“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So says every child, every morning, in every school in the United States. It seems quaint to us Britons, of course. But then, so does today’s annual celebration of the Puritans, of all people, as heroes of freedom of conscience.
Yet by all means give thanks for America, for the things to which every child there pledges allegiance every day.
First off, “the Flag of the United States, and the Republic for which it stands”. It is precisely that, a republic. It is not an empire. It is of laws, not of men. The man who is President is not the office. And even the office is not the law.
Nor is the American Republic a majoritarian tyranny. The Senate or the Electoral College may throw up anomalies, even occasional apparent outrages. But they are hugely successful preventative measures against far worse and more frequent outrages.
That Republic is “one nation”. It is equally one and a nation. It is not a colony of global capital or world government. A melting pot it may be, but it is not some sort of giant landing strip where everyone is entitled to be, since in that case no one would really belong there.
But what of “under God”? It means that the Republic acknowledges a higher moral law in all things, primarily the sanctity of each individual human life, whether of the unborn or of the very old, whether of Appalachian military heroes or of Iraqi women and children.
And it means that the Republic honours the traditions by, in, through and as which it has received that acknowledgement, drawing on them directly and explicitly in the organisation of its affairs. The phrase “the separation of Church and State” does not occur in the Constitution. If it did, then there would still be slavery in America.
That the Republic is “indivisible” means that it is invisible by poverty, racism, refusal to speak English, or anything else.
“Liberty” includes liberty from hunger, from ignorance, from preventable or treatable illness, from homelessness or squalor, from idleness, from illegal or otherwise unfair competition, from torture, from the “Patriot” Act, from avoidable wars, and from the whipping up of hostility to America abroad.
“Justice” includes a job, a decent home and standard of living, education, healthcare, strictly legal and strictly limited immigration, due process of law, national security, and peace.
And “for all” means not only for Wall Street. Not only for those who can afford health insurance, or college fees, or the best lawyers. Not only for those who can afford to avoid tax.
Not only for those who meet ethnic or gender quotas, or who can find their way around in Spanish as well as in English. And not only for those who can, and want to, keep their families away from military service.