One Nation Indivisible
Much later, I learned that the original Pledge did not include "under God." It was added during the 1950s to set us apart from the Soviets, who were officially atheist. "One nation indivisible" had awesome significance no matter what your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Whatever your opinion of the insertion, it does terrible violence to the intent of the original author. The Pledge was written after the Civil War by a Union Army veteran. He wanted to stress that the war settled something about our national character that previously was open to debate. We are one country, not fifty (if I'm not mistaken, there were 35 states at the time of the Civil War). The states are subordinate to the federal government and must comply with federal law, right? Of course right.
Well, not quite. Out of frustration with President Obama's successful health care legislation, several Republican politicians in several states are trying to resurrect the concept of "nullification." This doctrine, bandied about before the Civil War, holds that the federal government is a creature of and subordinate to the states, any of which may "nullify" federal law, i.e. simply ignore it within the borders of that state. The logical outgrowth of this is secession, the right of states to quit the Union. One Supreme Court decision after another shot the doctrine down, and for good reason. It is a pernicious concept that would balkanize the country and render it unable to be a leader in the world. It is an abomination, whether any particular result is good or bad. Minnesota tried to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law, which mandated that runaway slaves be returned to their masters, even if they escaped to a free state like Minnesota. By contrast, the Jewish Fugitive Slave Law can be found in Deut. 23:16,17). The Supreme Court did not allow Minnesota to nullify that Act of Congress. We fought a bloody war, after which we amended the Constitution to do away with slavery forever.
During the Civil Rights struggle, several southern states tried to invoke nullification against federal mandates to desegregate schools, intercity buses and the like. Thank God they did not succeed. The Supreme Court, pursuant to Article Six of the Constitution, made clear that federal law supersedes states' rights, like it or not. And lest we think that fears about the Union falling apart again are far fetched, the reference I linked to above tells how a rally in Texas called for not only nullification but secession.
Were these rumblings merely the ravings of a madman they might be safely dismissed. But they are coming from elected officials who certainly should know better. There is a lot not to like about Obamacare, and Congressmen from both parties fought the good fight, but it is now the law of the land. It can only be changed by Congress or the Courts. Everybody on every side of every other issue needs to make it crystal clear that nullification is dead and buried at Appomattox. Just as a private citizen cannot pick and choose which laws to obey, no state can pick and choose which federal legislation will apply in the state. As a Constitutional scholar told the Texas legislature, "If you believe in nullification, you don't believe in the Constitution." To which I might add that you don't believe in America's mission in the world either.