Listening to radio commentators discuss various remembrances of 9/11, I rattled off the pledge of allegiance in my head and felt sort of... nothing. I wondered how many others find that facet of our identity fraught with conflict, weighted with tension between feeling called to reconnect with the cultural tribe at a deep level, yet paralyzed in disdain or isolation from the national collective.
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.
No, I'm not thrilled with many of the stances my government takes, that politics touts, or how the symbols of our nation are warped to serve specific agendas.
The truth is, my relationship to the totems of our nation aren't about any of that. They are precisely my
relationship to the power items of this land, which supports and treasures the people, the societies, all things that live on it, without condition. In that light patriotism becomes more palpable to me, more visceral. When I remember the totems of our country, my connection to them comes before any semantics: the bald eagle
, the flag
, the seal
, the liberty bell
, the national flower - rose
, the national tree - oak
, Uncle Sam
, the Washington Monument
, the Lincoln Memorial
, the national anthem
, the national creed
, the Constitution
, the Bill of Rights
, the Declaration of Independence
Maybe I could rewrite the pledge to more fit my idea of patriotism, reconnect to other symbols of the United States to form a more personal union. In my ability to honor them as thriving, evolving, spiritual manifestations, I find that reconstruction of them isn't necessary. When I call them in, really merge with their essence, none of the posturing, preaching, gloating, or separatism is present. What I find is a spirit of liberty, respect, equality--the things I focus my daily awareness on as an animist.
In many ways, 9/11, itself, is a totem. To me it symbolizes sacrifice, unity, resilience, and humility. Though more raw and primal than the virtues of our other national totems, for me that relationship sits well amongst the others, and it reminds me that symbols change, evolve, grow, as do we.
Photo credit: 9/11 Healing Totem, given to NYC by the One Voice Arts & Leadership Program of Monterey County, California, in commemoration of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Wally Gobetz @ flickr.