviet Union? "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Those are the original words written by Francis Bellamy, a socialist, in August 1892, and here are, in his own words, his explanation of why he chose the words he chose:
"It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution … with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people … The true reason for the allegiance to the flag is the 'republic for which it stands' … And what does that vast thing, the republic mean? It is the concise political word for the nation the one nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make the one nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible … we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all."
In 1954, the year that the Supreme Court ruled in the Brown vs. Board of Education case that separate but equal schools for white and blacks were certainly unequal, the Knights of Columbus and others successfully lobbied Congress and the White House to add two words, "under God," making the pledge "both a patriotic oath and a public prayer," writes John W. Baer.
There are still other versions, Mr. Baer says: "Some pro-life advocates follow the words "liberty and justice for all" with "born and unborn," and liberals sometimes say "one nation, indivisible, with equality, liberty and justice for all."
Now, if you're one of those folks who subscribe to the same wicked and illogical theory as the appeals court, then we've got a problem. Ever since prayer was taken out of schools, and ever since the Pledge of Allegiance was stricken from the daily goings-on in our public schoolhouses, the public education system in this country has gone downhill leaving our children lost and unable to point out where they live on a map of the United States. Imagine if they had been given a globe? Guess they'd really be clueless.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a few more bits of information about Bellamy, who, Mr. Baer says, "stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there."
Bellamy was also chairman of the National Education Association's panel of state superintendents, the nation's largest and oh-so liberal teacher's union and the organization largely responsible today for not pointing out to our youngsters the relationship between Nebraska and Virginia.
Interestingly, Bellamy structured the quadrennial celebration of Columbus Day 1892 "around a flag-raising ceremony and a flag salute his 'Pledge of Allegiance.'" That same year, the pledge was published in the Sept. 8 issue of the "Youth's Companion," which Mr. Baer describes as the "Reader's Digest of its day."
Hope the little history lesson helps.


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