Background is a messily erased chalkboard and in the lower right corner is "And Justice for all?" written in a font that kind of looks like white chalk.

And Justice for All?

The words of the United States Pledge of Allegiance rolled off my tongue so easily as a child. I said the words almost without thought, a Pavlovian response to the bell indicating school had begun. Now, a parallel forms between, “justice for all,” and “all lives matter.” Both are said with an idealism that we are all equal. Both are lies. 

I struggle to remember the rest of the Pledge. I know the words are there in a jumbled mess inside my brain, falling and hiding in the crevices. Finally, I must do what most of my fellow Americans do when faced with what they don’t know or can’t remember – I Google.  

“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.”

The original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 for a school celebration of Columbus Day by Francis Bellamy. First published in The Youth’s Companion, a widely read children’s magazine, it was recited  in school houses around the country on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. It sounded a bit different than the version we know today.

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Bellamy’s version was not the first pledge written and recited. The first was written by Col. George T. Balch as a way to teach loyalty to children, especially children of immigrants. Bellamy agreed with the principle, but not the words, so he wrote the new version with the understanding that everyone in the United States did not receive justice, nor were all men born into equality

They way Bellamy wrote what we now know as the Pledge of Allegiance, any person in any country could say it. There were no words to indicate which flag, so people became concerned that immigrant children reciting the pledge might think of their home country flag instead of the US Flag as intended. In 1923, the Pledge was changed to include “United States” and then “of America.” School children all around the country were to say:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

This new version made it clear who you were pledging your allegiance to. It was another step used by those in power to force assimilation to the American way of life. Another change to the Pledge came in 1954 when the words “under God” were officially added. This move is argued to be in direct response to the fear of communism in the U.S. and also to tie the virtues of Christianity to capitalism. 

The history of the Pledge of Allegiance shows two goals: to exclude anyone or any belief deemed unAmerican by those in power, and to brainwash children going to school in the United States into believing justice for all. 

The people who say “all lives matter” probably believe it. We were forced to say a version of it almost every single day as a child when we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. We remember the words “justice for all,” but the rest is a jumbled mess falling into the crevices of our daily lives.

We choose not to see how to put policies and systems in the right order to provide justice for all. Instead, we stand around asserting that all lives matter while people around us are struggling to find equal footing and, too often, dying as a result. Until we can honestly say that all lives matter equally, we will not be a country that can honestly say and justice for all.


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