Trump wants only pro-American history
If You Ask Me
If Joe Biden is elected president, he plans to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. We know this is true because Donald Trump told us so and Donald Trump is the first president since George Washington who has never told a lie.
Actually, Biden has never mentioned altering the words of the pledge, but Trump said he did after one group at the Democratic Convention skipped the two words in reciting it.
“The pledge,” I wrote in this newspaper in 2001, “has hardly had a moment’s peace” since it was written in 1892 for a magazine contest to celebrate the 500th anniversary of what was then celebrated as Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. It didn’t achieve official status until Congress made it part of the U.S. Code in 1942.
It may unsettle President Trump to know the pledge was authored by a socialist, of all people. Francis Bellamy, the winner of the contest sponsored by the Youth’s Companion magazine, had been a Baptist minister until his Boston congregation fired him for expressing “radical” views in his sermons.
The pledge quickly caught on and was just as quickly subjected to censorship and demagoguery. Bellamy’s original draft read, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with equality, liberty and justice for all.” But with the pledge being recited to start the school day all over this “indivisible” nation, some school boards weren’t too happy with their children calling for equality for blacks and women, so the word equality was edited out.
Then, in the 1920s, with immigrants under attack, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the veterans in the new American Legion lobbied to change the reference to “my flag” to “the flag of the United States of America,” so there’d be no confusion about what flag was being pledged to by one of those undesirable aliens from Ireland or Italy or points east.
After the pledge became official in wartime 1942, a few states decided to make its recitation mandatory in school. Some churches objected, saying public pledges of allegiance were due only to God. But the Supreme Court upheld the states and when children of Jehovah’s Witnesses wouldn’t stand and pledge, their classmates responded by beating them up.
This led to a second appeal and this time, the Court upheld the Witnesses, with Justice Robert Jackson writing, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.”
Finally, in 1954, with Joe McCarthy riding high and loyalty oaths all the rage, the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus and the Hearst newspapers convinced Congress to sandwich the words “under God” between “one nation” and “indivisible.”
The old pledge has lived in peace until now when the president and other officials, “high or petty,” have found it a handy tool for demagoguery in this dreadfully divided nation.
You can bet the pledge will get some attention from the new “1776 Commission,” announced last month by President Trump to establish “a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history” in the public schools.
The federal government has no power over the curriculum taught in local schools but that historical fact went unmentioned when Trump called what some schools teach about slavery and racism an insult to the country and its exceptionalism.
The president has also established a National Garden of American Heroes to contain statues honoring what he called some of the most famous names in American history, like Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King and George Washington. But so far, the only hero Trump has named is one Cesar Rodney of Delaware.
You remember the heroic Cesar Rodney, don’t you? But if you don’t, the president reminded us how Rodney, though “desperately ill from very advanced cancer, rode 80 miles through the night through a severe thunderstorm from Dover to Philadelphia to cast his vote for independence” in 1776. This is all true, except for the advanced cancer—he lived eight more years—but of greater importance, Rodney was from Delaware, home of a well-known candidate for president.
So in honoring Rodney, the owner of 200 slaves, Trump was able to attack Joe Biden for saying nothing when Dover removed his statue and put it in storage, pending “an overdue discussion about the public display of historical figures and events,” according to the mayor.
“Joe Biden said nothing as to his home state’s history,” said Trump, “and the fact that it was dismantled, dismembered and a Founding Father’s statue was removed.”
A fact checker found Cesar was indeed in storage, but with his “dismembered” head still on his shoulders.
Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.