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Forget ‘Under God,’ Let’s End the Pledge Completely

As the American Humanist Association represents a Massachusetts couple challenging the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, Mary Elizabeth Williams argues at Alternet that we should eliminate the reciting of the pledge completely. I couldn’t agree more.

Growing up in Catholic schools, my weekday classroom routine consisted of facing the front of the room, hand over heart, and reciting the Pledge. I then turned around to the crucifix on the back wall and recited the Our Father. I was a patriotic Christian kid then and I’m a patriotic Christian adult now and I have never stopped finding the practice strange and pointless and time-wasting.

Rote recitation, day in and day out, is ultimately meaningless. Ask any second-grader if she knows the meaning of “indivisible.” Ask a random adult, while you’re at it. The question shouldn’t be whether the phrase “under God” belongs in the Pledge; it should be whether the Pledge itself belongs. Does it really speak to or reassure the numerous non-believer kids out there, or the immigrant or dual citizenship kids? Does it teach any of them anything about loyalty or duty?

I am trying every day to raise my children to practice their faith and to respect their country. But love and loyalty don’t spring from standing up and dully parroting a creed because the state says the teacher has to get up and do it.

I do not recite the pledge, ever, for any reason. I don’t think anyone else should either, whether it includes “under God” or not. First of all, the idea of pledging allegiance to a flag has always struck me as bizarre. The pledge does nothing to inculcate real patriotism, which I define as a commitment to helping your nation become more free, just and equal. In this country, that means living up to those ideals we so loudly proclaim and so rarely put into action. Rather, it inculcates the kind of shallow, mindless nationalism that should be anathema to any free society.

It isn’t enough to make the pledge slightly less religious; the whole thing needs to go.

Comments

  1. zero6ix says

    If the flag could bench press a car, melt metal by flapping in the breeze, and had to be elected every four years, I’d consider pledging my allegiance to it. That flag sounds bad ass.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    What? Get rid of the Pledge?!?! Then what will we use to instill mindless jingoism into the minds of Erican youth?

  3. cottonnero says

    That first line has always sounded like the ‘republic’ bit was added as an afterthought: “I pledge allegiance to a bit of fabric, oh yeah, and the country it stands for, I almost forgot.”

    And it’s either weapons-grade ironic or accidentally appropriate that the phrase “one nation indivisible” is literally broken up by religion.

  4. robertfaber says

    For me the pledge always seemed to qualify as a vain repetition as described in Matthew 6:7

    “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (NASB translation)

    The pledge is meaningless repetition by week 2 of kindergarten, let alone up to the 2000th time it could have been invoked in some K-12 districts.

  5. regexp says

    The only time I had had to recite the Pledge was in seventh grade in 1st period Math class. And that teacher was eventually fired for being a little too friendly to his male students. So to this day when I think of the Pledge – I think of an overweight creepy male math teacher with a fetish for twinks.

    Otherwise I couldn’t agree more. Not sure why Republicans obsess over a bunch of words written by a socialist.

  6. René says

    real patriotism, which I define as a commitment to helping your nation become more free, just and equal.

    Your nation, my nation. What a silly idea. A nation implies a country, rite? Borders. Human animals shouldn’t have borders.

    Nations are just a nother type of company. I should know, being Dutch, a child of slave-owning VOC, the first multinational corporation ever.

    Post all that Scriptum, it’s late here, so I might not react to your answers before tomorrow, if there is one.

  7. addiepray says

    I agree its a pointless exercise and should be axed.

    In addition to having people define “indivisible”, see if they can recite the pledge without resorting to 3-word chunks. It’s how we all learned it and how everyone says it, as if to ensure that the meaning and content of the sentences is entirely absent: “I pledge allegiance (breath) to the flag (breath) of the United States (breath) of America (breath) and to the republic (breath)…” etc.

    Irritates me almost as much as the way people phrase the Star Spangled Banner when they sing, as if they never thought about how words and sentences are constructed to, you know, carry meaning.

