The Pledge of Allegiance

I love my country, and I love the flag that represents it, but I do have a pet peeve about the Pledge of Allegiance. When I began homeschooling my children, my mother-in-law (who used to be a school teacher) insisted that we begin each day with the Pledge of Allegiance. I refused, and this annoyed her to no end, because she's very patriotic. I do have my reasons though. Here is the pledge most of us are familiar with...
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.
Now, let's dissect it...

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag..." Am I the only one who finds this a little creepy? Why does anyone have any need to pledge his ALLEGIANCE to a flag? It's an inanimate object. It's strange. Flags can change you know, and the American flag has changed many times. Which version of the American flag does one pledge his allegiance too? Is it the current one with 50 stars? Or was it the one my grandfather pledged allegiance to with 48 stars? What if it changes again in the future? Suppose they add more stars; do we forget our allegiance to the old flag, and pledge our allegiance to the new one? If you ask me the whole thing is just weird.

"And to the Republic for which it stands…" Am I the only one who understands what this means? This means you've just pledged your allegiance to Washington DC, the US Congress, the Whitehouse and the Supreme Court of the United States. Why does any American need to pledge his allegiance to the federal government? The United States government has changed twice so far in our Union's history. The first government was a confederation, under the Articles of Confederation. The second government was the original Union and Republic under the Founding Fathers created by the US Constitution. That Union and Republic were destroyed by the Civil War, and then re-founded thereafter, radically changing their appearance and character. This is the third American republic we are under right now. Who says there won't be a fourth? Does anyone else find it odd that our children should be pledging allegiance to a particular government? Isn't that strange? Isn't that a little creepy? I understand an oath of loyalty, especially when one is immigrating. I understand a pledge to defend the Constitution and its institutions, especially when one is being sworn into the military or a government office. That actually makes sense. But why do we require such a pledge from children in a school? Doesn't that seem a little extreme?

"One Nation…" Okay, this is pure Union propaganda here. To say "one nation" is to imply that we are all one homogeneous people of the same language, ethnicity and culture. The United States is NOT, and has never been, "one nation." Sociologists tell us that the United States consists of no less than nine, or possibly ten, nations of peoples, all living together under one political and economic Union. We are not "one nation." The United States is a plurality of nations living under one political and economic Union. The same is true with the United Kingdom. It is not one nation. It is a plurality of nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), all living under one political and economic union called the United Kingdom, or just Britain for short. You would never dream of calling a Scotsman English. So why would you say Deep Southrons are the same nation as Appalachians? Why would you say Southwestern Hispanics are the same nation as New England Whites? They're not!  Just try telling that to the Native American people on this continent. You'll be lucky if all you get is a slap to the face. They even refer to themselves as separate "nations." They're different people, we all are, not just ethnically, but culturally as well. Sure, we speak the same language (most of the time), and we use the same money, and we salute the same flag, but we are a unity of different peoples, different nations, not a uniform monolith of one homogeneous "nation."

"Under God…" We can thank the Knights of Columbus for this gem, and yes, it is a gem. It's probably the only thing in the pledge worth saying, as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, it seems that a whole lot of people don't want to say it any more. In fact, it's notably absent from public recitation from time to time.

"Indivisible…" This is pure Union, post Civil War, propaganda at its highest. The notion that the Union is indivisible was the whole reason why the Civil War was fought. The Founding Fathers, for the most part, did not share this vision. They viewed the Union as a polity of voluntary attachment. States could freely join, or freely leave, at will. Lincoln and the Unionists of the 1860s disagreed with that notion, and saw the Union as an empire, in which states may freely join, but once inside could never leave. That has been the accepted political paradigm ever since. That doesn't mean it's true, but for the time being, it is backed with military force. I personally hold to the same view as the Founding Fathers on this, that the Union is a voluntary polity, which states may freely join or leave at will. The only caveat to that being I believe it should be by popular vote not legislation. I believe if a state, like California for example, decided to float the idea of political independence, and the people of California voted in favour of it, they should be allowed to have it. It's no different than the independence referendum the Scots recently voted on, which the UK would have honoured had they voted to secede Scotland from the UK. Likewise, it's no different than the Brexit vote the Brits are about to have on secession from the European Union. I believe people should be the masters of their own destinies, and if that destiny involves breaking one political tie, in order to go independent and form new ones, then so be it. It's called CIVILITY people! And this is how civil people take care of big political problems in a mature and responsible way. This concept was foreign to Lincoln and the Unionists in the 1860s, and this word "indivisible" is a way of getting our kids to sign on to a century-old imperialist mindset like little robots. I'll have nothing of it.

