By Guy Page
Black Lives Matter is an aspirational phrase. Supporters insist on saying it rather than the more generic “All Lives Matter” because they believe too many fellow Americans think black lives don’t matter.
Yet for precisely the same reason — its aspirational nature — the Pledge of Allegiance was tossed into the wastebasket of history this week by the Windsor Selectboard. Board members say there can be no “liberty and justice for all” until “black lives matter.” So they’ve stopped saying the pledge. As Selectboard member Christopher Goulet told WCAX reporter Adam Sullivan after the board’s decision this week, “I try to live by both ideas, so at a point, it becomes very difficult to me in my personal life to recite words that fairly obviously are not being upheld by our government.”
Maybe Goulet and colleagues are just trying to show consistency and support for the flagrant act of injustice and inequality perpetrated this week by Windsor’s school board. It fired Windsor School Principal Tiffany Riley for exercising her freedom of speech in questioning on her Facebook page aspects of Black Lives Matter. (Yes, she’s suing.) Perhaps Goulet is attempting to justify his town’s school officials’ very public expulsion of Ms. Riley from the community of “all.”
“Liberty and justice for all?” Not in our town.
Pledge, like Professor Harold Hill said in “The Music Man,” starts “with a capital P — which rhymes with T — which stands for Trouble!” At this very moment a subcommittee of right-thinking Windsor townsfolk may be rewriting the Pledge to say “liberty and justice for all except those who question Black Lives Matter, or any other cause we consider more important than the Bill of Rights.”
But no, probably not. I doubt the Windsor Selectboard and school board are in subversive cahoots. They’re just being blissfully inconsistent. “I insist you say Black Lives Matter because it is aspirational. And I refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it is aspirational.”
One wonders if other parts of the Pledge stick in the Windsor Selectboard’s collective craw. Maybe vowing “allegiance” to one nation — and such a racist, capitalist one at that! — rather than to the global community of persons? Perhaps rather than “under God,” they’d prefer “under Gaia.”
To find out, someone should recite the Pledge during the public comments section of the next Windsor Selectboard meeting. Under the circumstances would that speech, like Tiffany Riley’s, be deemed racist? Inquiring fans of George Orwell need to know.
After the meeting, WCAX reporter Sullivan caught up with Pledge supporter Thomas Mcleod, an African-American: “The Marine Corps veteran was visibly emotional and seemed to be personally offended by the select board’s vote. ‘All that we did and all that we gave was for naught? Are you kidding me right now? So yeah, we should not just pledge allegiance to the flag but live it,’ McLeod said.”
Supporters of the Pledge say of course it is aspirational — it reminds every schoolchild, Town Meeting participant, legislator, and Selectboard member that being an American is about striving for “liberty and justice for all.”
Apparently the Selectboard of the not-too-distant Town of Hartford is considering a similar ban on the Pledge. This too is fitting, because Hartford (aka White River Junction) also has been unwilling to defend “liberty and justice for all” when challenged by ideologues. At a Selectboard meeting last August, an immigrant rights activist called a Black selectboard member a “coon” for [again] showing insufficient enthusiasm for a pro-illegal immigration ordinance. This awful racial epithet went unchallenged at the meeting and virtually unreported in the press, except by Vermont Daily.
Eight score years ago, Americans enslaved Mcleod’s ancestors. Eighty years ago, we interned Japanese citizens. Seventy years ago, we blacklisted leftists. These injustices succeeded for a time because loud, powerful, misguided Americans believed the end justified the means, and — even worse — quiet, fearful, misguided Americans let it happen. A coalition of the timid and the self-righteous robbed a minority of their freedom. When Americans at long last repented of breaking their national Commandments, they humbly honored those who had called them back to the Bill of Rights.
As you read this, Tiffany Riley is fighting for her job. VTrans highway workers are told by our governor to erase anti-BLM graffiti but leave pro-BLM graffiti untouched. Last week, a quiet, peaceful crowd trying to honor Vermont’s police heroes was shouted down and called racist by an angry, pro-BLM mob. And painting “Liberty and Justice for All” next to “Black Lives Matter” in the street in front of the Vermont State House this month was rejected by the Montpelier City Council; one councilor said the phrase is just too “aspirational.”
Sixty-six years ago ardently anti-communist Sen. Ralph Flanders of Vermont opposed blacklisting Sen. Joe McCarthy because he trampled on others’ rights. He aspired to uphold the Constitution while many cowered in fear as our nation’s leaders, press and much of the population sought to deny God-given rights to their fellow Americans.
When it really counted, the senator from Springfield — like McLeod — insisted on reciting and practicing “liberty and justice for all.” When America stops preaching “liberty and justice for all,” pretty soon it will stop practicing it as well. Can we not aspire to both?
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.