“with liberty and justice for all.”

It’s something of a curse.

My brain interprets what I read and hear literally —- to a fault.

As far back as I can remember I was a “believer”. I was the only child in a family of 10 who attended church and Sunday school every Sunday, by myself, until about the age of 14 when I began to question what I had been taught. The response to my waning faith was, “You just have to believe.” My brain doesn’t work that way. I need evidence. Without any answers, I quit attending church.

The memory of a vehement argument with my brother in 1965 regarding prejudice against Black people in the firmly segregated city of Milwaukee is still as vivid as the day it occurred. At that time the ghetto for Black people was controlled and patrolled by the stereo typical, right-out-of-the-movies, iron fisted, police chief Harold Brier.


If you’ve read this far, be sure to click on the link above. I doubt you would believe me if I tried to paraphrase Brier’s epitaph/biography. Back to the argument with my brother. As the argument grew more intense, I was nearly at a loss for words trying to refute my brother’s claims about the inferiority of the Black race. The war of words ended with my sister-in-law stepping in to separate the 2 of us. Honestly, I don’t recall if I left at that moment. We probably switched the conversation to the Green Bay Packers.

Religion and race — two very touchy subjects and we’ll all handle them our own way. As a child attending public schools, I remember the ritual of standing up, placing my hand over my heart, and reciting the pledge of allegiance to our great country. Pure nostalgia, I know. I’m confident that the vast majority of Americans have “pledged allegiance” to the USA in their lifetime. Today, the tradition of THEE pledge is kept alive at most major sporting events, which is a good thing. But, will we ever actually see liberty and justice for all?


The link above will give you the fascinating history of our 131 year old pledge of allegiance. Written by Francis Bellamy whom one site describes as a “socialist minister” I wonder how well “the pledge” would have been embraced today having been promoted by a “socialist”? But, I digress.

Just like me, Bellam, at one point in his life became disillusioned with the hypocrisy inherent in organized religion and quit attending church. He too, like me, was cursed with a brain which required reasoning, and runs on facts. He very deliberately excluded the word “God” from the pledge knowing how inherently divisive it can be.

Bellam was no saint. In addition to “liberty and justice for all”. he also wrote,

“We should all be thankful that to this day, that the word, “God”, with good reason does not appear in the Constitution. every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth.”

He was a racist. When he said “liberty and justice for all”, he was referring to white people of Northern European extraction. Be that as it may, let’s take the “Pledge” literally which the majority of Americans think they do.

After 131 years, how are we actually doing with “liberty and justice for all”?

Bill Maher, comedian and social commentator, presented an excellent editorial entitled “Progress”. You can find it on YouTube. He focused on slavery and its 6000 year history. Way back then, slavery, was a part of every “civilized” society but, was gradually abolished nearly universally. His central point was, it’s fantasy to expect the worst human tendencies to be reformed quickly. I was raised in a racist culture and had to sort things out over the course of a lifetime just like many millions of other people. But, we progress.

At this point, do a slow read of the Gettysburg Address, maybe 3 or 4 times. As I did, 3 words jumped out at me — “the unfinished work” which by my interpretation, Lincoln meant “liberty and justice for all”. If your brain, like mine, is wired for facts and sound reasoning, take a good look at the history, add a dose of reality, and be grateful for the progress we have made moving toward “liberty and justice for all”.

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