Circumference of Me – Chapter 15

15 Handing the shovel to others

When asked or ordered to perform a shit-shoveling chore, you must approach it as an opportunity, not as an aversion. Shovel with alacrity. In doing so, you are preparing yourself for the next step in the evolutionary process of the business world. When you readily accept delegated chores, you prepare yourself to delegate to others.

The art of delegation must be learned. One cannot master it by osmosis. Neither is it a genetic attribute. Unfortunately, the only way to learn how not to micromanage every detail of a project (or just do it yourself) and to delegate instead is to become a manager or project leader and be in a position of having to depend on others.

The ability to delegate – to shift shit-shoveling to subordinates – is one of the hardest management skills for young managers (and many older, established managers) to learn. For one thing, it goes against the grains of egocentric managers and the personal preferences of many workers.  Most good employees and a vast majority of managers – good, bad and in between – believe they can perform duties faster and get better results than anyone who works with them.

It’s not necessarily true, but that doesn’t make it any less so in their minds. Perceptions are realities.

If you truly want to become a corporate leader, you will have to move shit in various forms – liquid, clumps and hard, non-candy mountains – from one place to another for a time. In the Corporate Tribe, it’s called paying your dues. Ante up!

Follow a few simple rules: Take a shit chore and do it to the best of your ability. Show what you can do by simply doing it.  Make a niche for yourself that proves your value to the company.

Melvin sure does shovel shit well. And he does it without complaining!

If you are in a position of having to accept shit shoveled to you, and you are told to make something substantial out of it, make it the best pile of shit ever built in the history of the company.

Aspire to be a superb shit shoveler. In fact, be the freakin’ King of Shit-Shoveling. Learn not only to shovel it in efficient, bite-sized chunks, so to speak, but also how to use the exercise as a learning experience.

Few managers see the need, or want to learn how, to be good shit shovelers. Most managers won’t, but should, confide to subordinates why shit has to be shoveled, and how they fit into the shoveling channels. Few managers ever stop to tell a new employee: “Here’s a chore. It’s not glamorous; in fact, it’s a shit chore. But it’s important and here’s why . . .”

All new employees of any company should be versed in the practical reasons why shit flows downhill and how it is absolutely essential for aspiring executive managers to shovel it quickly and efficiently until there’s no more to shovel. They should know that it’s better to shovel shit than bitch and moan about having to do it, and let it build up until the only way to get rid of it is to bail.

Shit-shoveling should be viewed as a valuable lesson that should be embraced, figuratively, if not literally. Shoveling shit is a necessary part of the business process. It also is much better than the alternative – not having any shit to shovel, sitting home watching reruns of “Cops,” and glancing at the Help Wanted ads during commercials.

When it comes to paying your dues and shoveling your share of corporate shit, adopt the approach by Oliver Twist in the musical based on the Dickens novel: “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

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The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity

Support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) stands with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. after delivering keynote address at commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RC1EE4E00360

By Peter Wehner

Contributing editor at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC

Editor comment: 

Recently I read this article by Mr. Wehner.  I found it very interesting.  I have often thought that the Evangelicals sold their souls to the devil to get Roe vs Wade overturned.  That belief increases with each passing day.

While I found the article interesting and found the analysis by Tom Walker and the comments by Lee Guice even more compelling. 

I don’t respect many people and that list deceases with time.  These two gentlemen are on that short list of people I really respect.  I think their word are worth preserving for future reference. 

Social media is a snapshot in time and I find it difficult to find old posts – it is for that reason that have posted this article.  Their words are preserved for the next 5 years. 

Please  take the time to read them.

Tom Walker

July 8 at 6:30 AM · 

Evangelical Christianity puts itself in the way of great harm and damage to its witness when it aligns itself with an arrogant narcissistic moral wreck. Such is blasphemy on the cause of Christ, and I have several times personally witnessed the angry blowback against “Christian witness” because of this unholy alliance with an evil character. Yet, their blinders stay on as they refuse to acknowledge this tar pit. The costs will be high and severe. (Shaking my head.)

Lee Guice 

I am in 100% agreement, Tom. The New Testament is full of warnings about such wolves in sheep’s clothing. I hesitate to call anyone evil, but in this case I feel that it is justified.

