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28
Sat, May

One Nation, Under Greed

COMMENTARY - There are elements in this country pushing to make it a Christian nation even though America’s founders crafted a constitution that specifically separated church from state.

The original Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands – one nation, indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 with the intent that it could stand for any country. 

It was recited by 12 million schoolchildren that October to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first landfall in the Americas of Christopher Columbus. 

In 1923 and 1924, to clarify which flag for immigrants, “my flag” morphed into “the flag of the United States of America” – still no God in evidence. 

It was only with the rise of McCarthyism and the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s that the words “under God” were added. Eisenhower thought these words would “strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war” and reaffirm faith in America. 

Increasingly, demagogic leaders have used the concept that the United States should embrace a future as a Christian nation under a white Christian God to elevate those who follow their views above Americans who have different gods or values. 

Personally, I would prefer “one under God, indivisible” be booted in favor of living in “a nation co-existing with Mother Earth and all her children” but perhaps we can just agree to a return to the original version, one that the founding fathers might find acceptable. 

For Thomas Jefferson and other early leaders of the new country wrote extensively on the importance of religious freedom as a mechanism for protecting everybody’s rights. 

There is no doubt that the United States would benefit from more Christian behavior and charity in the broadest sense. 

Charity, not just giving money which too often has become a way to close our eyes to the suffering of others, but in the sense of an open-minded, open-hearted approach to all people.

Giving money, food, and other kinds of help is good, but far better is to live a life full of the more complex definitions of charity such as “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” and “lenient judgment of others” and “moderation in approach”.

Unfortunately, those who call for the United States to become a Christian nation, too often do so as justification to reject other religions, other gods and other value systems. To divide. 

And their voices are getting louder and they are gaining political clout as demagogues embrace these views, often justified by narrow interpretations and rose-colored memories, to further their own power.  

Selective use of the Christian bible when less than a majority of Americans are religious let alone bible-thumpers has led to the imposition of “family” values antithetical to many, including forced pregnancy, granting the powerful and wealthy a pass on laws and taxes, incarcerating those who are poor or hold different views, and cold-blooded murder of both guilty and innocent by lethal injection or the electric chair in many states. 

If they are able to force their opinions on all Americans, this country will no longer be free or a democracy, but a theocracy akin to Iran under the Ayatollahs. 

Looking at the issue from slightly different angle, what God are we talking about – some white existential god, omnipresent and benevolent? 

Or the gods of Wall Street, all-powerful, the temple’s buyers and sellers, and behind much of the political manipulations over the past two centuries? 

It’s a capitalist imperative first to separate this country from the godless communists and then to separate the people from their money. 

And what does this type of wealth mean?

A recent report documented a 25% tax-free jump in income for the 736 American billionaires last year including Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. 

Their combined wealth increased by $1 trillion.

What do these men, and it is mostly men, have in common? 

Their wealth is driven by Wall Street and they don’t pay taxes until their stock shares are sold. Ergo, they pay no taxes as their net worth skyrockets.

Their focus is on quarterly profit, and they lag behind a few companies here and more in other countries that are actively prioritizing the importance of the environment, of society and of human capital. 

Their combined wealth exceeds $5 trillion, significantly more than the $3.4 trillion of the lower half of the American population. 

They are the titans of industry who have bought not only stocks and bonds, formed monopolies or sit on each other’s boards, but also fund the politicians who enable them to prosper. Too often by divide and conquer. 

With so many gods, how can anyone now claim allegiance to one nation, indivisible?

 

(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)