I am proud to be a citizen of this great nation. And I come from a family that loved this country. My father and his brothers all served in World War II. So did my father-in-law, who was a retired Army Air Corps and later Air Force Major.
When the Vietnam War broke out, my generation was torn apart. But, when my place in the draft lottery indicated that I would be drafted, I enlisted.
I ended up not serving in that costly and unpopular war, due to a blood pressure spike during basic training. But I remain proud to have offered myself to serve my country, even though I had grave concerns about the war.
You see, I meant it when I learned as a child in elementary school to say these words: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I consider myself a patriot. It is my country right or wrong. When it is right, it deserves my support. When it is wrong it deserves my effort to put things right to the best of my ability.
In my adult life, the word of the Pledge of Allegiance have taken on deeper meaning. As a Christian, the words of Scripture remind me that, I have a loyalty above loyalty to my nation. My first citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
The words of The Pledge of Allegiance remind me that all nations, including this one, exist “under God” who claims our ultimate allegiance. And that the second sentence of the Pledge, which envisions “liberty and justice for all,” was God’s vision long before it was our nation's.
As we face the annual observance of Independence Day, may we remember the words of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as well.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Honesty compells any thinking person among us to admit that the vision of our forbears, our heritage and the Pledge of Allegiance is not completely fulfilled. Liberty and Justice are not yet available for all in equal measure. And we do not yet fulfill our nation's vision of a society where all people are treated as they were created - equally and justly.
The words of Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty are a reminder for us of America’s sometimes forgotten greatness:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
That is a vision still worthy of our allegiance.