Originally published 20 years ago today in the Baltimore Sun
Half a century ago, when I possessed the charming innocence of a 12-year-old, I took offense at the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Why, I wondered, was I expected to pledge my allegiance to a flag? Proclaiming loyalty to my country I could understand. But to a piece of fabric?
That wasn’t all. Having concluded with unshakable, preadolescent self-confidence that human existence is nothing more than a cosmic accident, I found the phrase “under God” offensive as well.
By my final year in high school, however, I had acquired enough sophistication to appreciate the importance of symbolism.
I had also opened my eyes to a universe so enormously complex that to embrace any worldview as absolutist as atheism seemed the height of arrogance.
It would serve us well to reflect on the words of Alexander Hamilton:
"The sacred rights of mankind … are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
It has been observed that the word ego is an acronym for Elbow God Out.
A daily reminder that we should receive our national freedoms with humility is among the surest means of preserving those freedoms for our children and their children after them.