Annals of pointless hatred

Today for our lesson in pointless stupid unreasoned hatred, we go to the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, and its library, which rejected a donation of about $3,000 from Hemant Mehta, because atheism.

Hemant Mehta, a Naperville teacher who writes a blog called the Friendly Atheist, launched a fundraising campaign after a local veterans group, American Legion Post 134, pulled funding and volunteer resources from the Park District because of a park board member’s refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Oh, there’s another item for the annals of pointless hatred. Let’s go to the Morton Grove Champion for more on that item.

Morton Grove Park Commissioner Dan Ashta was two minutes late to the Nov. 21 monthly board meeting, missing both the Pledge of Allegiance and a quarter of the meeting.

“If I had been on time, I still would have sat down during the pledge,” Ashta said after the eight-minute meeting. “No one has told me that my legal interpretation is wrong and I’ve pledged my allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. I see no reason to change my stance.”

Joseph Lampert, commander of American Legion Post 134, told the Park Board on Oct. 24 that $2,600 in donations will be withheld until all members of the board, specifically Ashta, stand for the Pledge of Allegiance out of respect for veterans and fallen servicemen.

What the hell?

Nobody has to stand for the bit of doggerel known as “the pledge of allegiance.” Nobody. It’s not a real thing. It’s not like a red light or a stop sign or passport control or someone’s front door. It’s just a bit of doggerel. It’s not like the oath people take when they become citizens of the US, or the one they take when they go into the military. It’s just a bit of doggerel. Nobody has to bend any knee to it. It actually should be ruled unconstitutional, since it was passed by Congress and has a knee-bend to god in it. Congress has no business telling us to bend any knees to god.

The American Legion can set any criteria for a donation it wants to, I suppose, but some criteria are a lot stupider and more bossy than others. This pledge one is very stupid and bossy. Not wanting to recite a dopy piece of doggerel has nothing to do with respect for veterans and people killed in wars.

Ashta maintains that he’s defending the public’s First Amendment right to not participate for whatever political, religious or physical reason a given person might have.

“It upsets me that veterans are upset, because I do appreciate everything they’ve done,” Ashta said.

I don’t even understand why they are upset; the “pledge” is nothing to do with respect for veterans and casualties.

So back to the Morton Grove library.

Library Board Treasurer Catherine Peters said she stopped library staff from depositing the check this month, calling it a matter that should be voted on by the board.

Board President Mark Albers, who voted to accept the donation, said he had no idea whether the money was from Mehta’s fundraising campaign or Mehta himself.

But many board members were more alarmed by the nature of Mehta’s blog and the ethical implications posed by accepting money from him.

Peters referred to the blog as a “hate group.”

Well, that’s wrong.

I blame Fox News.


  1. says

    Which we, Joe? We humanity, we on this blog, some other we?

    Lots of people already do address it, from various angles. I think…I think it’s one reason I keep insisting on liberalism and human rights, and one reason I so dislike Jonathan Haidt’s stuff about conservatves’ “extra” concerns about purity and whatever the other one was – deference? Authority? There are so many paths in to pointless hatred, and I think commitment to human rights has to be really strong to counter all those urges.

  2. says

    Peters referred to the blog as a “hate group.”

    Why? Let me guess, because it has the term “atheist”. Also, if Hemant blog is a “hate group”, then Christianity as a whole is a “hate supernova”.

  3. Al Dente says

    I’m a veteran and I support the right of anyone to do whatever they please when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. Furthermore I do get angry when a group of professional veterans claim some political action or inaction is “disrepectful” to veterans.

  4. Anthony K says

    It’s not like the oath people take when they become citizens of the US

    Actually, seems like it’s about the same. What’s the point of such an oath? Was it super meaningful when you made yours?

  5. rnilsson says

    For the majority of Americans, that particular oath is extremely short on articulation, given that they would be natural born citizens. Can’t say for Ophelia.

  6. says

    Anthony – eh? I was born here.

    As for people who do take the oath on becoming citizens – I gather that many of them do find it enormously meaningful. (But would they continue to find it meaningful if they had to take it every day thereafter? I doubt it.)

  7. Anthony K says

    That’s the thing. If natural born citizens don’t have to swear it, then it isn’t necessary to oath-swear in order to be a good or legitimate citizen. And unless I’m mistaken, breaking the oath doesn’t incur any special penalties. So it’s a piece of ritual, structured performance art. I think it’s doggerel. I think all oaths are. (If they are meant to be legally binding, why not just sign a statement? I’ll really get shit if I’m careless with people’s health data, but I didn’t have to chant anything to that effect.)

    Not to say they can’t be personally or publically meaningful (I don’t know why I asked that in my previous comment), like rituals often are, but I don’t see that some are less dreck than others. I think I see why you’re making the distinction between one you swear once or only on occasions, rather than every day though.

    Anyway, it’s only a minor quibble I have; otherwise I agree with the OP. It’s ludicrous.

  8. says

    I’m not actually sure if new citizens do have to swear an oath. I’m not sure they can’t just sign something. I’ll look it up if I get curious enough.

    My impression is that it is a public thing you do in front of an official, so maybe an oath is mandatory. The reason I think is to formalize the shift of allegiance from the one you were born to to a new one. That seems to me a good deal less empty and pointless than the stupid pledge of a.

    In a way it seems coercive and narrow. Why shouldn’t people have multiple allegiances? Or a global allegiance? But then again, I can see reasons for it, too.

  9. Anthony K says

    In a way it seems coercive and narrow. Why shouldn’t people have multiple allegiances? Or a global allegiance? But then again, I can see reasons for it, too.

    Yeah, that’s my issue with citizenship pledges too. And of course, as both the US and Canada permit dual citizenship, people can and do hold multiple allegiances.

  10. rnilsson says

    And my point being, the first utterance of a new-born child should also be null and void as a legal document. Actually may be a bit more expressive and eloquent than rote rigmarole ranting.
    Anthony and I are probably on the same page.

    As a newly elected representative, the issue is completely different, since you owe the electorate a valid vow to fulfil the duties of office, to the best of your ability. Personally.
    In contrast, to whom do you owe allegiance for existing? Well now, that is a personal issue and nobody else’s business.

    As I see it.

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