Trish Propson Column, published September 4, 2016
Gannett Post Crescent
A legal immigrant raised her right hand swearing allegiance to the United States of America.
“I hereby declare, … that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”
Leaving the oppression and chaos of her homeland, she emigrated to live out her values of freedom, honor, and personal responsibility. The magnitude of the Naturalization Oath was not lost on her. She understood, at her core, she would now be an integral productive part of the citizenry of the United States of America.
Would our culture look different today if we pledged a similar oath of allegiance to these great United States? As society battles between whose lives matter most– black, white, blue, wealthy, poor, women and unborn perhaps we have lost an important truth. All lives matter. And that truth begins and ends with each of us as individuals.
Doctors swear oaths as do soldiers, lawyers, pastors, police officers, Boy Scouts and countless others. These oaths have a common theme, to protect, defend, and uphold the honor and values of an individual’s nation, community, and profession. None of these oaths hold language that blames, hates, or elevates one life above another. Like the emigrating citizen, they pledge to uphold and serve others ahead of themselves with honor and integrity. All lives matter.
We forget that truth when we get caught up in our beliefs, causes, political nonsense, and untrue social media storms. Instead, we espouse opinions, slander public figures, exalt criminals, and spread false rumors, often without thinking. Our volatile culture screams selfish ambition, conceit and arrogance, insisting that only the life we deem important at the moment matters. We blame the whole for errant actions of a few. Commitment to personal opinions and self-preservation eludes common sense and protecting the wellbeing of our neighbors is an afterthought. I’m guilty of it myself.
A civilized culture declines rapidly once it turns on itself. A house divided cannot stand. One path towards change in our nation is for individual citizens to take personal responsibility for their own words and actions.
Ronald Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
The Apostle Paul suggested a better way to uphold human value.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…”
We can’t merely embrace the idea of caring for others. We can’t just talk about being humble and doing good. We need to take action as individuals to influence change in our immediate communities.
Would the news across our land sound different if individual citizens begin to take personal responsibility for words and actions in their own circles of influence? If we daily pledge allegiance to our nation, community, profession, and fellow citizens, and actually live out that pledge through sincere, sacrificial service, would our nation appear stronger and more united to a watching world?
Returning students across the U.S. will begin to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily next week.
“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.”
All lives matter. Ghandi is credited with the thought that we must be the change we want to see in the world. I agree. Will you consider reciting the National Pledge of allegiance daily, or writing your own personal oath– one that reminds you to uphold your own values, integrity, and honor? Will you commit to put others ahead of yourself? If we unite together for the good of the whole instead of fighting against one another to preserve self, perhaps we can change our culture. Perhaps we can return to ‘one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL’– a great nation where all lives matter, starting with our own.