  8. felidae says

    The thought, and the act, of pledging allegiance to a piece of colored cloth, as evidence of one’s patriotism, makes me gag. The people most fond of this practice seem to to be the ones most antithetical to the ideas of free thought and expression

  9. says

    Ugh. Even though I didn’t identify myself as an atheist until age 13 (I’m in my mid-50s), I never really believed in god or anything religious (too silly!), and very early on I substituted “under the sun” for “under God” for the many times I was required to recite that stupid pledge. Every day in grade school, probably high school too. I got a lot of dirty looks from teachers and other kids when, after they finished saying “under god” my voice would still be saying “under the sun” – with the extra syllable hanging out there. :-)

    Ever since she became aware of social injustice, my brave and good daughter (now 20) refused to recite the pledge at school, saying that she would not recite it until it actually meant something. She ended up in the principal’s office more than once. We backed her up; they backed down.

  10. says

    One comment my dad had about the Red Scare loyalty oaths: The Communist spies would be first in line to take the oath. Naturally, this is because it gives them the illusion of trustworthiness and does nothing to compromise their efforts to undermine the country.

    So, what does that make the people who are so vehemently attached to the ritual of the pledge?

  11. jasmyn says

    My husband and I think the pledge is absurd. He likes to say “…one nation, under Canada and above Mexico…”

  12. cry4turtles says

    I pledge allegiance to dark chocolate and sweet watermelon. Everything else is meaningless without them.

  13. Artor says

    Like Ed, I always took objection to the very idea of pledging allegiance to a flag. What objectives does a flag have? How could I ally myself to an inanimate object? If a flag ever starts telling me what to do, I’ll put down whatever I’m smoking, and look for a good doctor.

  14. exdrone says

    From a Canadian outsider perspective, I thought that, in a gothic vampire analogy, the pledge was like holy water and a flag pin was like a crucifix. Exposing either to a terrorist/communist (pick your era) would result in burning flesh. How are you going to safeguard the children without this ceaseless purifying ritual? … Won’t anybody think of the children?

  15. says

    “Rather, it inculcates the kind of shallow, mindless nationalism that should be anathema to any free society.”

    EXACTLY AS THE FOUNDING FATHRES INTENDED WHEN THEY WROTE IT!

  16. says

    “One comment my dad had about the Red Scare loyalty oaths: The Communist spies would be first in line to take the oath”

    Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone knows that communists can only recite the Pledge backwards. Or was that the Lord’s Prayer?

    Anyway, reciting a few lines of poetry written by a socialist is the only way to ensure loyalty to our free market capitalist ideal as Jesus taught us when he wrote the Constitution on the back of his dinosaur

  17. rhebel says

    I teach in a state where the pledge (or anthem) must be done in schools every day, by law. I do not stand for or recite the pledge. I have students irate at me every year, tell them about their obligation to respect my Constitutional rights, and hear no more. Just waiting for some admin or parent to get in my grill, but, luckily, none yet in two decades.

  18. says

    Growing up in the UK, the only time pledges were mentioned in the news or documentary shows were in the context of the totalitarian brainwashing of children in places like North Korea and China.

    I have never since shaken the feeling that all national pledges are creepy when they are spoken by classrooms full of children.

  19. magistramarla says

    When I was teaching in Texas, I once had a lovely young lady in my Latin class who was an exchange student from Spain. She was forced by one of the hard-headed coaches to say the pledge when she was in his first period class. She complained to the administration and was switched into my first period class.
    In my class, she was able to sit quietly, along with a few others who chose to do the same, while the class recited. I always simply left out the “under god” part, and several students noticed and did the same.
    We also had an enforced “moment of silence”. I simply sat down at my computer and took attendance during that time, and several of my students caught on and also sat down.
    Luckily, I never did have a fundi parent complain. I did have one complain about the fact that I openly rejoiced with several of my students the day after President Obama was elected in 2008. This was the parent of a young lady who had told me that she took Latin so that she could read the bible in it’s “original Latin”. I cracked up at that. It was a good thing that I left the school right after her freshman year. Her mother would have been appalled at some of the things that my upper classes learned.

  20. Ichthyic says

    But… the empire needs good puppet drones!

    don’t we have the clones for that?

    oh wait, wrong empire.