Tom Walker—  Ed, I am sorry I am slow responding, but this past week has been intense and demanding, with many evenings occupied with doing reports until late, and lots of travel to Dallas and Little Rock and points in between. But it is Sunday afternoon now, and I now have a bit of a break to write. 

First, PLEASE READ the news article to which all these posts are attached. It is thoughtful, insightful, and respectful. 

Second, it is well documented our current President was immoral with prostitutes and he used lies, deceit, and financial wealth to cover this up. Also, his arrogance is massive, and he NEVER takes responsibility for mistakes or wrongs but always blames others and casts insults right and left. He is ambitious and narcissistic to the max, for he is all about himself as being a “genius“ and “master negotiator.” But, he only exerts power through divisiveness, threats, insults, discord, and setting factions at war with one another. 

In light of his behavior consider these words:

Galatians 5:19-21 NIV

[19] The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [20] idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [21] and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some of these terms are descriptive and condemning of the behavior we commonly see in this president. His behavior is NOT descriptive of Christian behavior. To say his behavior is Christian is DELUSIONAL. Let’s not promote the FICTION that his conduct is. 

It is severely distressing to me Christ’s name is dragged through the mud by Christians who foolishly act like this President is a savior. What they are doing is bringing ridicule and blasphemy upon the name of Christ. On FB and elsewhere I AM HEARING it. Multitudes know hypocrisy when they see it, and they are right. Many are calling out this hypocrisy and laughing with derision toward Evangelical Christians. 

Here is a solution I see some of my aware Christian friends employ. They verbally recognize and proclaim this President is not walking the Christian walk though they had voted for him. They verbally admit “he is a skunk” or “he is a terrible person and I can’t stand him,” but they may go on to say “I voted for him to get a job done though I don’t like him as a person” or “I voted for him because he wasn’t Hillary” or “I don’t have to like him as a person to vote for him — and I think he is an awful person — but I voted for him to get a job done and he is doing it.” Okay. I can respect this approach. They are not embracing this President as Christian but voted for him because he was the only option to get a conservative agenda addressed. Politics and politicians are separated from the Christian walk in the minds of these believers. 

Third, let’s address the issue the current President is there because God had put him there. I assume this argument was used to mean he is Christian. 

The tyrant Nero, Emperor of Rome, was in power when the Apostle Paul wrote the following:

Romans 13:1 NIV

[1] Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Nero had a horrible reputation for cruelty, and he even had his own mother executed. Many Roman emperors had cruel reputations, such as Caligula and Domitian. Yet all authorities that exist have been established by God. It is WRONG TO ASSUME that if God puts one in power such person would be godly. For sure, some people in authority were history’s poster children for evil. 

Under Nero, the Apostle Paul was beheaded and the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down. 

The Book of Revelation foretold of evil beasts and evil persons who would be granted power “for a short time” but then would be destroyed. The why of this is another discussion, but the point at hand is this: All governments and people who are in power are there because God allowed it or placed them there BUT NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE NECESSARILY GODLY. If this President was put there by God (and he was), it does NOT mean he is necessarily Christian. 

Fourth, let’s summarize my main point: This President’s conduct is antithetical of what Christian conduct is. They do not line up. It is HYPOCRITICAL and DELUSIONAL to promote the FICTION that they do. Those who conflate the two bring blasphemy — a consequence of foolishness. 

Fifth, one cannot play and work with evil without getting burned. The article to which these posts are attached in so many words makes this point that a whole generation of Evangelical believers will pay a severe price. That’s another discussion.

Lee Guice — Tom Walker this is a wonderfully worded analysis. 

Let’s not forget that the same God who allowed Trump to be elected also allowed Hitler to control Germany, and allowed the Fourth Crusade to sack Constantinople in the name of Jesus Christ. God’s timing and God’s logic are beyond any of us. 

I too believe Donald Trump to be totally evil

The article referenced in these comments can be read at:

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Marshall announces performing arts season schedule for Memorial City Hall Performance Center

The City of Marshall has announced its performing arts season schedule for Memorial City Hall Performance Center. The premier season will run from October 2019 to April 2020, and features a variety of acts for all ages, from boogie-woogie blues to Texas-legend country music to classic rock-n-roll, and much more.

