Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why I hate the Pledge of Allegiance

Their patriotism burns like a pile of schoolbooks

Ever since I first bit the forbidden apple of political awareness, I have tastefully refrained from saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Is it because I equate support for the flag with support for the Bush administration? Because I hate America? Or could it be because I haven't been in a grade-school class in seven-plus years?

Actually, those reasons would be irrelevant anyway. Part of what I love about America is that we (at least in principle) do not enforce national pride; indeed, not requiring it seems to truly bring it out in people. And that's the way it should be--because Americans aren't forced to say anything patriotic, they are more likely to affirm that pride out of genuine spirit. I show my patriotism in numerous ways, such as by exercising my personal freedoms and by being actively aware of political society. The issue I have with the pledge, then, is that it is a purely symbolic and robotic recitation of what it means to be an American. And as the past few years have shown us with a proverbial slap to the face, we need far more than simple lip service to truly act as Americans.

With that in mind, here are three major reasons why the pledge (as well as most national statements and songs) are flawed in purpose:

1) Schoolchildren have to say it every day. Even as a four-year-old in Head Start, I had the say the pledge on a daily basis. This was the same year I learned (via flashcard sessions) how to pronounce and define such words as "word" and "learn." The hardest word I dealt with that year was "together;" how, then, could I possibly understand such concepts as "allegiance" and "indivisible?" And yet, we're all told repeatedly how important it is for students to reaffirm their devotion to their country every morning. Curiously, such lessons in good citizenship are rarely, if ever, accompanied by deeper introspection.

2) And adults don't. If we are to believe that saying the Pledge of Allegiance is a major ingredient for responsible American citizenry, then why aren't adults given more opportunities to say it? As far as I know, the pledge is spoken mainly at local council meetings and--since 1999!--the Senate. It seems to me that reciting the oath would have far more significance in adulthood, once one has had a chance to become an active citizen. But then again, the pledge never really comes off as an assertive civic act, does it? Perhaps the adults are onto something...

3) It contains the words "Under God." Regardless of how you feel about the sectarian mention of a deity in the pledge, you have to admit that the issue is divisive. Kind of ironic for an oath in which people pledge devotion to an "indivisible" country, right? That fact alone is proof that the pledge needs an overhaul. A national statement of patriotism should bring people together instead of causing conflict. The United States is a nation supposedly founded on the idea that no person should be limited in terms of choice, belief or outlook. Consequently, a national motto should steer clear of the specifics the government can't and shouldn't control, such as faith and personal politics. In such a diverse nation this might mean having no pledge at all; maybe that's the price we pay for our ideological freedom. But if we are going to have a pledge, then we should have a purer statement of national pride--one that hints at love for country without thumbing its nose at others or reflecting the reactionary furor of an era that belongs in the past. One, dare I say, such as this:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

Yeah, I can definitely handle that one. It worked from 1892 to 1923, after all. As long as we speak it without the Hitleresque salutes, then we have a winner!

Now please be seated.


starkc said...

Perhaps all adults should have to say the pledge more often. (or maybe say it *once* when they furfill their mandatory civil service? Mandatory service obviously not being real, only my hope)

Hillary For President said...

I am so glad you brat this up. I have been blogging for some time this topic.

check out my post's at here.


Charles said...

Very nicely put. I agree with most of your points on here, and sit and refuse to stand to the pledge to this republic. :)

Anonymous said...

i absolutely agree with you.
though at my school, we must stand but are not forced to pledge.

Julia said...

I hate the pledge as well. You make a good point there.

Brittany said...

1. Under God-- couldn't that be seen as a shield rather than religion? The thought of a religion was created for fear of dying. SO in the Pledge when it states, "Under God" is it not possible that God could be used as a metaphor for shield?

2. What then is your opinion on America having it's own language and religion. Many countries, when traveling or moving there, prefer you to learn their lang. and know of their religion. Shouldn't America have the same regardless of the fact that we allow all other ethnicities?

3. SO instead of thanking your soldiers by pledging an allegiance to the flag (saying thanks to them and the country for allowing YOU to live free) you'd rather be ignorant and trifle the laws by saying i don't like this country but ill stay because i can use the laws against others within this country just to express m personal opinion?

Ian McGibboney said...


1) I think by God, they mean God. Anyway, a shield isn't any less imaginary, and to suggest one exists is to suggest an arrogant American exceptionalism that isn't true anyway.

2) America has no official language or religion, nor should it. Not sure what the relevance that holds here.

3) I never said I don't love this country or disrespect the troops. That's exactly the kind of ridiculous conflation that I rail against in the first place. Patriotism is not about rote recitation of words you don't understand when you're a small child. And nothing in the Constitution says you have to say things or salute the flag. I think I explained my position in a way that most people can at least appreciate, if not agree. Certainly not in a way that makes me a hater of my own country. What a disgusting allegation.

Anonymous said...

I will never say the pledge never have never will used to get whiped in catholic school for not saying it america stands for hate and greed and they opress and inslave the weak how bout plegeing allegiance to the ppl of world and humanity not one nation under god america doesnt care bout you it's been shown time and time again fuck america i served in the amry OIF and its shame that young men are dying in vein because they love the flag and trust america but america doesnt give a fuck about them or any human life just money I hope soldiers wake up and stop fighting to fattin the pockets rich and start fighting for peace the real eneamy is in are own country the politicians in dc human life is more valuable than the flag or america and again FUCK AMERICA

Ian McGibboney said...

Why can't someone smart stumble upon my old blogs for once?

Daudi said...

The brainwashing must have worked on me.

I don't see the Pledge as having anything to do with civic duty. It's mostly said in schools. Besides preparing us for college/employment, schools are an important tool of the state to perpetuate American ideals. What better way to do that than to make millions of children repeat it every school day.

Among those ideals:
- It's one and can't be divided (so don't try secession again)
- It's under god (whoever your god happens to be)
- There's liberty and justice for all (even if not all of us have justice, it's a good ideal to hold a society to)

Next, we are pledging allegiance to the REPUBLIC. Not the empire. Not the economic system. Not even the government. A republic is a system where people hold supreme power through their elected representative. I'm proud to be a voting member of such a system. Unfortunately we have five supreme court justices who don't seem to share the same allegiance to the concept of a republic as I do.

There is much worse indoctrination going on in this country than the Pledge, and some of the others who post comments here are proof of that.