Have you ever received an email or read a Facebook meme that begins with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and continues on about how schoolchldren used to recite this every day–often accompanied by a picture of some random kids doing exactly that—and then lament that we’re not allowed to perform that little exercise these days?
I have seen plenty of both, mostly of the Facebook meme variety these days. My friends have learned to stop forwarding chain emails for the most part. Too many were nonsense, lies, or both, which I did not hesitate to call to their attention. Then again, maybe they haven’t stopped circulating chain emails, they’ve stopped being my friend.
Gotta account for all possibilities I suppose.
The notion expressed in such emails and memes is ridiculous. There have been challenges to the recitation of the pledge, but none has resulted in any ban on its use in schools, shopping malls, or AA meetings. The Pledge and its use have a fraught history. A summary can be found here:
Most of the recent challenges are in regards to the words “Under God” which were inserted into the Pledge in the 1950’s. Is this an “establishment of religion” as prohibited by the First Amendment? The Courts have held it is a pledge of patriotism, not religion.
So be it.
But I believe there is a much more fundamental problem with the Pledge of Allegiance. Its object is a piece of cloth, arbitrarily selected to be a symbol of the United States of America. The flag has no intrinsic value, other than the $4.99 it may cost at Walmart. It consists of 50 stars, one for each state, and 13 stripes, one for each of the original colonies. Pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth accomplishes exactly what? It is meaningless. Would we pledge to a flag if all it contained were the numbers 50 and 13, representing the corresponding numbers of states and colonies on our current flag?
The flag is a symbol. Symbols are fine. Symbols are reminders, Symbols may be inspirational. They have been used throughout hstory in a plethora of contexts. Sports team mascots are symbols. The Pirate Parrot is a playful symbol of my favorite baseball team, but the mascot cannot exist without the team, though the team certainly can exist, and existed for its first 91 years, without the Parrot.
Same with the American flag. Its creation, in various forms, was used to rally the troops fighting the British during our Revolution and has evolved since then.But which came first, America or its flag? And if the flag were no longer used, does that mean the nation would become extinct?
Thus a Pledge to an arbitrary, ephemeral creation ultimately means nothing concerning one’s loyalty to one’s country and one’s fellow citizens (not always equivalent).
Our citizens can be quite diligent and meticulous about reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school, at public meetings or events, or, for instance, in private organizations such as the Jaycees. During my membership in that group all of our meetings began with the Pledge. But does reciting the Pledge indicate you have the best interests of the nation and your fellow citizens at heart? Not in any way, shape, or form.
In the link above about litigation, one mention is given to Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signing legislation requiring state schools to recite the Pledge. But Snyder himself is under fire for the lead poisoning of the children of the city of Flint. He may have pledged allegiance to a piece of cloth but his electoral and statutory duties to his own constituents, part of the United States of America, were ignored. Other examples of two-facedness abound.
For that reason, I am proposing a new Pledge of Allegiance, one which expresses the ideals we claim America represents and it is not a pledge to a piece of cloth.
I pledge allegiance to the people of the United States of America, and to the nation’s peaceful place in the world, and to the goal of making not only America but the rest of the world a fit place for all human beings, not under any god since humans recognize many gods or none at all, but with the guidance of moral righteousness to treat each other decently and equally, and to work towards truly establishing liberty and justice for all.
One needs no piece of cloth to view when we give this pledge. We can, instead, look each other in the eye. Isn’t that what we are taught to do to honestly communicate with each other?