Marcia Ball will serve as the opening act on Saturday, Oct. 26, to officially open Memorial City Hall Performance Center, a beautifully restored 552-seat auditorium with professional sound, recording, video and new seating. Ball, the “2018 Texas State Musician of The Year,” has won worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. Other acts scheduled to perform during the premier season of Memorial City Hall Performance Center include: Gary P. Nunn, a nationally-known Texas Country artist, on Saturday, Nov. 9; Celtic Angels Christmas, an internationally-known Irish vocal quintet group featuring a true holiday celebration of Christmas in Ireland, on Thursday, Dec. 19; Farewell Angelina, an all-female country group featuring a stellar blend of heartstopping harmonies over blazing double violins and guitars, on Friday, Jan. 24; One Night in Memphis, a tribute band to legendary Sun Records recording artists Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, on Saturday, Feb. 15; Aquila Theatre: 1984, will feature a group of performers that will bring “1984,” George Orwell’s cautionary novel to the stage, on Saturday, March 20; wrapping up the season will be The Wonder Bread Years, a fresh and funny salute to Americana, will feature a fast paced, hilarious production that gracefully walks the line between stand up and theater, on Friday, April 17.

“I think we’ve put together an outstanding line up for our inaugural performing arts season that will appeal to all ages and styles,” said Memorial City Hall Performance Center Manager Glenn Barnhart. “We wanted a diverse set of acts and I believe we have delivered on that front—you have musical acts, theatrical productions, a comedy show—so there are things that will appeal to everyone.”

The inaugural performing arts season is presented in association with the Marshall News Messenger and KMHT Radio. Single ticket sales for all shows will begin on Monday, Sept. 23.

For more information on Memorial City Hall Performance Center, the performing arts season, ticket sales and rental and membership opportunities, contact Barnhart at 903-934-7992 or visit:

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By George Smith

How many crises can can nation handle at one time and still remain viable on the domestic and international stage?

Anyway you look at it, the United States is about at capacity.

Every presidency – EVERY single one – has crises, some more than others, but the tenure of some presidents —  Ike Eisenhower comes to mind – combine personality with a specific time in history with few internal and external negative situati0ns and comes away practically unscathed as to reputation and the way they handled certain situati0ns that had the makings of a great train wreck.

It is safe to say President Donald Trump thrives on conflict, goes out of his way to create damning headlines, daily antagonizes those he considers enemies via bombastic tweets and feeds lines and lines of literary red meat to his rabid followers. He constantly and purposefully chunks word-grenades at those he considers inferior to himself, which is just about anyone who is not family, does not kowtow to every utterance, refuses to kiss the hem of his tunic or only sh0ws tepid support for the latest and greatest brain drizzle.

Under Trump, the citizens of the world have been receiving a regular heaping helping of crisis du jour. Think about it: It seems everyone discusses the “latest’ crisis over morning coffee or in the car pool driving to work. After lunch, conversation turns to the newest presidential edict, executive order, slap-down of a foreign leader, key White House or agency resignation or simply surmising what is going to jump from Trump’s fertile mind to his fingers before sunset.

Program! Program! Get ya program! You can’t keep up with the crises without a program!

Admitting to be a news junkie is not hard for me, having spent almost 50 years in newspaper executive posts in four states; banner headlines or on-target analysis of current events are my pers0nal drug of choice. I often think in headlines, in snippets of sentences fashioned to make a grab-the-reader-by-the-eyeballs story lead and in creating a memorable take-away ending.

Trump, while decrying any media attention he deems “unfair,” is a publicity prostitute. The electronic media-savvy reality show host turned president did whatever it took – blasting out absurd tweets, attacking specific members of the media (including some on his beloved Fox News), heaving verbal salvoes at anyone and any organization that dared hint he was wrong about anything – to create an aura of invincibility.

In the first 32 months of his presidency, Trump has personally initiated more national and global crises than the last five presidents combined. His list of “Oh boy! incidents range from the ridiculous to the ridiculouser.

