antonia williams-gary.pngI 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.

I have been saying that as far back as I can remember. A natural- born citizen, I recited it at school, at every public function and even in some churches.

Even so, I – and, I suspect, you, too – have not given much time to think about what those words mean in daily life.

Pledge: A solemn promise to do or refrain from doing something.  In this instance, when we recite the pledge of allegiance to our country’s flag “and to the republic for which it stands,” we are recommitting ourselves to the great democratic experiment we live in and under.

I am constantly pulled to think about the many ways the experiment has gone bad, especially when I turn on the television.  There is much distraction and continuous pundit dribble.  And there I also see, in real time, the demise of Greece, one of the earliest republics.  So, I pause for the following review of our own democratic republic.

First, we celebrated another July 4 weekend, commemorating the independence of the United States – a new republic – from Great Britain – a monarchy – established in 1776 and still experimenting, 235 years later. 

Let’s begin with the economy.  Forget about it.  What I know for sure is that it will take many years to correct and that no one president or administration is responsible for it all or can make it all right.

Then there are the current wars – two – and conflicts — too many to count.  I say, let the peace begin with me.

Bulletin: Men can now marry men and women marry women – at least in a few states, the latest being New York.

About marriage: May the rights, privileges and issue of children, property and prestige resulting from each union be in abundance and multiply.  Isn’t that what marriage is about anyway? ’Cause what’s love got to do with it?  

On members of Congress who sext – and abuse other expressions of power: When was the last time you saw any of the early cave illustrations that advertise a hunter’s virility?  What about the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics? Today’s court of public judgment would render them pornographic.  And then there were those Romans.  Oh, those Romans, Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar and the rest of them.

Our rulers, male and female, have always been representatives of the promise of fecundity. It’s the audacity of hope that we support, a mirror to ourselves, of the things that might have been if only we…

….have an abundance of clean water,  clean air,  free range animals, unpolluted oceans,  a thriving and vigorous free market of knowledge and ideas, people who are free to have open discourse about all of the above.  This is a very short list of the elements of my idea of a democracy.

And that’s just it.  I have adopted a personal set of ideals in support of my pledge and I am trying to be a responsible citizen, 

treating myself and you with the same respect that I have for the places and spaces we occupy with other living things, in demonstration of the sacredness of democracy.  Easy?  Not even for a moment.   

I recently reread two publications in support of these same ideals: The Open Space of Democracy by Terry Tempest Williams and On the Pulse of Morning, the inaugural poem for Bill Clinton, written by Maya Angelou.

Both of these visionaries used the river, the rock, the tree and other forms of natural elements as points of reference. In each case, they make the point that the flag/democracy that we pledge allegiance to, the wars we wage at home and abroad to protect our liberties and our prayers that we remain under the care of the god of our understanding, demand that we participate as individuals of this republic. 

As Ms. Williams says in Open Space, “Patriots act — they are not handed a piece of paper called by that name and asked to comply.”  Instead, Ms. Williams and Ms. Angelou challenge each of us, America’s citizens, to question.  Stand.  Speak.  Act.  Keep us free.

I am guided by the words of Ms. Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.  Lift your eyes upon this day breaking for you.  Give birth again to the dream.”

Now go do something.

Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at

Photo: Antonia Williams-Gary