Frankly, I think the Pledge is vitally important to America and Americans precisely because--as a nation of immigrants--we have few things in common besides our desire to be here, to live here and to participate in society here. But I also think rote recitation of anything--the Pledge, the Boy Scout motto, the lyrics from my favorite Grateful Dead song--slowly diminishes the meaning of the words. So sometimes I participate and sometimes I don't.Late this afternoon, word spread that veterans' groups were planning to picket tonight's meeting at City Hall, presumably to protest Friedman's exercising, from time to time, his freedom of choice. The rumors, however, turned out to be an exaggeration. When Gossips arrived at City Hall at about 6:50, two men wearing what I thought were VFW baseball caps were in the lobby. A video camera was set up in Council chambers, but the man behind the camera was not Dan Udell, who regularly records Council meetings to be shown on the Mid-Hudson Cable public access channel, but Lance Wheeler, the videographer who frequently provides video for CBS 6 in Albany. Wheeler recorded the beginning of the meeting, through the point at which everyone, including Friedman, rose for a "moment of silent contemplation" and the Pledge of Allegiance, took some still photographs with his camera pointed in the direction of Friedman, and then packed up his gear and left. The men in the VFW caps reportedly left at about the same time.
Addendum: Just as I was finishing this post, Wheeler published his video on YouTube.