  21. Ichthyic says

    “…one nation, under Canada and above Mexico…”

    quite a threesome.

    A national orgy of continental proportions!

  22. dogmeat says

    Eh. One step at a time. There are plenty of schools I think that don’t bother.

    Unfortunately you’re quite wrong. After September 11th, 35 states (+/-) added the requirement that schools include the pledge in their day. Prior to that, the idiotic bit of jingoistic nationalism was dying out, but after the attack, the RWNT proper patriots, were able to preserve the pledge.

    I’m with Ed, I never say the damned thing. I consider it utterly idiotic and full of false statements in addition to the fact that it is creepy as hell and used to violate the rights of students every damned day.

  23. billyeager says

    Mindless pledging to ‘Teh Flaaaaag’ can induce such unquestioning ‘loyalty’ to said flag that your solders, during the Gulf War, who were taken prisoners of war, would refuse to spit on it when ordered to by their Iraqi captors. According to Andy McNab, formerly a British SAS solder, he willingly hacked up a large glob of phlegm to launch at the ‘Union Flag’ when told to. He couldn’t understand why your solders were willing to take even more beatings rather than perform an act that was totally meaningless.
    :

    Hey buddy, my daddy died for that flag.”
    “Really? Cause… I bought mine. Yeah, they sell them at K Mart.”
    “He died in the Korean War.”
    “Wow, what a coincidence, mine was made in Korea.”
    No one and I repeat no one, has ever died for a flag. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the fucking flag, see. That’s freedom.

    Bill Hicks (RIP)

  24. sailor1031 says

    I have always thought that one can discern americans’ true attitude to their rather bizarre flag by the fact that the very largest american flags are always flown at used-car dealerships.

  25. donkensler says

    I stopped reciting the pledge way back in high school (I’m guessing either ’70 or ’71) as soon as I found out even students couldn’t be compelled to say it. I stood, didn’t say a word, and sat, and none of my homeroom teachers until I graduated said a word about my silence.

  26. says

    donkensler “I stood, didn’t say a word, and sat, and none of my homeroom teachers until I graduated said a word about my silence.”
    Don’t leave us hanging! What did they say when you graduated?

  27. steve84 says

    It’s part of America’s bizarre civic religion, along with the flag cult and worship in general. And a religion it is. People are forced to perform all the rituals and profess adherence or there will be severe consequences.

  28. freehand says

    The ghost of Bill Hicks via billyeager: No one and I repeat no one, has ever died for a flag. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the fucking flag, see. That’s freedom.

    A year or two after we had pulled out of Vietnam, I was standing next to a young woman who, when the subject of the flag came up, said “My brother died for the American flag!”
    (As respectfully as I could) I remarked “Yes, or the rights and freedoms it stands for…” (I was prepared to praise him for his sacrifice and to mention how important those rights were.)
    (She interrupted in fury) “He died for the flag!”
    I quickly bowed and backed away, “Yes, perhaps you’re right, you would know best. I’m sorry for your loss.”

    I won’t argue with someone about the loss of a family member, but WTF? She acted like I had insulted his memory. Perhaps because I appeared a typical hippie of the time she would have heard anything I said as an insult. But here is a case of someone who explicitly and clearly denied that a particular soldier died for anything the flag stands for, but rather the flag itself. Presumably by “The Flag” she would have agreed that she meant all American flags and not a particular one, but she was probably a very concrete thinker, and might have disagreed with that also. I certainly was not going to offer my opinion that he had died for nothing but evil political machinations; that would have been rude and callous.

  29. left0ver1under says

    <SPEECH VOICE=”Glenn Beck”>
    You know who else swore oaths? Hitler!
    </SPEECH>

    Yes, he did. So did Aldridge Ames and Robert Hanssen, as well as many other Americans who spied for other countries.

    Just as religion has relation to morality, sworn oaths have nothing to do with patriotism or loyalty.

    .

    exdrone (#21) –

    Won’t anybody think of the children?

    That’s exactly what they’re doing, alright, thinking about the children…about how to molest them, whether that be sexually, with religion or idelogically.

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