He petulance is apparent daily in his multiple tweets (he is average seven tweets a day for a total of more than 6,400 so far in his first term) as he picks word fights with everyone from his media detractors, foreign leaders who question a particular action, celebrities who dare to use their status to questi0n his decisions or to create internal strife within his own cabinet.

The president’s desire for empirical power is not a ruse; he truly would love it if he could run the United States as a strong-arm dictatorship. Thus, his affectati0n with dictators and despots around the world.

Honestly, looking at it from as an objective viewpoint as possible, Trump is his own worst enemy. He created the multiple crises that will define his presidency for history.

He is pers0nally responsible for:

  • The rise of visibility of the white supremacy movement by refusing to condemn violent actions at a number of sites;
  • The continuing, heart-breaking saga of the deplorable, for-profit immigration detainee camp and the inexcusable separation of children from family members;
  • The constant ballyhoo for the “Trump Wall” without even taking into consideration that there was only one wall in history that keep ‘invaders” out (the Great Wall of China) and that high-tech surveillance gear would do the job of detecting smuggling efforts of people and drugs better and cheaper;
  • The runaway deficit shows no sign of abating, nor is it a priority item of  the president;
  • Trump’s trade policies are an example of his “take-action-then-think-of-consequences” management style, which creates confusion and fiscal harm to suppliers o0f producers and results in higher prices for consumers;
  • His attacks on minorities undermines the fabric of the truism that “we are all Americans’; 
  • His constant lies on anything and everything are so transparent that few things he says are taken seriously by knowledgeable observers, which is a serious problem for the most powerful man in the world…and the world; and
  • His failures in business, unseemly embracing of foreign dictators, refusal to accept facts garnered by his intelligence agencies about foreign enemies, dust-ups with foreign allies for no apparent reason, breaking treaties that protect the best interests of this nation … all point to a person of power who does have the knowledge, the temperament, the intelligence nor the ethical fortitude to be president.

Trump must be a one-term president. The 2020 elections will decide whether the people the United States are ready to get rid of this Grand Experiment and put an adult back in charge of the affairs of state or continue the status quo.

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Two Kinds of Patriotism Thoughts by John Tennison, M.D., on Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2006

When considering what is meant by “patriotism,” I find it useful to recognize two kinds of patriotism:

1.  Elitist Patriotism

2.  Non-Elitist Patriotism

Elitist patriotism is the worst kind of patriotism.  Elitist Patriotism is a harmful, nationalistic form of patriotism holding that people of a particular country are somehow better or more worthy of having their rights upheld or lives saved than people of other countries.  Elitist patriotism fails to recognize “unalienable rights,” the universal human rights described by the founding fathers of the United States (in the Declaration of Independence) as being intrinsic to all human beings, regardless of their nationality.  Instead, elitist patriotism is “elitist” because it only recognizes rights of people who are citizens or even a subset of citizens of a given country, such as those of a particular religion or race.  Instead of judging someone based on their character, elitist patriotism considers someone favorably merely by their legal status of being a member of a particular nationality.  Elitist patriotism tends to be indifferent to or even in favor of exploiting, harming, or killing people of other nationalities because other nationalities are regarded as having intrinsically less worth.  Elitist patriotism promotes conformity and is threatened by dissent and individuality.  Thus, elitist patriotism is incompatible with the views of founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

Non-elitist patriotism is the best kind of patriotism. Non-elitist patriotism is a patriotism of good ideas, such as honoring life, individual liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom in general.  Because non-elitist patriotism is a patriotism of ideas, it transcends national boundaries.  Because Non-elitist patriotism is a patriotism of ideas, it is physically unassailable by its enemies.  Yet, because non-elitist patriotism encompasses a set of ideas, it is assailable in situations where there is a lack of awareness, including situations in which there has been a lack of education or a systematic production of ignorance through propaganda.  Non-elitist patriotism practices inclusion, even for those who have dissenting viewpoints.  Non-elitist patriotism recognizes unalienable rights as belonging to everyone regardless of their nationality.  Non-elitist patriotism is focused on spreading its good ideas, rather than practicing imperialistic land grabs, or exercising other materialistic dominion.  Rather than create nationalist borders that define the in-groups of privilege and out-groups of deprivation, non-elitist patriotism seeks to universally extend its rights and benefits to everyone, regardless of their national identity or geographical location.  Of all the founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Paine probably exemplified the principles of non-elitist patriotism to the greatest degree. 