"With liberty and justice for all." Let's face it. This is just flowery language designed to cover up all of the previous language. The truth is, you really can't have "liberty" and "justice for all" when you have people pledge their allegiance to a particular government, deny their unique cultural and ethnic identities in the process, by calling them "one nation," then have them state that they don't have the freedom to ever leave that Union and control their own destiny. I don't define this as "liberty" and I certainly don't call it "justice."

So call me a freak if you will. That's fine. Call me unpatriotic if you will. It doesn't matter to me. I'll continue to fly the American flag from my porch on the 4th of July, and other American holidays, and I'll like it. But I won't "pledge" my "allegiance" to an inanimate object, or the "republic for which it stands" (Washington DC), and I certainly won't deny the cultural and ethnic identity of myself or my neighbours by calling us all "one nation," and I certainly don't believe we are all "indivisible." I say this because I do believe in "liberty and justice for all," and to me, the whole Pledge of Allegiance denies that in a very peculiar way. It does so by stating everything that is against "liberty and justice" but then follows up by saying it is for "liberty and justice."

American school children performed the Bellamy Salute
during the Pledge of Allegiance from 1892 to 1942.
Don't get me wrong. I love my country. I love the United States of America, and I love the American flag too. I just think this whole Pledge of Allegiance thing is weird and a little creepy. Originally a certain salute was included with the Pledge. It was called the Bellamy Salute. You can see what that's all about here and here. It just adds scary to creepy. The Bellamy Salute was officially suspended by Congress and Franklin D. Roosevelt after the United States officially entered World War II. As you can see by the photograph, and if you take the time to read the links I provided in this paragraph, you'll immediately understand why.

So there won't be any Pledge of Allegiance in my house. I won't do it, and I certainly won't have my kids doing it either. When it's done in public, I will stand to show respect, and place my hand over my heart in the same manner, but my lips will be still, and not a word will proceed from my mouth. I'll teach my kids the same. They will learn to love the flag, and what it represents, without a ridiculous little pledge to coax them into a bunch of other things. Oh, and by the way, I do have my children learn the National Anthem, and other patriotic songs as well. That's some pretty good stuff. Yes, we are patriotic. We just don't march to the same drum as many others, and we don't need a "pledge" to prove how much we love America. That being said, I would like to close this essay with one of my favourite patriotic songs, which happens to be our National Anthem, but I want to share with you the full lyrics to this song. Most Americans are familiar with the first stanza of the Anthem, but not those which follow. I think if you read through them, you will see (as I do) that with such beautiful poetry expressing love for America and her flag, there is no reason why anyone would need to say anything more.

The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!



Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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I actually quite agree. I have never understood the weird American penchant for pledging allegiance to an inanimate object. That has always struck me as odd.

I have refused to say it for many years because I don't believe the Republic is indivisible in the Manifest destiny kind of way people intended. I have never been able to believe that if the former colonies had been told full stop that once they signed onto the US Constitution that there was no possible way to rescind it and leave ever that they would ever have passed the thing. That goes against the very nature of the Declaration of Independence that opens with talk about when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which connect it with that not the very definition of secession?
vhladym said…
Why Wayne, you sound like..... dare I say it.....a Canadian.

ps - We all wonder why y'all say this oath - why not just sing your anthem?
Arturo Mondello said…
After reading this post, I began searching for alternative pledges I could use, and I happened to come across one written by the blogger Courage Mom. He intends for it to be used by political leaders only, not ordinary citizens, but for Christians (we who seek to be our brothers' keepers), I think it works just as well for either.

My only edit would be to do what the Knights of Columbus do now and add "born and unborn" to the end of "with liberty and justice for all."