The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Of Demagogues and Patriotism

I do not pledge to a flag. To ANY flag. As I have stated elsewhere, my religious beliefs preclude me from saluting or pledging allegiance to ANY type of emblem or flag. The mayor’s cheap insinuations about my patriotism are par for the course, however. Unfortunately, nothing better can be expected of her, after these six and a half long years. Her tenure in office has been notable primarily for its pettiness, ineptitude, and incompetence--long before I came to the council in 2011. To publicly attempt to ridicule and misinform our veterans about me is just one more example of her despicable demagoguery.

PMUA Commissioner Toliver is well aware of my strong support for veterans and veteran’s causes--I have attended virtually every event our local veterans have held since taking office (and many for years before). Mr. Toliver is also aware of my efforts (since last year) to have the mayor remove the insulting obstructions that had been blocking the bronze war memorial plaque in the city hall rotunda for years—in fact, we had a brief conversation about it only two weeks ago. Last summer, I wrote, in part:  

The desk blocks the huge bronze plaque that memorializes Plainfield veterans. Veterans have been among those who have expressed anger at the disrespect shown to their sacrifice. Nothing should EVER block a memorial.” 

Here is the entire link, along with photos of the mess:

For Mr. Toliver to equate my adherence to my religious beliefs to a figurative burning of the flag was deeply offensive--the applause that occurred in the wake of his commentary suggests that perhaps folks ought to become familiar with the establishment and free exercise clauses, respectively, of the constitution's First Amendment. I spoke to him after the meeting about this, and he assured me that he would come to the April business meeting to make a public apology for his intemperate and inaccurate remarks. 

Among my students at Essex County College are many, many veterans, both young men and young women, who have returned from fighting our nation’s wars in various states of wellness--some still suffer from PTSD. By and large, they are among my most dedicated students—we talk about their military experiences in class—their perspective on the texts we study is greatly valued by the other students, and we honor them for their service and commitment. In addition, the Director of Essex County College’s Urban Issues Institute, Dr. Margaret Stevens, is herself a veteran, whose commitment to those who serve has become a significant aspect of the institute’s mission at the college (I serve on the UII Steering Committee).

 Finally, I would suggest that the calling into question of my patriotism is merely a political deflection on the part of the mayor for the continuing inadequacies and shortcomings of her leadership. The business of the people, however, is what is important to me.

The affirmation I made upon being elevated to the city council on January 3, 2011 was as follows:

“I, Rebecca Williams, do solemnly affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and to the Governments established in the United States and in this State, under the authority of the People; and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of Plainfield City Council Member Rebecca Williams, according to the best of my ability.”

Those are my final words on this topic.

All best,


Post Scriptum: I guess I can tell my mom that I got my picture in the paper. Unbelievable.


  1. Stick up for your rights, Rebecca. I never respect the position, but the person who holds it. Thank you for demanding decorum from our rude mayor and performing your duties professionally. Take care.

  2. Rebecca we didn't vote for you to see if you would stand, sit, or flip for the flag. We have bigger issues within the community and all I ask is for you to continue to do what we the voters expect of you to do in order to help our community. Again the major tried one of her tricks to turn the focus off of her...Again it backfired!! Oh voy

  3. Excerpts from: "On Not Saluting the Flag";Pub 06/29/2001 By Joseph Farah:editor & CEO of WND; nationally syndicated columnist w/Creators Syndicate; author/co-author of 13 books, including "The Tea Party Manifesto," "Taking America Back," &former editor of the Sacramento Union.

    "While I have not personally refused to Pledge Allegiance to the flag, I’ve got to tell you that there’s something about it I just don’t like. Here’s my beef: We honor the flag in America, but not the Constitution. The flag is a mere symbol. The Constitution is the real thing. We should revere it and honor it. We don’t even pay attention to it anymore."

    "And the Constitution is a symbol as well as a real document – a literal guidepost to maintaining – or now, perhaps, to recovering – America’s freedom."

    "But it can only serve that function if we as a nation abide by it, pay heed to it, live by its code and its spirit.
    Oddly, the Pledge of Allegiance never even refers to the Constitution.Therefore, which symbol is worth saluting? To which symbol should Americans pledge allegiance? Which symbol is worth dying for? The flag is not my pick. After all, it is just a symbol – and it’s a symbol that means different things to different folks...There’s one more substantive issue I have with the Pledge of Allegiance.What is this “indivisible” garbage? No contract should be indivisible – and therefore binding on all parties whether they want to participate or not."

    "... I never say “indivisible” when I recite the pledge. That “i” word is not in line with the letter or the spirit of the Constitution.Here’s the larger point, however. Symbols are important. But the Constitution is more. It is both symbol and substance. And its substance is being desecrated every day – not just by misinformed, misguided folks...but even by many of those so piously concerned about the symbolic desecration of the flag, or the importance of saying the Pledge of Allegiance."

    "A national survey taken recently found that less than half of American adults would vote for the Constitution if it were on the ballot today. That’s scary. And, to that, I say, thank God there is no requirement for a referendum on the Constitution. Thank God our Founding Fathers had the foresight not to create a democracy in America."

    "The Constitution, along with the Declaration of Independence, represents more of a national creed and mission statement for our country than it does a simple founding document."

    "Maybe, instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in school every day, that time could be better spent reading the Constitution. And, maybe, if, instead of saluting the flag, our elected representatives in statehouses across the country and in Congress spent their time reading the Constitution – and reaffirming their oaths to it – our country would be a lot better off."