As I reflect on the countless lives lost throughout human history defending elitist patriotism instead of non-elitist patriotism, I am reminded of the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine:

Imagine there’s no Heaven 
It’s easy if you try 
No hell below us 
Above us only sky 
Imagine all the people 
Living for today 

Imagine there’s no countries 
It isn’t hard to do 
Nothing to kill or die for 
And no religion too 
Imagine all the people 
Living life in peace 

You may say that I’m a dreamer 
But I’m not the only one 
I hope someday you’ll join us 
And the world will be as one 

Imagine no possessions 
I wonder if you can 
No need for greed or hunger 
A brotherhood of man 
Imagine all the people 
Sharing all the world 

You may say that I’m a dreamer 
But I’m not the only one 
I hope someday you’ll join us 
And the world will live as one

I am proud to be a non-elitist patriot who happens to live in Texas.

I imagine a day when everyone will have “nothing to kill or die for.”

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John Tennison’s “This I Believe” Essay (June 26, 2007)

This essay can also be found online at

People often use and react to words because of the emotions and behaviors words cause, rather than react to or seek clarification of the meaning of words used by someone.

These reactions can have drastic consequences, such as when politicians manipulate voting behavior by labeling their opponents as “liberals” or “conservatives,” which is often calculated to divert voters’ attention away from considering what politicians actually stand for or what politicians will do once they gain office.

The lack of precision of meaning in our conversations is also evident in the usually meaningless extra words that are inserted into spoken sentences, such as, “like,” “kind of like,” “sort of,” “you know,” and the classic “know what I’m sayin’?” It was sort of, like, you know, kind of like, well, you know what I’m sayin’.

Philosophers have traditionally pointed out the importance of defining our terms BEFORE beginning a conversation, yet most conversations occur with the implicit assumption that participants have the same understanding of words being used. Knowing up front what is meant by words used in a conversation is not just important in academic discourse, but in every single conversation we have. If there is any doubt, it takes only a few seconds more to ask a speaker what they mean by a particular word.

For example, I believe the word “believe” (when left undefined) is an ambiguous word that can potentially confuse the thinking of those whose use or hear it.

For example, stating what I believe could be a statement of my values, such as saying, “I believe in single-payer universal health care.” This is a statement of what I believe should ethically occur. This statement of belief does not involve taking a leap of faith or making any assumptions about the nature of reality that are not based on evidence. Rather it is a statement of what is clearly possible and of what I would like to see occur.

In contrast, another sense in which the word “believe” is used is when someone makes a statement in which they have taken a leap of faith about the nature of objective reality, usually with no evidence to support their claims. Such statements can be as seemingly innocuous as saying “I believe in God.” However, such statements of belief can also be dangerous when they have a prescription for particular behaviors, such as when someone believes their god wants them to kill, harm, or exploit others in some way.

Thus, when I hear someone use the phrase, “this I believe,” I believe I better dig more deeply as to whether they are making a statement of values (such as saying “I believe in the Golden Rule.”), or whether they are referring a leap of faith they have made about the nature of reality, especially a leap of faith involving a prescription for intolerance or behavior that might bring harm to others.

This I believe: “People should know what they mean and mean what they say.”

Know what I’m sayin’?

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July 4, 2007 Essay: To What Should We Pledge Our Allegiance?

by John Tennison, M.D., (essay copyright July 4, 2007)

As we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, I find it valuable to review the contents of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence defended freedoms and unalienable rights, not nationalism.  The “independence” that was “declared” in the Declaration of Independence did not derive from being a citizen of a particular nationality or from a particular national affiliation.  Yet, somehow, over the years, the 4th of July has become a celebration primarily of nationalism, rather than of the underlying values and principles that lead to the founding of the United States.  This historical distortion is further exemplified by the erroneous belief held by many that July 4th, 1776, was the “birthday” of a sovereign nation state known as the United States of America.  However, if “nation” is defined as “a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006), then July 4th, 1776, can rightly be considered the birth of a nation.

