The Semantics of the Language in the Pledge of Allegiance

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In class, we’ve studied the separate definitions of justice and language. The word justice according to the OED, has a lot of origins. It comes from the French and Latin. French jostise, Latin iūstitia. Its dictionary definition is “Punishment of an offender; retribution deemed appropriate for a crime; esp. capital punishment, execution. Also: †an instance of this, a punishment (obsolete)”. But, justice has shown to be the administration of law toward a conflicting situation by an authority figure. Throughout history, the concept of justice has been performed through different ways. Such as religion, Egyptian used divine justice as a deterrent for them to commit crimes, most specially Ma’at,a female embodiment goddesses that served as an imagine of justice. They saw justice through a moral behavior, if you were good in the world, you would be rewarded in the afterlife, but if you were an evil person you would be sent to the Egyptian idea of hell. For example, “the famous” Last Judgment scene,’ in which an individual faced his or her mortality by having his or her life deeds weighed in the balance against the symbol of justice, the ostrich feather, in front of all of the gods in Egypt”(Manning 115). Though this wasn’t justice performed by a terrenial authority, Egyptians believe this to be the most important form of justice because they preferred to go their lives living by their good morals and not allow themselves to be led by their emotions, to one day in the final judgment enjoy their afterlife with the gods instead of ruining their code of morals and/or conduct to eventually live their life in hell.

Creating a connection to a democratic society since just like Egyptians, though they rely a lot on divine justice also have a set of rules that democratic societies have to follow because if not their will be a punishment put in place due to each of their deeds. Though many don’t believe in Egypt’s connection to democaric states such as Montesquieu by stating, ‘in despotic states, where there are no fundamental laws, neither is there a depository of laws.”. He believed that a country that had one person holding all the power such as a dictatorship or a monarchy, could not have fundamental laws and because of that they could not influence western developments since he believed there would be no such thing as a jury or a fair trial. But indeed, Egypt though a monarchy at the time, showed to influence western societies by having a fair trials, jurys, a set rule of norms that even the pharaoh had to follow, similar to the ones we have today in our democartic society. Such as the first amendment because the Eygptian rulers understood the importance of it, something that would eventually become a cornerstone in democratic societies.

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In US History, there have been many times where language justices or the freedom of speech given to us by the Bill of Rights First Amendment has been tried to be limited. In the court case, Yates v. United States (1957), an uprising communist party in the State of California. 14 officials for the coommunist party were accused of being in violation of the Smith Act, and act that stated that “its a criminal offense to advocate the violent overthrow of the government or to organize or be a member of any group or society devoted to such advocacy”, and so it was claimed that they were doing such a thing. But, the rule came in favor of the communist official due to the supreme court stating that though the Smith Act isn’t unconstitutional, it doesn’t apply to the case. Due to the supreme court, creating a distinction between the advocacy and organizing a plot to violently overthrow the government. Though, many disagreed with the verdict, justice in this case according to the law was served. Another court case would be Minersville School District v. Gobitis in 1940, due to patriotic fervor in the US because of wartime, a law was passed that in schools, kids had to salute the flag as a part of the daily exercises, but Lillina and William Gobitas decided not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and because of this they were expelled from school. So the parents decided to sue the school but the supreme court rules in favor of the school causing riots all over the country on Jehovah’s Witness. (Minersville School District v. Gobitis 1940)

A time where language justice has been violated was in Engel v. Vitale Case. The issue began when NYS passed a law that required public schools to begin their day by stating the Pledge of Allegiance and reciting a prayer where the students stated God. So, the parents decided to sue stating that those students can sit out from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, the government was inciting the students to believe in God and intervening with issue that had to do with religion (Facts and Case Summary – Engel v. Vitale). Especially in such a diverse state where there are people that practice different religions. Language justice matters because as humans we should be able to believe regardless if its religious beliefs or the right to say as we wish as long as it does not promote chaos or disruption to other and the government should protect our rights.

Language is important to me because I believe that we should be protected and believe as we wish. Language justice does not only relate to us saying what we wish but also it relates the us speaking our language and accepting the difference in language and the diversification in a country like the US. Though I’ve never been a situation where I’ve had any issues for speaking my language but I know people that have . My friends for speaking Urdu in the street have been classified as evil things due to their language and it just isn’t right. Also, language regardless if it non verbal is what we use to communicate with each other. In class, we were playing a game with chips where we had to communicate with each other without speaking, made me realize how important language is and though we were able to communicate with each other, some better then others we see how their are different ways to communicate and how important that is. Language can be used to do bad or good, but when it is used in a good way, it can open possibilities and barriers that can change your life. It happened to me in a vacation to Puerto Rico, because I took a year of French in high school I was able to able to communicate with native French speakers that were also on vacation. It sparked a desire to learn more about different cultures and different language and I’m sure it can spark a similar desire in someone else as well.

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