Saturday, February 23, 2008

lenten journal: pledge of allegiance

Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism. (AP)

Pledge of Allegiance

I was eight years old when they took down
the picture of Queen Elizabeth over the blackboard,
ending her reign over the classroom, making
way for our new President, Kenneth Kaunda,
as we stood and sang, “Stand and sing of Zambia.”

I was eleven, sitting in the middle of the front
seat of his old Ford pickup, listening to the radio
somewhere in East Texas while he went in to
buy some unfiltered Lucky Strikes, when they
said Bobby Kennedy had been shot to death.

I was twenty-one, on a bus in Lenningrad,
going to see the memorial for all those who
had died in Hitler’s vicious siege, when a man
-- a survivor – offered to give me everything
if I would promise it would not happen again.

I was thirty-five, teaching school in Boston,
and talking with one of my Chinese students.
When I mentioned Tiananmen Square, he
looked up at me and said, “I was there.”
That’s as close to freedom as I ever stood.

I am fifty-one and they want me to believe
that what matters comes down to lapel pins
and hand signals. I don’t believe them.
I pledge allegiance to the God who made us
and calls us to stand together in love.



Towanda said...

Amen, brother.

Jeff said...

I'm saving this to send in response to the impending "Obama won't say the pledge!" chain mail the extended family email circle sends most every Monday.

No further comment, or confrontation added -- just the words.

Maria said...

Powerful. Thanks.

Unilove said...

Powerfully, soberingly true.
An exquisite poem.

cheesehead said...


Jimmy said...

I had lunch just today with a 39 year old Chinese immigrant who happened to be in Tiananmen Square during the protest...what a story.