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The Pledge of Allegiance, deconstructed

I pledge allegiance

Like knights of old vowed their honor and strength, their arms and lives to do their duty, I face my flag and make the same oath to my country and all of its myriad inhabitants. Always, tears prick behind my eyes because I am giving my word of honor from the deepest part of my being.

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To the flag

I make my vow to the flag that guarded the dark night and "perilous fight" over Ft. McHenry on Sept. 13, 1814, the flag that rose over Guadalcanal and the jungles of Vietnam, the flag that rose triumphant over the smoking ashes of the twin towers in New York, the flag that now hangs without a breeze on our moon. To the flag that stands on the stages of schools, that waves at every baseball game, that flaps in front of post offices in sleepy villages and great cities. To those sacred flags that grace the caskets of honorable men and women who gave their lives for their country, the knights of the 20th century; flags that are folded in silence and presented to a proud widow or son or daughter choking back tears. Always the melancholy sound of taps echoes in the chill air to mark the solemn passing of a soldier who earned his or her flag.

Of the United States of America

The flag is the symbol of our country, the country with a welcoming statue in the New York harbor — "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" — the land of liberty and opportunity for beautiful diversity, the land of merchants and inventors, of students and rebels, of clerks, dancers, musicians and artists: a melting pot of races and heritages filling our 50 states, each with its own government, unified under a single Constitution. My tears and my pledge are for all, for my country, for my neighbor down the street and for the fullness in my heart.

And to the Republic for which it stands

Herein lies the true power of the U.S.A. We, the people of all of the States in the United States of America, elect representatives to govern and carry out our wishes, the wishes that these representatives perceive as belonging to the majority of us. Our voices are heard and felt and acted upon by our elected representatives. And so, we direct our government, instead of being led by kings, principalities or powers beyond our control. This system, called a representative democracy, may not be perfect, but it's the best that mankind has devised in its history to accommodate a large, diverse population desiring maximum individual and personal freedoms.

One nation, under God

Somehow our stamina, guts, and grit have managed to hold us all together as one nation since the Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787. And that's pretty remarkable, considering the wide variety of people who live in this country.

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Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all

We are incapable of being divided, so long as we choose to be one, so long as we choose liberty and freedom, the right to live one's own life, for each individual in the land; so long as we strive for justice and adhere to the principle of being fair to and for each person that we meet. Diversity is power.

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.

This is my pledge to our flag and our country, full of different people who are of one heart and mind when we must be. I know what every word means. And if called, I would lay down my life to protect the freedoms they represent.

Edna H. French is retired from the Federal Aviation Administration; her email is ednafrench@gmail.com.

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