I used to have a web site called Random Rants. I spent a lot of time sharing my thoughts and opinions there, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a good rant, so consider yourself forewarned:)
I’ve seen several posts on my Facebook newsfeed lately regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “In God We Trust” on our currency. The discussions are whether recital of the Pledge of Allegiance should be mandatory in US schools and whether the phrase In God We Trust should appear on our currency. The comments on these posts can get quite heated.
The Pledge of Allegiance
Regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, a majority of people argue that recital of the Pledge should be mandatory and should start the school day. While this was standard practice when I was a child, as an adult I tend to see things differently. For one thing, the US was founded on the principles of freedom, and the First Amendment of the US Constitution grants every citizen of the United States the freedom of speech (also sometimes referred to as “freedom of expression”). What this means is that we may communicate our opinions and ideas using our body and property, and as such, we may express our opinion of the government (and anything else) in any way we so choose. The First Amendment gives us the right to disagree with our government. Sure, kids probably don’t refuse to recite the Pledge because they don’t like the US; in most instances, I’d say the decision to make recital of the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory usually isn’t made by the kids in the schools but by some adults or organizations on their behalf.
What comes to mind when I think of rooms full of young people reciting a pledge to their country is crowds of Hitler’s Youth raising their hands in salute or young cadets marching in formation to the beat of a drum as they head off to war. Yes, it’s an extreme vision, but when you think about it, why is forcing children to pledge allegiance to a country just because they live there considered good? As I said, this country was founded on the principle that all humans are created equal. Why should we make young minds pledge allegiance (by rote, no less) to a country when they’re only just beginning to form opinions and ideas of the world?
“If you don’t like this country, get out!” Why? As an adult, I choose to pledge allegiance to my country; I love the country in which I live, mainly because of the freedoms it affords me. If I disagree with something my government does or says, I can stand tall and state my opinion without fear of vanishing in the dead of night and turning up dead. But that’s a choice I make; every citizen of the US has a right to make that choice for himself. If someone doesn’t like something our government does (and believe me, I think we can all attest to feeling this way sometimes), they have every right to, and SHOULD, speak up and let their feelings be known, not be told to “get out!” The government of the United States is “for the people, by the people” and if the people don’t agree with something it does, they SHOULD share their opinion! It’s what our country was founded upon and was one of the very reasons our founding fathers left the country(ies) they were born in!
In God We Trust
Regarding the phrase In God We Trust that appears on our currency, to be honest, I don’t care one way or the other whether it’s there. I’m (probably) not a believer, and at best, I’m an agnostic. I won’t even argue that the Constitution also gives us the right (and freedom) to choose the beliefs we wish to follow (it absolutely DOES grant us that right). I’d rather focus on the arguments I’ve seen on those posts. They run the gamut from “the US was founded by Christians” to “of course it should, because this country believes in God and doesn’t bow down to a false god like those filthy ragheads!” Another common comment I saw went something like “Yes! We need God in our lives more, people don’t even have dinner with their families anymore, they don’t go to church anymore, this country is falling apart because people don’t have God in their lives!”
All of these comments bother me, not because of the belief people have in God, but because of the nonsense they’re stating. Let’s break them down:
“The US was founded by Christians.”
According to sources cited on Wikipedia, “of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics. Among the Protestant delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 28 were Church of England (or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), eight were Presbyterians, seven were Congregationalists, two were Lutherans, two were Dutch Reformed, and two were Methodists.” Additionally, a few were anti-clerical Christians (Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin), and some (Thomas Paine, for example) were deists. Some historians even argue that some of the most prominent founding fathers were theistic rationalists.
“…this country believes in God and doesn’t bow down to a false god like those filthy ragheads!” Regardless of what our founding fathers believed, the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, the US has no “official” religion, and no one in the country can be prohibited from freely exercising the religion of their choice. So those “filthy ragheads” have every right to get on their knees for Allah! And printing the words In God We Trust won’t make that commenter any less of a bigot than he is now.
“Yes! We need God in our lives more, people don’t even have dinner with their families anymore, they don’t go to church anymore, this country is falling apart because people don’t have God in their lives!”
This comment gets me every time. This person is essentially blaming the absence of God for the lack of family and community. She thinks that by forcing God on people, they will miraculously change their ways and become better people. The fact that people don’t have dinner with their families is directly related to the fact that they don’t have God in their lives? How so? As I stated above, I’m a non-believer…but I have dinner with my husband nearly every night. My beliefs, or lack thereof, do not determine whether I’m a good person or not. The presence or absence of God in my life doesn’t make me want (or not want) to have dinner with my family. All that needs to happen for people to change their ways is for…GASP!…people to change their ways!!!
A LOT of the comments I saw on the In God We Trust post were bigoted and hateful. I replied that words on a piece of paper won’t make people “better” if they’re bigots. In God We Trust won’t do anything to change someone from hating the “filthy ragheads” or make them have dinner with their families more often if they don’t want to. Those are things that THEY have to do on their own.
We should not need God to tell us to be good people; we should aspire to be good people regardless of what we, or others, believe.
Disclaimer: For the record, this post is not at ALL about, or against, religion. I could not care less what anyone believes, what religion they are, etc. This post is about bigotry and hatred and my frustration at people thinking that what’s wrong with our country can be fixed by forcing other people to conform to what THEY approve of.