Flag Day 2018 finds the United States of America anything but united. Our nation is in tatters. Gone are the days when our presidents — whether George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt — stressed if not demanded unity of citizens and appreciation of our social, cultural and political differences. Instead, today’s leaders in the White House, Congress and the Statehouse play on our many differences — and then smugly wrap themselves in the American flag as patriots.

Patriots? Anything but. They’re stooges to either do-or-die political machinery or nefarious agents of disunion, foreign and domestic. If divine justice were truly unforgiving, many of those who put hand to heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance on Flag Day or any other day would burst into flames for what festers in their hearts.

Consider then the amended Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Several words vie for our attention: one Nation under God, indivisible, liberty, justice for all. Now consider the flap President Trump needlessly manufactured a week ago, suggesting members of the Philadelphia Eagles weren’t patriotic enough and were undeserving of an invitation to the White House as Super Bowl champs. Fox News dutifully bolstered the president, running photos of Philly players “taking a knee” in protest of police brutality. Oops. Turns out not one player on the team took a knee in any protest during the 2017 season. Not one. The photos showed players in prayer to God. Fake news, anyone?

Consider again those key words:

Liberty and justice for all: These shouldn’t be just words but principles held close. While many of us disapprove of the method of protest chosen by some NFL players in taking a knee during the national anthem at football games, neither should the press nor the president nor any other U.S. citizen allow the flag in which we tightly wrap ourselves to blind us to our serious inner-city problems involving police and communities of color. Happily, even if some of us defiantly choose to be blind, police departments such as Waco’s are not. They get it.

One Nation under God, indivisible: If today’s leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, find it expedient to foment disunion, then we need a change in leadership. Leaders are supposed to unite us, rally us to new visions, even when those visions challenge personal paradigms or ideologies. Instead, we have leaders who winked as Texans talked of secession during the Obama era and who wink now as Californians talk of splitting that state into three or even seceding.

I pledge allegiance: One regret today is too many Americans are all-fired-quick to place steep patriotic obligation in flag etiquette, the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. But the words to the latter come mindlessly if the actions of many are any indication. This Flag Day, pause to consider not only each word of the Pledge but also what the flag means: many states, many people, bound together by strong foundational principles that are supposed to be unquestioned.