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Let us become the land of the free and home of the brave, and not remain the land of the cops and home of the caged

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In grade school. we usually started off the day with the pledge of allegiance and a patriotic song, including "America", "Yankee Doodle", "Grand Old Flag" and "America the Beautiful" (which song Pete Seeger liked very much and did a great version of during one of the American Folk Life festivals around the early 1990’s). What justifies public schools promoting American patriotism like that, with the word "god" in the pledge and in so many patriotic songs, in stark contrast to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and silence and protection to exercise religion or not?

"Grand Old Flag" praises the United States as the land of the free and the brave. However, the United States is too much the land of the cops and the caged with our state of overcriminaliztion and over-incarceration.

The United States’ inmate population does not seem to have gone down since Adam Liptak reported in the New York Times in 2008 that the United States incarcerates nearly one quarter of the world’s prison population and the highest prison population rate per capita, even far surpassing China, that bastion of human rights abuses.

America’s prison population is particularly huge as a result of lengthy incarceration — often with draconian mandatory minimum prison sentences, and a huge percentage of defendants dropping like flies to plead guilty and snitch to reduce mandatory minimum exposure, rather than having their day in court leaving full the burden of proof on the prosecution — of non-violent drug offenders. In the process, with incarceration costs in the tens of thousands of dollars per inmate per year, the prison system and the rest of the criminal justice system are dragging down our recovery from the recession. Part of the solution, of course, is to drastically shrink the criminal justice system by legalizing marijuana, gambling and prostitution; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing; eliminating per se drunk driving laws; and eliminating the death penalty.

What does the United States’ huge prison population say about any claim to America’s being the land of the free and the brave, rather than the land of the cops and home of the caged, or the oppressed and enslaved?

The fight for social justice continues, and never ends.