Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deep Breath

I've been mulling this one over in my brain for a couple of weeks, and I still don't know how to handle it. But it's just sitting on my brain and I need that space, so I'm going to let the issue occupy space here for people much wiser than I am to think about it.

X-man knows that MacTroll and I don't believe in god. We're pretty much secular humanists. We've been that way for a very long time. For me I think it was when I started inserting the word "dolphins" instead of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance at school and in hymns at church when I was in fifth grade. I don't understand why religious beliefs have anything to do with patriotism. 

And if you know anything about the Pledge of Allegiance you know that the writer didn't include those two words in the original. And that it wasn't until 1954 (Those damn 1950's!) that it was inserted. Now, just because we don't believe in a god, many gods, whatever, doesn't mean that MacTroll and I aren't spiritual. I do think the world has a certain ebb and flow, but I think it's probably closer to Buddhism (if I had to pick a religion) than most anything else. 

Anyway, the first week of school, X-man came home and said. "Mom, my school is 'under God'." I shook my head confused. "What?" Did I drop him off at St. Matt's by accident?

"We say 'under God,' every morning," he said. "Is that true. Is it a God school?"

Then it occurred to me that he says the Pledge of Allegiance. Something I say every Thursday at Rotary, but silence myself at the "under God" part.

Then, it turns out that someone at NBC omitted those words of the Pledge during a golf broadcast, and got in heavy doodoo for it. 

I've told X-man that it's up to him if he wants to say "under God" or not when he recites it in the morning. That I certainly don't mind if he says the words or if he doesn't, and whether he wants to believe in a god, or many gods is totally up to him. If he can stand respectfully quiet and still during the pledge or if he wants to recite it and not say those two words, that's okay with me, too. 

But in my heart, I wish they'd just take the damn words out. And this is one of those political issues where 80 percent of the nation is Christian... but in my heart, those two words put up a wall between myself and other non-God folks and the country that we were born into. I feel it excludes me from feeling like I can fully participate or be accepted because the assumption that I'm Christian is so basic that it's in our country's pledge and let's face it... even the money I buy things with all have "In God We Trust" printed on them. It's like a marketing campaign. And I find it troublesome. Not because I have any issue with people who do believe in God. I don't. But because it feels very -- pushy and exclusionary to those of us who don't. And I'm not sure that god has anything to do with how the government runs or me paying for things with cash. 

It makes me have to just pretend they're not there. Like some annoying clothing label on the chest of a man's polo shirt or a baby's onesie. And you know me, I hate not seeing things. 

Worse yet, I hate when my son notices them, and then comes a deep philosophical discussion that maybe his parents, who he loves dearly, are in the minority when it comes to things that lots of people think of as "right" and "wrong." 

In the case of the pledge... I don't think there is a right or a wrong. I think it's just -- unnecessary. And, strangely, that's a lot harder to explain to a child than religious differences.

This is, after all, a child who brought home a biography of Muhammad Ali from the school library the other day. He didn't blink that Muhammad changed his name because of his faith in Islam. But he consistently gets teary eyed when we read stories about the civil rights movement. He can't believe people would be so dumb and cruel to exclude someone from having certain rights because of the color of his or her skin. He got teary eyed at the baseball game on 9/11 when I explained to him why the "mom" was throwing out the first pitch of the game as a 9/11 survivor (who now lives in St. Louis). But the best thing my child said that day was, "We don't have any more room in the world for bad guys, Mom."

And he's right. So you know, even though the whole thing bugs me... it's not worth getting my panties in a bunch. 

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