An oath is not a pledge. It is not simply spoken. An oath is made. This implies that an oath is a tangible object. It is a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior. We call God (or our god) to bear witness to the oath and in making that oath, we swear that what we say or do going forward will be true. The presence of that Divine Witness converts or conjures the supernatural, the metaphysical and binds us to our oath.
It’s a big deal people. In these modern times, oath making is rare. Not because oaths are inconsequential or irrelevant but because the circumstances in which we are asked to be true are minimal and uncommon. The only strongly held belief is to be true to yourself but even in those promises we make to ourselves, aloud or in secret, we break those vows. The New Year’s Resolution is an artifice. Making a Quit Date to stop smoking. Setting a goal for savings or exercise or dieting. Meaningless. Empty. Theater.
As Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, we recited the motto. As school children, we pledged to the flag. Those short sentences or phrases meant to encapsulating the beliefs or ideals of our country, intended to guide us to become good citizens. But they are pledges. They are not oaths.
Every soldier that joins our military takes an Oath of Enlistment. Physicians once recited the Hippocratic Oath but in modern times, new graduates from medical school speak a variety of public statements, rarely with the sacred degree once imbued in the distinction of being a doctor of medicine. At my own hooding ceremony, my class recited the Osteopathic Oath.
Oath making and sacred promises have been relegated to religious ceremonies, which makes then fell stiff and even artificial. Ceremonial. We are not a country or a culture that bends the knee and swears fealty to The Crown. If you are born here and a citizen by birth, no one asks you to raise your right hand and swear an oath of citizenship. Citizenship is granted automatically. But all naturalized citizens swear an Oath of Allegiance.
But breaking an Oath matters. Break your marriage vows – regardless of the reason or circumstance – we hesitate and sense the unraveling of the oath. We are perceiving the ripping of the sacred bonds. It is a deliberate act. Certainly, the vows can be damaged and frayed but the oath makers must then they must purposefully and intentionally unlace the bindings to be free from the oath once made.
The oath taken by a president, an elected official, a judge appointed to the bench, a soldier, and even a police officer are made to protect and serve the laws of this land and the Constitution so that all others living under the protection of those Laws and that Constitution benefit from them. They are the arbiters for us. By proxy of their oaths, we are all protected.
But what happens when they fail to do keep their oaths. Because this is beyond failing to do their jobs. If the work you do everyday started with an OATH, then you are doing something beyond work. Oath swearing is required for VOCATIONS. The police officers in Uvalde took an OATH. The nurses and doctors working in the front lines of the pandemic took OATHS. Our soldiers take OATHS. Our Congressmen take OATHS. But the janitors don’t take oaths. The secretaries don’t. The spouses of the elected don’t. My plumber doesn’t make an oath for his business interactions with the public.
I want my plumber to be honest and have integrity. I want her to be qualified. She has a certification that provides me with confidence in her skill but she doesn’t have to raise her right hand and swear an OATH. But when the elected president of this country, into which I was born and have automatic citizenship and protection, swears an OATH to serve the Constitution, that OATH matters. It is spoke with a Divine witness. It is a solemn promise.
And like every deceptive, conniving villain, we knew from the onset that any oath spoken or made was done with malcontent. Oath making requires honesty and integrity and SOLEMNITY. It is not made with tongue-in-cheek, fingers-crossed, prefabricated intent to break. We do not make solemn oaths to ourselves (unless we are utter psychopaths and think ourselves god). An Oath made by a proven liar is an empty vow. Of course he will break the Oath, betray all that he swore to honor. So why am I surprised? Angry? Offended?
Because I have sworn oaths. I live every day and work everyday under the vellum of an oath. I am aware of that oath and accept it. And the ingenuine oath is an affront.