R.E.S.P.E.C.T. it ain’t just a song…
In recent days I have been invited to re-evaluate my stance on a number of hot topics, most of which circle around to religion and politics. You know, those things that aren’t polite to converse about in mixed company.
I have posted in the past regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, but with a new surge of people posting status updates decrying the audacity of anyone to “take offense” at the words and declaring that if those words are offensive to you, you should just leave the country I thought I might touch upon it again.
Thing is, it isn’t about “offense”…it has nothing to do with being politically correct (anyone who knows me will tell you that is not one of my strong suits). It is about the promised freedoms that American citizens are entitled to.
Without even getting into the decidedly uncomfortable idea that we require our children to recite a pledge of allegiance at all, with no real understanding of what they are saying, we must realize that the insertion of those two little words into the pledge was done as a litmus test in a time when a government blinded by fear of those “godless communists” engaged in witch hunts against its own people.
Somehow, forcing those two words into the already established pledge was going to protect us from the Reds. Forget that “godless” does not equal “communist”. Forget that one man’s god is another man’s demon or another man’s fictitious character. Forget that our constitution guarantees each and every citizen the right to worship or not worship whichever god in whichever manner he or she believes in or doesn’t believe in.
Now, you believe in God (whichever one) and you want those words in the pledge? Fine. Say them. I won’t stop you. Moreover, I will defend your right to do so.
However, for those of us who believe in a different God, and want to use his or her name or for those who do not believe in any god, we are likewise entitled to omit those words or substitute our own…which then could make the whole pledge thing a little murky, sort of like singing Happy Birthday to someone who uses different names and everyone sings the name they know the person by.
Taking those words out, restoring the pledge to its original form is not an attack on Christianity or on belief in God. It is not an attempt to remove God from the school. Neither is refusing to allow organized prayer or reading from the bible (as anything other than a study of the literature of it…which honestly I would support…I firmly believe in studying the history of sacred texts to put them in context).
In any class room where the religion of any given student is unknown, or where there is a mix of religions, as there will always be in a public school, there must be equality. This demands that religion is left out of the equation, lest we spend all day just meeting the requirements of every religion. Just dealing with all the different sects of Christianity could take hours.
Instead, perhaps we should stop seeing offense in asking for the things our constitution guarantees us anyway and start offering respect to those around us. Respect is a two way street after all.
As I said on twitter yesterday, “Requesting respect for oneself must always come with the pricetag of respecting EVERYONE around you to the same degree.”
All of that said, let me also address the idea that anyone who is offended by a lack of respect for their religion, or lack thereof, is un-American or should leave the country…let us remember that dissent is the definition of our nation. We were formed by those who disagreed with how their government was running their lives.
The right to dissent, the right to speak our disagreement is a part of our constitution. It is a part of our country’s DNA. It defines us. Just like our right to worship or not worship, to believe or not believe…embrace that and understand what it is to be an American.
A patriot is someone who loves their country, not someone who passes some religious test, or parrots back the party line. Anyone willing to exclude others based on religion, skin color, ideals, sexual orientation or political leaning can not, in this country, claim patriotism because that exclusion goes against the founding ideals of what our country is meant to be.
I am a Pagan. I am bi-sexual. I am liberal (with moderate leanings). I am white, with Native American blood. I am a Patriot, I love this country and I will defend the rights I am given as a citizen of this country. Including your right to say things I don’t agree with.