And Another Thing: Why not talk about patriotism?

By: Susan Rushton
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I don’t work downtown anymore, haven’t for over a year. So I don’t spend as much time hanging around as I used to. So I imagine I’m the last person to have seen that addition to Central Square under the flag – the Pledge of Allegiance etched into the sidewalk.

I finally noticed it a couple of weeks ago. Instantly, I knew I’d write about it. It made me uneasy, for one thing. Wow, I thought.  

Uneasy, in the middle of Auburn. I told myself to be careful – whatever I said about the fact of the pledge on the sidewalk, I knew I’d make somebody mad.

Now, you know me. You’ve read me for years. You know that my husband and I stand at parades when the color guard marches past. Actually, we look forward to standing. We fidget. We race each other to see who leaps up first. Plus we look for reasons to fly the flag at home.

Flag Day! Election Day! Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth of July! Not to mention our anniversary, for heaven’s sake. And Thanksgiving.

So I think the flag’s wonderful. The Pledge of Allegiance is just fine, too. I just get ... itchy. Seeing it in Central Square feels like a demand that I subscribe to a specific, limited idea of patriotism.

I’m convinced the City Council members who voted 5-0 in favor of etching the pledge on the sidewalk didn’t expect me to feel this way.  

I know, too, that the outcome of the vote was a slam-dunk. Nobody in his right mind in politics in Auburn would vote against this motion.  

The pledge resides comfortably in that bag of unquestionable stuff that we call “traditional values.”

But see, I have a terrible time with unquestionable stuff. I have this irresistible urge to ask questions.

No, no, relax. I don’t want to get rid of the pledge. I’m not necessarily complaining that it’s there. I’m just – you know – asking questions. And it’s just that I’d appreciate seeing other, possibly patriotic references nearby. Why just have one patriotic statement on the sidewalk?

Like, say, the Bill of Rights. Well, no, that would use up too much space, take up the whole sidewalk from Tre Pazzi to Hilda’s. So what about just my favorite, the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Be still, my heart.

Or what about the preamble to the Constitution? “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Still too long? OK. The heck with it. Let’s just take Dr. Fox’s “Why?” statue from the entrance to the Domes and move it downtown.

Questioning our leaders, asking “Why?”– that’s just about as patriotic as you can get. Certainly as patriotic as pledging allegiance to the flag.

Reach Susan Rushton at