New England editorial roundup
The Sun of Lowell (Mass.), June 15, 2012
The most recent attempt to alter the Pledge of Allegiance because someone didn't like some of the words contained therein was again dismissed by the courts in a decision which essentially indicated what living in a democracy is all about -- freedom of choice.
The latest saga to rid the Pledge of the words "under God" was played out recently in Middlesex Superior Court. An atheist couple from Acton filed a lawsuit against the town's school district on behalf of their three school-aged children, who they claimed suffered emotional stress each time those two words were recited in class.
While acknowledging their children had the right to refrain from taking part in this daily exercise, the plaintiffs -- "John and Jane Doe" -- maintained their children were put in the position of having their "patriotism and their religious class brought into question, and being portrayed as outsiders and second-class citizens."
The words "under God" were added to the Pledge in 1954 by Congress as a way to distinguish the United States from the "godless communists." This of course was in the tense times of the Cold War, when the possibility of mutual mass destruction from a Soviet Union-United States nuclear confrontation was something that all citizens lived with daily.
The insertion of those two words wasn't the first time the Pledge had been changed.
Thirty years prior, the words "my Flag" were expanded to "the Flag of the United States of America," so as to make it clear to the flood of immigrants to which country they owed their allegiance.
During the rise of Hitler's Nazi Germany in the 1930s, President Roosevelt changed the practice of the Roman salute while reciting the Pledge to placing one's right hand over the heart.
The era of massive migration to the United States and the Nazi menace are long over, but those changes remain.
Francis Bellamy designed his original ode of what it means to be an American to be said in15 seconds. Perhaps now it takes 16 seconds -- about the time of a text message.
It simply states: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Though short, there are several concepts contained that one could find objectionable. For example, the struggle for civil rights long after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation showed that not everyone believed in "liberty and justice for all."
Many in the South, decades after the Civil War, still believed in the Confederacy and a state's right to divide itself from the union.
In short, anyone -- as is their right -- can refrain from reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance" for any number of reasons, and no one need know why.
In this case, "The Does" made it a crusade to remove the concept of God -- not to protect their children's freedom of choice -- which the court obviously understood.
In her decision released on June 8, Judge S. Jane Haggerty wrote: "the Pledge is a voluntary patriotic exercise, and the inclusion of the phrase `under God' does not convert the exercise into a prayer."
Stamford Advocate, June 11, 2012
The message is not getting across. Despite clear evidence, despite fatal tragedies, too many teen drivers remain attached to their cell phones behind the wheel.
In a recent survey of Connecticut school children, more than half, 53 percent, reported that they talk on their cell phone while driving.
Those results were confirmed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which found that almost half of drivers ages 16 through 21 talk on a handheld phone while driving, and nearly 30 percent text while driving.
This, when statistics show that traffic accidents are the leading killer of American teenagers. Many know peers who have gotten into accidents because of phone use, some of them severe.
The most recent tragedy in our area occurred last month, in which a New Canaan teenage driver was reportedly using the keypad on her phone when she struck and killed a jogger.
Teenagers consider using a phone to talk or text while driving to be dangerous, the studies show, but they do it anyway. Chalk some of that up to being a teenager, but that's not the only reason why they persist in a behavior they know is unsafe.
While it appears adults have adequately relayed the dangers of phone use while driving, we have modeled the opposite in our own behavior. Forty-eight percent of teens surveyed in the Consumer Reports study said they saw their parents talking on the phone while driving and 15 percent said they saw them texting.
"Do as I say, not as I do," is not a good strategy for convincing teenagers to act responsibly. If we adults want our kids to put their phones away when behind the wheel, we are going to have to do the same.