Count on the Pledge to kick up a little dust
The wind would whip across the wide-open playground each morning, regardless of the season, in front of the Margaret A. Mullen Elementary School — but there we’d be, lined up after calisthenics like pickle jars on a grocery shelf, waiting to go inside to get warm and start the day.
The national anthem would echo over the loud speaker, and then the stout, redoubtable Margaret A. Mullen herself — adorned with her flaming orange wig and deep purple dress — would appear from behind the four faux-Tuscan columns on the school’s portico, place her hand over her heart, and begin to speak.
She didn’t need a microphone.
“I pledge allegiance ...”
It was the early 1960s, and we were kids entering a world that was about to be turned upside down. We’d stand there and pull pranks to make each other laugh; but when an orange-coiffed, purple-frocked school principal took to the top of the steps and said “Children, repeat after me” ... well, you snapped to attention, placed our hands over where we were taught the heart was located, and repeated after her.
The Pledge of Allegiance is never far from being in the news — usually tied to a chicken-egg debate over whether being required to recite it restricts the freedoms it represents ... or whether exercising the freedom to abstain or protest insults those who gave their lives in the fight to provide those freedoms in the first place.
Good luck unscrambling that conundrum ... you’d have better luck getting the chicken to go back into the egg, so that it can be put back into the chicken.
Locally, the Pledge is noteworthy for the current practice of the Talent City Council to replace the traditional, opening recitation with a presentation led by individual members.
Members can still choose to lead the Pledge, of course; but exercising this freedom has led to unique moments — such as a member leading those in attendance in a deep-breathing exercise while keeping “their best intentions in mind,” before reminding all the session was being held “on the traditional territories of indigenous people.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives this past week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the eventual vote to impeach President Donald Trump by reminding the deeply divided membership that the Pledge testifies to our allegiance to our country — and not to any singular office-holder.
An oath to flag and country dates to the deeply divided nation of the Civil War, and has been modified several times before reaching its current form in 1954 ... while periodically being ground zero for controversies and debate.
Debates, however, are for another time and place. My inner prankish grade-schooler has taken over the portico.
Therefore, while I am not wearing an orange wig or purple dress, repeat after me ...
“I pledge allegiance ...”
See, right off the bat, we’re in trouble. I mean, I might have been married for 40 years ... but I’m still a guy, and therefore genetically predisposed to commitment issues.
“... to the flag ...”
As we all learned in school — or on “Jeopardy!” — red represents valor and strength; white represents innocence and purity, and blue represents perseverance and justice. All worthy attributes to which our meek, weak, guilt-ridden, sinful, procrastinating and judgmental selves should aspire.
The stars, as a jet-lagged President Barack Obama once said, are representative of each of the 57 states ... or varieties of Heinz pickles.
“... of the United States of America ...”
Permit me a little history here: Until 1923, when “... of the United States ...” was added, it was presumed that we were smart enough to know which flag we were talking about. The next year (apparently to avoid confusion with all those other ‘United States’) “... of America ...” was tacked on, reminding us of good ol’ Amerigo Vespucci — who decided what Columbus actually had discovered was an unexplored “New World” ... despite the presence of indigenous peoples living where the Talent City Council now meets.
“... We now consecrate the bond of obedience ...”
Wait ... no — that’s the Omega fraternity initiation from “Animal House.” Moving on ...
“... and to the Republic, for which it stands ...”
Sometimes a banana is just a banana.
“... one nation ...”
At least until we buy Greenland.
“... under God ...”
It’s Sunday, which is no time to get into heavy discussions about religion. (Yes, yes ... now all we need is an egg.)
“... indivisible ...”
Mathematically, this mean it can’t be divided without leaving a remainder — so, basically those of us unwilling to do the tribal march to the political fringes. Or, maybe we’re the square root of Pi — going on infinitely without a solution in sight.
“... with liberty and justice for all.”
This has been the conclusion of the Pledge of Allegiance since 1892. You’d think by now, we’d have figure out what it means.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin does his calisthenics at firstname.lastname@example.org