About 15 years ago my niece asked me about enforcing the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. She felt it was a wonderful, simple, patriotic, harmless, cause. I did not feel that I could support this cause.

The Fourth of July is soon and especially at certain times like these, it seems worthy to be a proud flag-waving American patriot. And perhaps nothing seems more despicable than an American who will not "stand up" for his country.

Yet, to me, patriotism and flag-waving are supreme symbols of "separation" of one person from another, one country against another, one race against another – racism and elitism in a form that looks or seems palatable. Patriotism and flag-waving to me send a message that I am different and more special than someone else

I believe we are one world and I will speak for myself. I am one with all humanity. I do not want to proudly say "my nation" as much as I want to say "my world." I do not want one nation allied against another nation. I want all nations allied for peace and oneness. All nations of the world should stand for freedom, brotherhood, justice, peace and opportunities for all people, everywhere. I do not want any nation to be another nation's enemy. When we get beyond patriotism and flag waving we will have made a giant step towards world peace and go beyond thinking of "MY" tribe, city, state, country, race, nationality, religion, or faith and ego-based separation. Emphasizing differences leads to separation and that leads to conflict.

An oath or pledge to me is a way of "forcing" (you may think that is too strong of a word) uniformity of belief and allegiance. Whether it is for religious or political reasons, it says you promise to uphold certain beliefs, to conform to certain standards, to not veer from a certain group stance. My personal spiritual beliefs are: that nothing should be "forced" by rote or pledge upon us. The way of spirit, for me, goes beyond "words" and "enforcement" and comes from the "heart". Conformity and tenants of religions and state have caused so much grief and separation. Hitler's patriotic youth groups started off seeming harmless enough. Conversely, The Quakers allegiance was to God (in their heart), and they refused to make human-made oaths. One main emphasis of supporting the "Pledge of Allegiance" has to do with support of the phrase "nation under God."

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same in any country.” Spoken by Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, privately to a German-speaking intelligence officer.

In the name of patriotism and flag-waving, many dissenters are hushed from criticizing their government even when the government is morally or ethically wrong. E Pluribus Unum, “from many, one” is on the great seal of the USA. That is a belief I can support.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people, who thought people of the United States were doing something noble by establishing a place that would welcome people of all nations and faiths and where all would have freedom from tyranny and freedom to worship as they believed.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

— Jim Meissner of Ashland is a contributor to the Inner Peace Column.