July 10, 2002


The Pledge

written by
Lynn Trenning

























For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

aired on WFAE, July 12, 2002

It was the 4th of July, following a California judgeís decision to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. There had been predictable outrage from pundits and politicians, and predictable cheering from pundits and atheists. The Supreme Court will hear the case eventually.

Meanwhile, I was on a bus in West Virginia, with about fifteen people. Our leader was a guy named Shaggy. We were traveling to the upper New River, where Shaggy and a couple of assistants would lead us through mild rapids. But not before he regaled us with all the potential death scenarios in our future.

As we crossed over gorges and plunged down circuitous narrow country roads, Shaggy warned us of rocks and bears and rattlesnakes. He reminded us of the movie Deliverance, and said the river folks are not very friendly. He discussed lacerations and blood and bruises and drowning. He told us to be good Americans and to offer assistance to anyone who needed it on the river. Someone on the bus called out "Happy Fourth of July."

Shaggy lit up like a firecracker, finished his warnings about whitewater rafting, and hopped on his political soapbox. He instructed us to use the ballot box to get rid of all the politicians who donít want prayer in school. He explained the importance of the 2nd amendment, and vehemently defended his right to pack heat. He told us to identify who is and who isnít a member of the NRA and to use that knowledge to choose our leaders. He told us Charleston Heston was the best President we would ever have. He spoke his truth to us.

Then he reminded us to recycle, and not to litter. "These children," he said, motioning to the little ones around us, "are our future." He beseeched us to teach them to keep the river clean. I noticed that he wore pink and purple toenail polish.

And I thought, this guy is a quintessential example of what makes America the best country in the world. And it has nothing to do with whether the words "under God" are in our pledge. Democracy, free speech, and power at the polls is what makes our country great. Dogged beliefs, audacious opinions, and the right to say them out loud are what make our country great.

In contrast to Shaggy, grandstanding politicians represent the worst that America has to offer. Their voices drown out the Pledge of Allegiance from Washington D.C. to Mecklenburg County. Rather than encouraging a legitimate discussion of the separation of church and state, they smother the debate in a chorus of bilious outrage. Despite this outcry, the judicial system will continue to perform its role of interpreting the law. But the siege of hyperbolic ramblings will carry on in the House and the Senate and local city halls and county commissions.

But back to Shaggy. I appreciate the strong opinions that prompted him to take advantage of a captive audience. I love the disparate personality components that make him unquantifiable to pollsters. He is an outspoken, long haired, nail polish wearing, gun advocate who earns his living at poverty level pay, yet is fanatic about recycling and keeping a river clean. Best of all, I love that he believes in the power of his vote. It makes me want to stand up and say The Pledge.

~ Lynn Trenning

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