My senior year of high school I had a government teacher that ridiculed any person who rose with the entire school and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Myself and one other person were the only ones who would rise each day. Looking back, while I still do not agree with his bullying tactics – 20 years later I am grateful for the reflection that continues on still to this day as a result of that experience.

My teachers argument was that the United States was not a country that was undivided. In fact to him, we were extremely divided. We were not a nation under God. According to him we had many gods. There was not liberty or justice for all. He grew up in an era when his best friend, who was black, had to use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains.

We still live in a very polarizing time. When you consider the “rights” battles going on for same sex marriages, religious liberties, women’s healthcare, healthcare in general, gun ownership, entitlement benefits, immigration reform, the way military veterans have been treated, targeted political groups by the IRS etc. The list goes on and on, and both sides of the political spectrum are feeling pain.

I think my teacher was right. We are not a unified country in many respects. We are not all under the same god and liberties and justice for all is at stake every single day.

But those are the reasons I pledge allegiance. Not because we have all those things, but because we don’t.

As an American I am dedicated the ideology that we are all created equal. Whether or not you believe in God, if his/her name is Allah, Jesus or even science. Something is bigger than us all and we are subject that higher power or natural evolution of science. That subjection to something bigger makes us all the same. I am dedicated to the ideology that liberty and justice can be had for all. That if we work together we can find solutions to make this country and world a humane place for everyone, where we all can enjoy and pursue liberty and happiness.

When I pledge allegiance it is not to a president, politician, a new law or lobbyist group. When I pledge allegiance it’s not to a political party or talk show host. When I pledge allegiance it is not to my spiritual upbringing or social policy. When I pledge allegiance it’s not to a budget or lack of one.

When I pledge allegiance it is to my fellow countrymen no matter the differences we share. I pledge to respect them through our differences. I pledge to remember that I myself am no better than my neighbor. That when I fight for liberties and justices that are aligned to my beliefs and values, that my fellow citizens deserve the same right to fight for liberties and justices aligned to their beliefs and values; and not be hated, alienated, targeted or bullied just because we are different.

When I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America I recognize that we are not perfect. Not our country, not our leaders, not our laws. But that our goal is perfect and that we are the most enabled and empowered people on this earth to hit that goal. While it may not happen in our lifetime, my children’s lifetime or even my grandchildren’s lifetime…the pursuit of that goal will keep our country from ultimate tyranny and oppression. It is a worthwhile goal, and it is worth our energy and conviction to never give up on it.

This is why 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.