Or, Why Is This Non-Issue Still Around?
23 Oct 2002
I pledge allegience
To the Flag
Of The United States Of America
And to the Republic
For which it stands
One nation under God
And Justice for All.
From kindergarten ( age 5 or so ) through the end of High School ( age 17/18 ), American children start the school day reciting this. Until they are roughly 10 – 12 years old, most children don’t even know what any of it means. In fact, the mis-interpretations of the words have been fodder for numerous humor pieces over the years. Yet, we were all required to memorize it, & recite it every morning, after first placing our right hands over our hearts.
Where did it come from? It was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy, published in October of that year in “The Youth’s Companion” magazine. See http://www.oldtimeislands.org/pledge/pledge.htm for a short history of the circumstances leading to its writing. The original “Pledge” didn’t contain the words “Under God” – this was added in the 1950’s, at the suggestion of The Knights Of Columbus organization.
The Pledge has been in the news, intermittently, from the Reagan Administration, through today. Candidates for elective office trot it out & complain about ‘people’ (read that as LIBERALS!) wanting to do away with it. Actually, I don’t recall anyone ever suggesting it. It’s currently in the news, because there has been a suggestion that the words “Under God” be removed. This is at the behest of atheist and agnostic groups, who object to pledging anything to a God they feel may not or does not exist.
MY take? I object to all of it, & have done since I was 14. That was the year it occurred to me that if THEY say it, it’s ‘propaganda’; if WE say it, it’s ‘truth’. It was also the year I started refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegience. Why? Because I objected to being required to recite a loyalty oath on a daily basis. I went for several mornings, with my arms at my sides, as all others were reciting, until my homeroom teacher noticed my ‘non-compliance’. I was immediately sent to the Dean’s office, given ‘3 licks’ with the paddle & sent home for a 3 day suspension. Did this cause me to see the error of my ways & recite the loyalty oath? Uh, no – just the opposite. It confirmed my suspicion that this was not a declaration of my love for country, and the flag that has come to symbolize it. Rather, just more brainwashing and a requirement to get in (lock) step with everyone else. Funny – I thought “America” was all about freedom, independance & individuality ?
Perhaps if I had been living in a different place or at a different time, it wouldn’t have bothered me. The year was 1970, & the place was Bradenton, Florida (at the time, very Conservative, & very racist). It was my first school year in the US South, and BOY what an eye-opener! I went from a lily white Chicago suburb, to a fully integrated Southern school. Did the racial makeup bother me? Nope. In fact, I had many black friends, & kids I would walk to class with. This got me more than my share of “NIGGER LOVER!” screamed at me, not just behind my back. I was also attacked by a throng of white kids once, as I was walking to class by myself. This astounded me, since I had been such a supporter of Robert Kennedy, & all that he stood for (he’s still my political hero ). Also, growing up in the 1960s & being convinced that racism & segregation were absolutley wrong (and QUITE un-American!). It never occurred to me (at the time) that anyone would feel differently; I didn’t know at the time that ‘truth’ wouldn’t be recognized by all (or at least accepted). It also caused me to question a government/country (and it’s flag) that would treat its citizens in such a way.
So, the ongoing hoo-hah about The Pledge Of Allegience continues to mystify me. It isn’t as though it is a sacred text, written by God & handed to us from On High. It’s just a paragraph, written by a man who was saddened by the continuing national division following the Civil War.
Whether a person chooses to recite it or not is NOT a measure of what a ‘good’ American he or she is. It just means that some of us object to being required to recite a loyalty oath.
Copyright © 2002 Peggy J. Larson – All Rights Reserved