Although the phrase, “united States of America,” was used in the signed copy of the Declaration of Independence, the phrase was used in a generic sense to refer to the colonies that were united in their Declaration, rather than to refer to a sovereign nation statethat existed at the time.  Since the phrase was not the formal name of a country or confederacy, the word “united” was uncapitalized on the copy that was officially signed on July 4th, 1776.  However, drafts of the Declaration of Independence that existed prior to July 4th, 1776 used the word “United” in its capitalized form, suggesting that Jefferson regarded “United States of America” as a formal title for the grouping of the thirteen states, even though the group did not constitute a sovereign nation state.  Moreover, in subsequent copies of the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson after July 4th, 1776, he continued to capitalize “United,” suggesting that he wanted to include “United” as part of the proper name for the group of the thirteen states.

When ratified by Maryland on March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation established a confederacy formally known as “The United States of America.”  However, even then, this confederacy did not constitute a singular sovereign nation state, as the second Article of Confederation stated:

“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

            Thus, rather than being a national government, the government of “The United States of America” created by the Articles of Confederation was more analogous to that of today’s United Nations.

The country known as “The United States of America” formally began at the point the Constitution was ratified by the ninth state of New Hampshire on June 21, 1788.

            The values and principles enumerated in the Declaration of Independence justified the rebellion against the British government.  Even today, it is these original values and principles that deserve our unwavering allegiance, and not necessarily the government of a particular country.  The authors of the Declaration of Independence were very clear on this point when they wrote:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Thus, to the extent that a government of a particular nation no longer honors the rights and freedoms recognized by the Declaration of Independence, such a government no longer deserves the allegiance of its citizens.  Consequently, on this July 4th, 2007, I ask the question, “To what should we pledge our allegiance?”

In 1892, Francis Bellamy, the author of the original Pledge of Allegiance, placed more emphasis on pledging allegiance to an abstract symbol, a flag, (as well as “the Republic for which it stands”) than to the “liberty and justice for all,” which are mentioned only at the very end of the Pledge.  Pledging allegiance to a flag draws attention away from the more important underlying principles that actually deserve an explicit declaration of our allegiance, such as recognizing and honoring universal rights and freedoms.  Indeed, “liberty and justice” are more deserving of having been the first principles mentioned, rather than the last ones mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Bellamy’s mentioning the flag first in his Pledge stems largely from the fact that the original Pledge was part of an advertising campaign to sell U. S. flags in the children’s magazine, Youth’s Companion.

Moreover, since a flag’s meaning can be ambiguous or can even change over time, pledging allegiance to an abstract symbol, such as a flag, is at best an ambiguous declaration that is easily misunderstood.  For example, opinions as to what the United States flag means vary considerably throughout the world.  For some, especially United States citizens, the flag still symbolizes “liberty and justice for all.”  However, some United States citizens have ceased to regard the flag as a symbol of the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence.  Moreover, given the activity of our government and military in various locations throughout the world, the United States flag has come to symbolize imperialism and attempts at world dominion for many.

Moreover, within the United States, the U.S. flag has become a political symbol worn and displayed by both “conservatives” and “liberals” to suggest that they somehow stand for something more “patriotic” or more “American” as compared to others.  Clearly, in such instances, displayers of the flag are projecting their own political meanings onto the flag, which demonstrates that the flag has ceased to be identified with a specific set of principles for which there is a universal consensus.  In fact, the only meaning of the United States flag for which where is a universal consensus is that of a symbol signifying the legal entity of the United States, in the same way the initials “U.S.” also signify the United States.

Another instructive example of a flag whose meaning became highly ambiguous and thus, offers an important lesson into the kind of metamorphosis a flag can suffer, is the Confederate Flag as used by the Confederate States during the Civil War of the United States.  To some the Confederate flag now symbolizes a racist or even pro-slavery stance, while to others, it represents the memory of those who lost their lives in the deadliest war so far on the North American continent.

