And Justice For All

 

It is not a far reach to say that all Americans are familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance.  The question is, have we as Americans lived up to it?

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.

As simple as this pledge is, it is replete with powerful concepts.  It is taught to every student in America.  It is ingrained in us as a mantra to live by.  So why have we struggled so mightily with incorporating it into our dealings with one other?

To wit: many of us are unfamiliar with the case of the youngest person ever executed in the U.S.  George Stinney, at the age of 14, was sent to the electric chair on June 16, 1944 for the murder of two girls.  The entire trial, from jury selection to court proceeding to deliberation to sentencing, took place in one day.  The defense never cross-examined a witness.  The boy’s family was not present at the trial, as his father had been summarily fired from his job and the family told to leave town or face retribution.  The teenager supposedly confessed after being interviewed by police, yet there were no witnesses to the interview.  No transcript of the trial exists.

Read about the George Stinney case here.

Many people would ask: Why bring up a story about a boy who suffered injustice in 1944?  I didn’t partake in this incident, so why should I have any feelings about it?  As a former history teacher, I would answer that we cannot understand our present, nor can we direct our future without fully understanding and learning from our past.  We MUST NOT forget.  If we are a nation that believes in justice for all, then we must be a nation that fights for the rights of a 14 year old, even one long gone, and whose death echoes against our pledge to one another in schoolhouses across America.  It is beyond ironic that young George Stinney’s life was taken just ten days after fellow Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy to free the world of tyranny.  We MUST NOT forget….

In the America of 2011, we must be TRUTHFUL to ourselves about who we are and where we come from.  If we are to thrive as a community, we must fully embrace a painful past, that we may reach for a future TRULY imbued with the concepts of our pledge.  Without justice for young George Stinney, even if it comes as late as 2011, there is no framework for our pledge.  It loses its raison d’être, as do we as Americans.

There are those of us who work hard, pay our taxes, vote and fully engage in the American dream.  There are Americans whose lives have been so shaped by pain, torture and disconnection from their past that the Dream has become the American Nightmare.  And there is no color, culture or gender that fully describes either one.

So what are we going to do about that?

It is a simple pledge, America.  Time to live up to it….

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1 Response to "And Justice For All"

  • Melinda Graham says:

    Great article…wish more people took heed to the preamble to our constitution, too ! ? “we the people of the united states, in order to form a more perfect union….” You’ll see what I mean…Words like those are poignant . If only we lived up to them daily

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