FLORENCE GILKESON: Hot Buttons: Trying to Rile Up Voters in an Election Year
It takes courage. If you're persistent, you are likely to learn that the member of Congress has voted against a bill because it has been gutted of the most significant components, or because it does not appropriate enough money for a cause, or appropriates too much, or has one or more objectionable provisions added.
At other times, the wording of a bill, and especially amendments, is so convoluted that it takes a good bit of study before you can understand exactly what your "man's" vote meant.
Similarly, it was difficult last week to persuade some people that you could be a patriot and not favor a constitutional amendment making it illegal to desecrate the American flag.
This is an election year, and it's understandable that politicians have been bringing out all the old emotional stuff to get the apathetic stirring again.
It is of course repugnant to us to witness anyone openly and defiantly demeaning our flag, a precious symbol of freedom. Nevertheless, we don't need to add an unnecessary amendment to our Constitution, the only result of which will be encouragement to the defiant to renew assaults on the flag.
Nor do we need amendments to return prayer to the classroom or to ban same-sex marriage.
For one thing, prayer still has its place in the classroom. The Supreme Court did not prohibit prayer -- it just ruled that the school board could not impose prayer on anyone. There is no law prohibiting anyone from praying silently in public or in private. Children can pray at the beginning of a test. They just can't be loud about it.
What's wrong is that families have failed in sharing the meaning of their faith with their children. If parents do not take children to church or train them in the faith, then they should not assign that task to the public schools.
And further, it would be wise to consider the type of prayer offered by teachers, principals or school board members. You might be surprised and appalled.
Remember, too, that schools today serve a far less homogeneous population than was the case when most of us were children.
Instead of banning same-sex marriage, we would do well to shift our emphasis in another direction and do something to encourage heterosexual couples to marry. I know men and women are still getting married. I see announcements and photographs in the newspapers. I receive invitations to weddings.
On the other hand, I see plenty of evidence that people of all ages are spurning marriage vows in favor of "living together," either out of principle, preference or convenience.
If you watch television, read advice columns or just look around, you get the impression that many folks don't even know that different-sex marriage exists. (The U.S. Senate, to its credit, recently voted down the latest same-sex-marriage-ban amendment, although supporters vow to continue the effort).
In a recent column in The News & Observer of Raleigh, A.C. Snow tells of receiving a petition calling for schoolchildren to be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. No law prohibits the recitation of the Pledge, and as far as I know, it is still heard in schools and other public places on ceremonial occasions.
Snow says he declined to sign the petition because he thinks "that religion and patriotism should not be force-fed to anyone."
I like to pledge allegiance to the flag at appropriate times, but I doubt seriously there is any need to recite the pledge daily at the start of school. Considering the load teachers bear today, every single minute available should be devoted to academic studies. Leave the pledge to special occasions, and leave prayer for home and church.
Has anyone considered that members of some religions (Jehovah's Witnesses are among them) are prohibited from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?
Apparently these believers regard such a pledge as an infringement on their religious belief. Does that make them unpatriotic?
I think not, and these folks have a right to their belief and to interpret the Bible as they deem appropriate. Likewise, some people object to taking an oath using the Bible. In those cases the state grants them an option.
The United States has plenty of serious issues to resolve -- public security, war, immigration, deficit among them. We have other resources for religion, morality and culture.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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