When I was a child growing up in New England in the 1940’s, we began each school day standing, hand over heart, pledging allegiance to the flag and “the republic for which it stands.”
In this difficult time for our nation, the last words of the flag salute seem important to remember—with liberty and justice for all.
There are other words, older than the words of the flag salute (first written in 1887), which have shaped our nation from its inception—”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (from the Declaration of Independence 1776.)
These have been guiding words for our nation, though we haven’t always lived up to them very well. We have stumbled again and again, acted as if such words were only for some of us, yet over time we have made progress. It is no longer legal for one of us to own another as slave; women can now vote and own property and even run for president; people of different races, gays and lesbians can now marry. Immigrants have been welcomed and integrated, enriching our culture. We have made progress in developing cleaner sources of energy. And much more.
In recent weeks, with dizzying speed, some of these steps toward liberty and justice for all have been turned back. Fear, anger, outrage run in strong currents through every level of our society.
It seems a good time to vision what it might be like if we lived up to the guidance of our founding fathers. To dream. What would it look like if we had liberty and justice for all? If all people were considered equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Here is my dream: that every person in this country have adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare, the support of a loving community, meaningful work, and enough time and energy for family, children, play, art, laughter.
That we all work to heal our planet until we have clean water, clean air, clean earth, grow our food and meet our energy needs in a sustainable manner, and that we respect and protect all the plants and other creatures who share this land with us.
We have the resources and the know-how to manifest such a dream. It is only our scrambled politics and upside-down economic system, our fears of scarcity—if they have enough, I won’t—that stand in the way.
The last two words of the pledge are important. “For all.” All. Not just those of us who are already educated, whose race and circumstances make it unlikely that we will be targeted for traffic stops and drug searches, whose families do not need to fear being torn apart by deportation.
But this dream is not nearly big enough. We cannot afford “America first.” We are all, all living beings on this planet, inextricably woven together. We need this dream to be for all people, all plants and creatures on this Earth.
Which is HUGE. Way too huge for any one person, any one organization, even any one country to manifest alone.
What can we do? I think we each need to find our own unique contribution to the manifestation of the dream. It may be political, it maybe joining an organization, creating art, or simply being open to what crosses our path, what calls us to the furtherance of the dream. And most of all, to hold the dream close to our hearts in all the interactions of our daily lives.