As soon as I saw the ruling, I could see the headlines. It was a no-brainer. About as predictable as George W. calling everyone who doesn’t agree with him an “evil-doer.”
I’m talking about the “under God” ruling and the firestorm after, including all who rushed to be more “religious” and more “patriotic” than thou.
Within hours of the ruling, the Christian Coalition, along with the Traditional Values Coalition, sent out press releases condemning it, and then utilizing the ruling as a way to mobilize their constituents for the 2002 elections. This ruling shows, they proclaimed, the importance of the 2002 elections and appointing conservative, God-fearing judges, free from left-leaning influences.
Wouldn’t they have been surprised to know that the pledge was written by a socialist by the name of Francis Bellamy? Bellamy, the brother of author Edward Bellamy, who wrote two utopian socialist novels, Looking Backwards and Equality, was a Baptist minister. Francis Bellamy was a Christian socialist and wrote the pledge to reflect his ideals of a united country with liberty and justice for all. written in 1892, the country was still churning from a defining struggle against racism, the legacy of slavery and the Civil War.
Two changes were made to the original pledge. The first change was from “I pledge allegiance to my flag …” to “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America …” The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the American Legion did that in the early 1920s. Bellamy objected to the change. Maybe the idea that all people – Black, white, Brown, Asian – would call it “my flag” was too much for them. After all, it was the DAR that refused to allow Marian Anderson, a Black opera singer, to perform in Constitution Hall in 1939.
The second change was adding “under God,” during the height of Cold War McCarthyism and the trashing of democratic rights and liberties. “Under God” was probably inserted because it helped the right wing weed out those atheistic children, making it easier for the FBI to harass the families.
Can’t we have a national dialogue on this without getting whipped up into a mob? What all people who believe in the separation of church and state, not just atheists, don’t like is taking religion and forcing it down the public’s throat. Like judges who put up the Ten Commandments in a court, or public funding of vouchers, or the “faith-based initiatives” of the Bush administration, or telling a woman she doesn’t have reproductive freedom. Why doesn’t that get the media and politicians in an uproar?
Or the fact that religious zealots are organizing to get their ideological clones appointed to the courts. Or the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft holds Bible study on Federal government time. Shouldn’t he be trying to figure out who sent the anthrax, instead studying for Armageddon?
How about another change – a compromise? Why not, “one nation, under a power far greater than myself, indivisible …” like out of AA? I always thought after Sept. 11 we didn’t need to go to war – what the country really needed was one big group therapy session.
Personally – even for an atheist – believing in something larger than oneself is part of the human experience. For me it’s science, it’s the multi-racial, multi-national working class, it is the beauty and diversity of nature, humankind and the planet, it is a love of work, children and fighting for what is right.
These far-right fanatics are going into a feeding frenzy – watch out, Berkeley, Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco – they may try to move in en masse and change your radical, free-thinking style. They may also support Enron taking over your utilities. Oh, wait – they already did.
Don’t fall into any California, atheist, left or liberal bashing on this. Take a deep breath and exhale. And think about which is more detrimental to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – this ruling or the Christian Coalition?
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org