Editor’s Column: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance a reminder of who we are and who we want to be

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I’m writing this while watching the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Social media today was full of suggested drinking games for adult viewers to help them endure the ongoing insanity of this race for the White House, including imbibing every time someone says “believe me” or every time one of the candidate tells a blatant untruth. The first five minutes would have put me under the table. It seems few in polite society want to talk about this election. Emotions are running too high; the rhetoric is too volatile. Talking about politics on even the most basic level these days is the equivalent of verbally engaging crazy Uncle Fred (who used to be in a cult) across the Thanksgiving dinner table before the appetizers have been passed. Most reasonably polite folk have just stopped engaging in political discourse for fear of being lambasted by the “other” side, whichever side that might be. And that, in my opinion, is the scariest, most disturbing problem we’re facing. Worse than ISIS, worse than lousy trade deals. We’ve allowed ourselves to be reduced to “us” and “them.” We’re yielding to the pressure of strife and division and contention and allowing politics to divide neighbor from neighbor and brother from brother. Regardless of your political position or your stance on particular issues, you still have to live next door to that person sporting the political sign from the candidate you abhor, even after November. It may be time to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that we’re still all in this thing called life together. (Thanks, Prince, for the inspirational lyrics of “Let’s Go Crazy.” Who knew they could one day be the theme song for the 2016 presidential election.) At the town and county meetings I attended this week we stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something I haven’t done twice in one week since elementary school. Every time we stand to recite the Pledge, we proclaim our country as “indivisible.” Are we going to let this election change that?

On that note, I looked up the history of the Pledge. As a child I thought the Pledge of the Allegiance originated with the writers of the Declaration of Independence, or at least the authors of the Constitution. In fact, the Pledge wasn’t written until 1892, by a socialist Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy’s motivation was, in part, a reaction to the loss of patriotic feeling after the Civil War and a desire to restore national unity. Bellamy’s original 1892 pledge included the following words: “I pledge allegiance to the flag and the Republic for which it stands—one Nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all.” Prior to World War II, reciting the Pledge called for a military salute, arm up and out, extended straight toward the flag. When that stance seemed too similar to the Nazi salute, it was changed to holding the right hand over the heart. It wasn’t until 1954, during the Communist Red Scare, that President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God” to the original words of the Pledge. I like knowing the whys and wherefores of what I’m declaring, don’t you? n n n While in Rangely last week for the Chamber’s open house, I had a chance to stop by the Rangely Automotive Museum. If you haven’t visited yet, put it on your schedule. The building is beautiful. The cars are amazing. And Kelsey Peters was a witty, knowledgeable and charming curator. Between the TANK and the museum, I’m looking forward to seeing the other surprise treasures Rangely has to share.

I really wanted to run the Scrub Shirt 5K this year as part of the Fall Festival, but Saturday’s weather deterred my good intentions. Fortunately, the first taste of chilly, damp weather this season didn’t hinder folks from coming out to enjoy the food and games at the annual event that benefits our local non-profit groups. For me, the highlight of the day was the Historical Society’s Rubber Ducky Race to support the ongoing renovation of the Coal Creek Schoolhouse. It was the first rubber ducky race I’ve ever watched (and I’m just old enough that mentioning a rubber ducky brings back fond memories of Sesame Street). My daughter and I watched the ducks launched from the Fifth Street bridge and then we jumped in the car and drove to 10th Street to witness the finish. After clambering down the hill to the river’s edge, we waited anxiously for the ducks to appear. Children cheered when they came around the bend. The ducks crossed the finish line (a net stretched across the river) and, to everyone’s surprise, kept right on going. The river was high, thanks to overnight rain, and the ducks were moving faster than expected. As the ducks tumbled over, under and through the net to freedom, Martha Cole grabbed a long-handled net and headed downstream to round up as many ducks as possible. It reminded me of the Meeker Classic sheep which are famed for their orneriness. Apparently our rubber duckies are ornery, too.

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