Earlier, I noted that I wasnt happy with either the inclusion of under God into the Pledge, or with the court decision that maybe-kinda struck it. I got comments, both from people who felt they had been scorned and abused as children because they wouldnt say it and from parents who wanted to spare their children from such opprobrium.
I thought about it a bit while driving the Boyyz around this afternoon, and talking to them came to the conclusion that, basically, I was right. Heres the deal:
Dealing with other people requires a certain flexibility. They dont know what you know, believe what you believe, or feel what you feel. The entire problem of politics is how to engage people and keep them engaged in some common purpose, even one as minor as obeying traffic signals.
Im not Jewish; but when I go to a Jewish wedding or funeral, I wear a yarmulke. Why? Out of politeness. Out of a willingness to respect the beliefs of others.
But, you say, thats exactly what the Pledge doesnt do! It doesnt respect my beliefs!
And thats the key, isnt it? On one hand, my desire is to respect the beliefs of others, where it doesnt materially affect me and regardless of my own beliefs in the matter. On the other, your complaint is an overwhelming desire that your beliefs be respected, no matter how trivial the violation, regardless of the impact on yourself or others.
Look, we’re not talking about material affect, about racist exclusion…about fighting to give your kid opportunity or dignity. And, in part, it’s this conflation of hurt feelings with Jim Crow or the Holocaust that is driving me nuts.
And in the other part, I think that including the under God clause was an embarrassing artifact of late 50s cultural rigidity. Id like to see it removed. But Id like to see it removed via a process which doesnt drive a further wedge between the folks in the U.S. who are clinging to the symbols of a nonexistent former consensus, and those who feel alienated from that consensus.
Were at a point in our history when we need to find the threads that bind us into a nation and a polity. Sadly, win at any cost politicians (c.f. Gray SkyBox Davis), and culture warriors of one stripe or another are happy to drive wedges, if they believe the fractures serve their short-term political interests.
And were at a point in our political history thats been made by single-issue warriors
for and against development, for and against abortion, for and against parks for dogs…and damn those on the other side of the issue.
I had the unique opportunity to have dinner once with then-State Senator John Schmitz. He was a genuine John Birch society member, elected from Orange County, who lost his office when it was discovered that his mistress had sexually abused their sons. (His daughter is also Mary Kay Le Tourneau, so Ill take as a given that the family had
). He was still in the Senate, and made a comment that Ive always remembered:
When Moscone ran the Senate, he and I used to fight hammer and tongs all day, then go out and have drinks over dinner and laugh about it. We differed on where we wanted the boat to go, but we recognized that we were in the same boat. These new guys would gladly sink the boat rather then compromise.
And thats why I think the decision was stupid, and why the forces behind it
the Church of My Wounded Feelings
and their soldiers, the Warrior Cult of the Single Issue
are incredibly destructive. And right now, we dont have the time for it.
My sons dont go to church, because Ive never gone to church (at one point, one of my exes went to what I jokingly called The Church of the Sandinista in Ocean Park, but I thought Jim Conn was a good guy, so Ill cut them some slack). I dont think they are abused by being asked to say under God in the Pledge, and when they ask me about it (each one has, either in kindergarten or first grade) I tell them the truth; that some people who believed in God a lot asked to have it added to the pledge, and got the President to add it. And that they will; have to make up their own minds about whether to say it or whether to believe in God when they are older. But that this is how they do it in their school, and when Im in a similar situation I say it, while thinking about all the people who do believe in God, and how cool it is that we all get to believe whatever we want in this society. But they get to decide.
If they told me they were being teased about it, Id ask them how it differs from all the other things kids get teased for childhood is a vicious time and talk to them about how to respond in a way that protects themselves emotionally without becoming the bullies they are afraid of.
Somehow this whole thing reeks of the kind of pecksniffery that wants to ban tag and dodgeball. It’s the same kind of thinking that bans Nativity scenes or menorahs from public buildings, and worries more about changing the names of sports teams than about bringing people along to actually change the world.