I <3 Barry Saunders

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Just when you thought the N&O had degenerated into a fleeting shadow of its former self, along comes Barry Saunders with an awesome, dead-on smack upside the head of the theocrats trying to take over North Carolina government.

Years ago, I thought the voice in my head was calling me to become a preacher, so I enrolled in Bible college. Not much from that week stuck, but I do recall Luke 6:26, which went "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you."

That goes for men, women -- and laws. Take the bill passed by the N.C. House last week requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

The bill passed 106-1, which some might see as proof of its rightness. What it says in reality is that its sponsors see North Carolina voters as a bunch of easily swayed chumps.

Even more deserving of scorn than Wake County Republicans Russell Capps and Neal Hunt, who sponsored this pabulum, are those legislators who voted in lock step lest they be branded as "unpatriotic" for not doing so. That's sad. What's sadder is that the nebulous but politically poisonous charge would have worked on gullible, mind-befogged voters.

We can at least presume that Capps, a House member, and Hunt, a state senator, had the courage of their convictions when they championed what Durham Democratic Rep. Paul Luebke -- the lone dissenter -- rightly dismissed as a "feel good" measure. We can't make the same presumption for those who supported the bill.

When I spoke with Capps this week, he said "I don't think it'll make [kids] any more patriotic, but it will make them more aware of our country's history and traditions."

He is, sadly, correct. Anyone who lived through the 1950s remembers with dread the "loyalty oaths" some U.S. citizens were required to take as a condition of getting a job.

How long do you reckon it'll be before the Russell Capps and Neal Hunts of the world will be wanting to require pledges from public schoolteachers that they will -- or won't -- teach certain things? Or, since the pledge is required for public school kids, when will home-schooled children be forced to "pledge up"?

Of course, that'll mean increased taxes, since school districts must hire someone to visit people's homes each morning -- or to at least monitor cameras set up in home schools -- to ensure compliance.

Didn't Hitler require a pledge? Want to bet that the Taliban does, too? Is that the kind of ideological company we want to keep?

The column keeps going, but fair use precludes me from posting the whole thing. Go read it, and get a whiff of what a real progressive looks like. Too bad the flacks on the editorial page at the N&O don't have half the backbone and values that Barry Saunders has.

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