As one who is saddened by the less-than-respectful behavior paid the national anthem at sporting events, conventions, etc. (slouching, talking, laughing, moving, hats not removed — you name it), I was pleased when City Councilman Daryl Dudley pressed for and succeeded in adding the Pledge of Allegiance to the ceremonial opening of city meetings. And, like Mr. Dudley, I was surprised it was not part of the normal procedure.
I see nothing sinister nor passé in showing respect for the national colors, the national anthem and this nation that was built on freedoms that few other countries enjoy. Is it asking too much to ask citizens to stand at attention for the 10-12 seconds required to recite the pledge, a tradition performed at each daily session of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives?
The vivid memory remains of the utterly loathsome practices of the juvenile anti-war and anti-U.S. protesters of the 1970s (e.g., flag-burning, attacking authority, and the desecration of law enforcement, reserve military establishments and ROTC facilities, along with disrespect to returning personnel). They were and are an embarrassment. I believed we had outgrown such immaturity and moved beyond the rabble-rousers' notions of love of country as fascist and patriotism as purely jingoistic.
Consequently, I was taken aback when First and Sixth Ward council members Paul Sturtz and Barbara Hoppe voted "no" to reciting the pledge. It did not surprise me that Sturtz and Hoppe would have issues with the requirement, but I found it odd that they would voice opposition in a forum to which they were elected to represent their constituents. I have some difficulty believing their stand will win the respect of their electorates.
Ms. Hoppe and Mr. Sturtz are entitled to believe as they choose and may do so without review or recrimination, as we we all may. Nevertheless, as elected public servants, their actions are subject to community oversight and the resultant consequences.
While I do not deny them their right to their opinions, I find their reasoning specious — perhaps "without merit" is a better term. Mr. Sturtz's reminisces of an unhappy experience of robotic recitals in elementary school along with describing the pledge today as "problematic" and "divisive" are not convincing. Ms. Hoppe's account that neither Lincoln nor Washington said the pledge and notion that people might be uncomfortable participating on camera likewise stretch the imagination.
As a native-born (senior) citizen and a member of many national organizations, I have never felt put-upon or embarrassed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public. In grammar school, we not only raised the flag and mouthed the pledge on a daily basis, we also recited a Bible verse every Monday morning. There was no penalty for not having a Bible verse, nor was anyone embarrassed or emotionally scarred by the ceremony.
In America, we observe a number of traditions — along with the time-honored pledge, there are Veterans Day, Flag Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, yes, Christmas. Must we curtail or cancel any of these observances for fear of offending the non-native or those easily offended? When we visit other sovereign nations, are we not expected to observe with courtesy their cultures and traditions?
Finally, as a caution to anyone who seeks to or does represent an electorate as a public servant, you are free to take a position on any issue — it may be controversial or unpopular — it is your choice to make. However, in so doing, one must realize there are consequences for every action — you are held accountable for your "attaboys" and your "oops" as well. I doubt seriously that a public stand against the Pledge of Allegiance will generate a wave of support.
It is my observation that those who equate displays of patriotism as ultranationalistic or outdated tend to assume the mantle of progressive intellectuals. Definition of a true intellectual: "One who can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger."
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.