Another lesson about flags can be taken from my home state of Texas.  In Texas, a perennial historical exercise is to recall the fact that flags from six different nations have flown over Texas, including that of France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.  When I think about these historical flags of Texas, I also appreciate the fact that it doesn’t matter what country’s flag is flying above my head as long as I have my freedom.  As long as our freedoms and liberties are intact, the country or state of which we are citizens is a mere formality.

Moreover, imagine if the Founding Fathers of the United States had been distracted by a tradition of reciting a “Pledge of Allegiance” to the British flag, or to the monarchy for which it stood.  If so, they would have been less focused on the fact that their own government was not representing them or honoring their unalienable rights, freedoms, and liberties.

Clearly, pledging allegiance to abstract and ambiguous symbols, such as flags, is problematic and should be avoided.  Fight for freedom, not flags.

Examination of the Declaration of Independence also reveals that the Pledge is not only to “the flag,” but also “to the Republic for which it stands.”  At first glance, pledging allegiance to “the Republic” might seem like a more robust pledge with less of a chance of such an allegiance being misunderstood or having the potential for a changing meaning over time.  However, merely calling the United States a “Republic” does not guarantee that the country is indeed a “Republic.”  For example, I have always understood the word “republic” to mean a form of government where representatives are elected to represent the will and interests of the people.  Yet, in my lifetime, the actions of politicians are far more representative of the interests of big money than of the will or interest of the people.  The “Republic” for which the Pledge claims our flag stands appears to have very little existence.  Another example of where the use of the word “republic” contradicts the actual form of government practiced is in the case of the so-called People’s Republic of China.

Moreover, to the extent the concept of a “republic” has inspired “Republican” political parties, it is instructive to examine the “Republican Party” of Thomas Jefferson, and the later “Republican Party” of Abraham Lincoln.   Both of these so-called “Republican” parties were a far cry from the current-day Republican Party that is largely controlled by the interests of big business and by religious zealots.  Such current-day extremes in the Republican Party can be witnessed in my own state of Texas, where the Republican Party of Texas pledges to “dispel the myth of separation of church and state” in a section of its official platform ironically titled, “SAFEGUARDING OUR RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES.”

Another example of how pledging allegiance to a so-called “republic” or even to a so-called “democracy” can be problematic comes from examining the history of France.  For example, pledging allegiance to France at the beginning of the French Revolution would have suggested dedication to an entirely different set of values and principles than to have pledged allegiance to France during the time at which the revolution had devolved into a reign of terror, or during Napoleon’s reign of power. 

Thus, to mindlessly go on generation after generation pledging allegiance to a “Republic,” rather than to specific values and principles, is potentially just as ambiguous and problematic of a declaration as pledging allegiance to an abstract symbol, such as a flag.

Although the original “Pledge of Allegiance” of 1892 was problematic even in it its original form, it became even worse when the phrase “under God” was added in 1954 during the Cold War to imply that God somehow supported the actions of our government more than the governments of other countries.  To the extent the Pledge of Allegiance has been adopted by taxpayer-supported institutions, the phrase, “Under God,” has served to further erode the “wall of separation between church and state,” of which Thomas Jefferson eloquently wrote in 1802.

As a citizen desirous of celebrating the original intent of the Declaration of Independence and as a citizen deeply concerned about erosion of the wall of separation between church and state, I have written a new version of The Pledge of Allegiance.  However, I have decided to call it “The Freedom Pledge,” so as to make more explicit the principles to which one should be dedicated, rather than use the word “allegiance” in its name, and thereby suggest that submission to authority was more important.  That is, when Bellamy used the word “Allegiance” in the name of his pledge, he called greater attention to allegiance itself, or submission to authority, rather than to have called attention to more important principles, such as freedom, liberty, rights, or justice.

The Freedom Pledge is intended to be a non-sectarian statement that recognizes universal rights and freedoms that naturally exist, rather than having been legally derived from an affiliation with a particular nation.

The Freedom Pledge

                                                                            “I pledge allegiance to the freedom of the united people of the world,

                                                                            and to the unalienable rights for which they stand,

                                                                            one indivisible humanity practicing liberty and justice for all.”

Happy Independence Day!

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