Memorial Day Tribute

U.S. Flag flown during Memorial Day celebration in Scituate

William Larson

U.S. Flag flown during Memorial Day celebration in Scituate

David Murphy, Contributing Writer

“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’m sure every student knows these words. We recite them every morning, every dawn of a new day. I’m sure you don’t even give it a second thought. It’s probably robotic, monotone–machinelike in implementation. But for today, for just one moment, take a second, and consider those words. 

Notice how, throughout this entire pledge, there is no mention of any man. Instead, the pledge refers back to the idea of America–to the flag–and the values it stands for. “One Nation… with liberty and justice for all.” When we utter these words, we are not pledging ourselves as subjects of any one man; rather, we are demonstrating our loyalty to the ideas and fundamental values our nation was founded on. When we recite that pledge, it reminds us, word by word, why America is worth fighting for.

In many ways, it is easy to consider America a lost cause, a place where civility and impartiality take a backseat to violence and hatred. A country that, throughout its history, has done some truly terrible things that seem contrary to its cited principles. A nation, where so many have declared the American Dream dead, constituting but a shell of its former glory. This cannot be our fate. If we fail here, we lose centuries of progress–of sacrifice. If we fail, we lose more than a country: We lose an identity

To grasp this concept, it is essential to understand the early years of our founding. All Americans know how this country was born, yet this often overshadows the more important question: What was it founded on? America was based on the belief that “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It was founded by those tired of absolute rule by a sovereign 3000 miles away–groundwork laid with ideas of enlightenment and revolution. 

And so, as cannons boomed and bullets whizzed through the air, former colonists, wielding the great hammer of war and fires of revolution, forged a new identity–a uniquely American one. A new sense of uniformity that reflected the ideals of freedom, liberty, and democracy. 

 In many ways, America is still an experiment–one that remains ongoing. And so what we do as Americans, as citizens of this country, determines the path that experiment takes. Depending on what we do here today, the American experiment may be remembered as imperfect but righteous, proving that the government of the people was possible. Or it may be regarded as a failure, the fantasies of those who believed man’s inherent evil could be contained by mere institutions. Our ancestors understood the magnitude of this struggle. Why shouldn’t we?

We don’t have the luxury of not caring. We don’t have the option to declare this nation a lost cause or dying. We have to care because without caring comes disdain and disregard for not only the country but the rights it was founded upon. Regardless of our shortcomings, we have a responsibility to keep “moving forward, always forward, for a better America, for [that] endless enduring dream. This is [our] mission, and [we] will complete it.”

There are many ways to display faith in the idea of America, but one way I can express my gratitude is to pledge myself, not to any government or man, but to that “flag” and “the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”