Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Country 'Tis of Thee . . .

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.

Reciting the pledge of allegiance-—my small way of participating in this historic day.

As a born citizen of this country, I am never asked to avow my allegiance to the state, much less to act upon it. This passivity to my support of the nation is, ironically, one of the thousands of freedoms I enjoy under its protection. The only thing the republic asks of me is to pay taxes, and as far as the Rousseau Social Contract goes, that’s reasonable to me (although many of the specifics of it borders on the criminal).

On this historic day, I find my thoughts drifting to the idea of this nation---the audacious democracy the framers of the Constitution envisioned and codified-—as a counterbalance to the overload of attention to the man Barack Obama.

Of course I hope he will lead the country into an era that allows for prosperity for the broadest reaches of our society, while clarifying our role as peacekeepers or policemen of the world. But ideally, he will be a conduit for the ideas of the Constitution, not an end into himself. We know that he is a talented politician—it’s how he got this far. And all politicians must expend some energy consolidating and keeping their power. But as Tom Watson has articulated, we don’t need or want a Princess Di president.

We want a leader for the ages, one who will connect “the better angels of our nature” with the most important call to action of the 20th century for a better life for all: “Let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"