My country ‘tis of thee

By Kate Klimesh, Editor-in-Chief

Living for over 30 years in this county, I’ve been very grateful that so many issues, concerns and problems happening in the bigger cities didn’t really affect me here at home. I’ve felt very lucky and grateful. Here people wave to each other, they’re friendly to people they may not know, and for the most part work together to get things done that they can be proud of in the community, state and nation. They’ve sacrificed, they’ve served, and they care – especially our Veterans. The stunning Winneshiek County Veterans Memorial illustrates that pride in service.

Instilled in me since childhood, to me standing with hand over heart, saying the simple Pledge of Allegiance is my own personal way to remember all that our Veterans have given for this great country and the freedoms it offers, and pledge to do all I can to support the way of life and values for which we have so valiantly fought as a nation. It’s my reminder to do my part in making things better as I am able, and to give what I am able to in support of the community in which I live, and anywhere I happen to go.  

Monday, I saw something that struck me as odd when, during the opening Pledge of Allegiance at the Winneshiek County Supervisors Meeting, two supervisors stood hands down, with lips still for the entire pledge. It just felt odd, not saying it together with everyone.

It deeply hit home: the division of the nation had come to my quiet corner of paradise. 

When asked why during her after-meeting public hours, Supervisor Shirley Vermace answered, “I recite it in my head and in my heart. Everyone does it in their own way. I’m a strong advocate of this democracy.” I didn’t get a chance to ask Supervisor Mark Faldet his reasoning behind it. 

It got me thinking, are we as a nation past the Pledge of Allegiance? Are we simply too far divided to agree on a single common statement that we can recite as a unifying thread among our dealings together? Is it a common occurrence to simply change a person’s pledge to the flag to be whatever one wants to believe in? How is this unifying as a country?

The current U.S. Flag Code states, “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.” There’s some that question what this stands for in today’s world. There’s some who think twice about reciting the pledge, as they aren’t happy with or the direction the country is taking.

Maybe in today’s world, this is too much to truly ask of the American people. So many people talk of the democracy (the will of the majority prevails) they wish to uphold, when the pledge states the country is a republic (guided/ruled by the constitution). 

And unfortunately, we are truly a divided nation. Anytime free and open dialog is shut down, the path moving forward together closes. Communication and compromise for the greater good is important to forward progress, but not using absolutes to quiet the opposition.

Even liberty and justice have people on specific sides, with each side certain their view upholds the downtrodden, whether criminal or victim. Is it worthwhile to find middle ground?

The point of a pledge is a verbal statement of commitment. Something you believe and freely, even proudly, state to tell others of your commitment. Is it too late for people to work together toward a common end, if we cannot all agree on what that statement should be; if we can’t all agree which direction we should be taking?

I sure hope we have the time to figure it out.

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