By: Shar Porier.
The Banks County News
July 17, 2002
Let freedom ring
I watched as a dozen little cub scouts held shaking fingers in salute as they said the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the scout meeting. I held my tiny hand over my heart.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America
one nation, indivisible
In 1953, I first learned the Pledge of Allegiance through their recitation as my parents, den leaders, led the boys (and my brothers) patiently over the many-syllabled words that we had yet to understand.
They took the time to explain indivisible. Dad said it meant we as Americans were all one and that we would always stand together because we all believed in the American way, in freedom.
I liked that. It made me feel a part of something truly grand and admirable.
Then, one day we said the Pledge different. It was now one nation under God, indivisible...
It was confusing to me at the time. I did not understand why the reference to God needed to be included. We were supposed to be a nation that kept church and state separate.
That was one of the reasons people came here. To make a life free of religious constraints and mandates initiated by governments. At least that was what I had been taught in history.
While some pioneers brought with them their particular form of belief, others came to escape dogma, period.
As my budding mind sought to reconcile the paradox, I decided to continue saying the Pledge without the addition. After all, just what God were they talking about? The Christian God? And whos Christian God? The Catholics? The Protestants? The Methodists? The Lutherans? The Baptists? Every religion seemed to have its own version of who God was and who knew Him best. My-Gods-better-than-your-God type of mentality. What about the Hebrew God? What about people who didnt believe in God?
It seemed to me to be an affront of our countrys open-mindedness, to our liberty as freethinkers.
Though many people grumbled at dinner tables about it (Yes, there were those who opposed it..), the times were far from being open enough to do anything.
There was a lot of fear being spread around.
After all, we went to bed virtually every night with thoughts of A-bombs dropping from the skies on us from our Communist enemies. In school, there were the duck-and-cover drills.
Compounding the fear was the madman of the 50s, Sen. Joe McCarthy. He sent the country reeling in his form of terror. His irrational bigotry, mind-bending method of guilt by association and unwarranted accusations, threatened a freedom we had come to cherish - that of free speech.
Oddly enough, his hunt failed to include one of the truly subversive and anti-American movements known as the American Nazi Organization. This hate-mongering group and subsidiaries provoked just as much fear among Americans of both white and color, as well as people of the Jewish religion and Catholics.
One didnt want to bring down the holy inquisition on oneself, no matter how patriotic one was. So, to say anything about those two words would have been asking for trouble. It would be un-American.
Now, almost 50 years later, someone has challenged the words and a court actually agreed the words shouldnt be in there.
Wow! I was truly surprised. And pleased.
Maybe now, the Pledge could go back to its original form, free of religious trappings. The way it should be. The way it was meant to be. The way it had existed through our history.
In the wake of all the arguments and diatribes against changing the Pledge, Ive found myself mulling over whether or not we truly are one nation under God.
I thought about the things Americans have done to each other and to other people, all in the name of God. Americans have oppressed their own people, other Americans - different races, women, even children. Maimings and killings have been done in the name of God.
I think the doctrine of the dollar is far above any doctrine relating to human decency in the Unites Sates of America today.
Ill bet the men of Enron and WorldCom were good, church-going men. Like our politicians, who have roused suspicions of numerous crimes from under-handed business dealings to ill-gotten campaign contributions. Like our clergy who prey upon the young and meek, or whod rather watch acts of sex or another who, back in 1980, had $9 million in a Swiss bank account from money gathered at revivals attended by tens of thousands of loyal followers.
Who we are as a nation is not defined by the words under God. It is defined by the words one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Arent those the heart of the Pledge?
Some say this isnt the time to contest the words under God.
I, on the other hand, ask, What better time than now?
Religious connotations do not belong on our Pledge. They do belong in our hearts, and even more importantly in our actions. Religious convictions, no matter how unconventional remain a private issue, quite separate from our government.
Let freedom ring!
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.
By: Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
July 17, 2002
On a roll
Trust me when I say that I dont like to do this. Its never a good idea to discuss your weird dreams in public. There are already enough people out there that think I should be committed. But this dream was different. I was on trialcharged with Toilet Paper Negligence.
I fully expect to get hammered for revealing all this. And in part, thats because it has all the dangerously sexist connotations associated with such important male/female debates as whether the toilet seat should be left up or down by men.
When I stop to think about it, Im sure my weird dream has something to do with my unspoken duty to make sure that we have a sufficient supply of toilet paper on hand at all times. In a house full of women, its not a part-time job, its a career position.
Since Im clearly not the biggest consumer of toilet paper, I have no idea how I actually came to hold such an important position in the toilet paper hierarchy. As a bachelor, it never crossed my mind that one day I would be expected to buy toilet paper by the ton as opposed to the roll.
But what I learned after marriage and fielding three daughters was that with toilet paper, there is no in-between: you are either drowning in rolls of paper or there is none at all. And the scary part is the fact that it only takes 24 hours to get from one to the other.
By my calculations, were dragging at least an acre of processed trees through our house each week. And that doesnt include facial tissue. I think it would be cheaper for us to open our own paper mill.
Nonetheless, Ive tried to do a good job. I even took the Toilet Paper Sensitivity Class offered by the Continuing Adult Male Re-education Classes at the local womens college. And thats probably why the dream concerns me.
In my dream, it was a regular day around the house - I was mopping the floor, washing a load of clothes, and had just started dinner when I heard a scream. Based on the tone and tenor of the scream, I immediately stopped in my tracks, took off my apron, and bolted for the car.
But before I could get to the store, I found myself before a pitiless judge. Mr. Sartain, you are charged with Sec. 334 of the Toilet Paper Adequacy Act. How do you plead?
Your honor, Im innocent. I just stocked up on toilet paper an hour earlier. I dont have any idea what could have happened.
Thats when the prosecutor piped in. Judge, he did have an adequate supply on the premises, but it was not properly distributed. We have tapes of Mr. Sartain watching the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series when he should have been stocking the bathrooms.
But I only got to see the last out, I quickly interjected.
The judge wasnt impressed and wrinkled up her nose. And the quality of the paper?
Cheap, scratchy stuff, the prosecutor hissed.
When the judge turned to the jury, I noticed for the first time that there were no men on the jury. I was doomed and I knew it.
But just before sentence was imposed, I awoke with a start, sweaty and breathing heavily. I shook my head a time or two trying to distinguish the dream from reality, but it was useless.
It was the middle of the night and I could hardly see what I was doing, but it only took a minute or two to check all the bathrooms for toilet paper. And while I was at it, I made sure all the toilet seats were in the down position.
As far as I know, the jurys still out.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.