I Pledge Allegiance…Until I Am No Longer Forced To
I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance since last forced to in 1976. I do not remember ever swelling with American pride during the Pledge. I do not remember even thinking about what the Pledge of Allegiance meant, until I was old enough to not want to recite it.
I Pledge Allegiance... Until I Am No Longer Forced To
By Kirsten Anderberg
I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance since approximately 1976, when I was 16 years old. I remember putting one hand over my heart, and reciting the words in elementary school, oblivious to what I was saying, along with the other kids, like robots. The pledge was rote recitation that students were collectively forced to repeat every morning together, and nothing more. We did not discuss the Pledge together, on our own time, on the playground, as young kids. I do not remember ever swelling with American pride during the Pledge. I do not remember even thinking about what the Pledge of Allegiance meant, until I was old enough to not want to recite it.
By junior high, I was not excited about the Pledge of Allegiance for many reasons, and I do not remember being forced to recite it in public junior high. I remember my reasons for not wanting to recite it were the problems with blind allegiance to a flag or country, as the Pledge states. I felt since my country had just come out of the Civil Rights, Feminist, and anti-Vietnam War movements, not to mention Nixon's resignation and pardon, that scrutiny of government and public policy was warranted and blind allegiance was not appropriate. I felt a DUTY as a participating citizen in this representative republic (that we fondly call a democracy), to investigate what my government was doing in my name, and to stand up in protest when I thought the government was acting inappropriately.
In public high school in the late 1970's, in Los Angeles, they were not forcing us to say the Pledge any longer. Or maybe they did it in homeroom on the days I cut school, or something. But in the Catholic high school I attended, they still held to archaic ritual such as the Pledge, and my last years of high school hold my last memories of saying the Pledge, or feigning the Pledge. I remember my pledging degraded as I got older and smarter. It started with me not putting my hand over my heart in rebellion. Then I would not put my hand over my heart, and would not say the words, yet stood as others recited it. My son says by the time he hit high school, he began to "just lay back and drum on his desk, while people did the Pledge." I remember trying to sit the pledge out once I was not putting my hand over my heart, or reciting it anymore, but that was grounds for punishment in my school, so the last time I feigned doing the Pledge was back in high school, almost 30 years ago, under threat of punishment for not doing so!
This issue came back to haunt me as I had a young son that they wanted to indoctrinate with this Pledge of Allegiance. In 1990, when he was in the 1st Grade, I was fighting for the Pledge to not be mandatory in the Seattle Public Schools. They said my son could stand out from the others and not recite it, but my son preferred just doing what the other kids did to some protest he did not understand, so we went with what he was most comfortable with. Since him NOT doing it, made him stand out, and also had some shaming aspects to it, as if he was not a good or honest person, and was therefore the "enemy" if he did not do the group recitation, it was not a mandatory Pledge, but it functioned that way constructively. A high court in America in 2000 indeed ruled that voluntary student-led prayers at public school football games were "coercive" in just the manner I am describing.
I have had a huge issue with my son being taught, in public schools, to recite something that proclaims America is "one nation under God." I agree wholeheartedly with the founders of this country, in their firm belief in the separation of church and state as progress. I believe slipping backwards towards a monotheistic, religion-based government, which looks more and more like the direction George W. Bush wants America to head in, is terribly frightening and dangerous. The original Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892, did not have the God phrase in it. The "one nation under God" language was inserted in 1954, during the McCarthy era, under pressure from the Red Scare mentality (similar to the "terrorist" scare mentality now) and due to persistence from religious lobbyists. But we are OUT of the McCarthy era. Or are we back in it? Polls show a hell of a lot of Americans want to rewrite America's founding fathers' intentional separation of church and state, to instead reflect America as a Judeo-Christian nation, UNDER GOD. Which ironically, is the type of thing we label as backwards thinking by fundamentalist Islamic nations. For all the lip service America pays to this separation of church and state, there are forces (even within the government itself) constantly trying to align a Christian God with America, and that is very cult-like behavior for a government to be engaging in. The American Constitution is often referred to as a "godless constitution," and the founding fathers PURPOSELY left out religious wording in government documents, but they could not safeguard against later moronic generations trying to disassemble their work, as we see happening over and over again.
In 1955, shortly after "one nation under God" was inserted into the Pledge, "In God We Trust" was printed on all our government's money, for the first time. Around this same time, legislators introduced Constitutional amendments to command Americans to obey "the authority and law of Jesus Christ." We find the government and courts in America still swearing in officers on bibles for some reason. Also worthy of note is the fact that the Supreme Court begins each session with "God save the United States and this Honorable Court." So if the Supreme Court rules in Michael Newdow's favor in the current legal challenge to the God wording in the Pledge of Allegiance (www.supremecourtus.gov), they would be acknowledging the beginning comments in their own court are also unconstitutional, or so it would seem ( http://www.religioustolerance.org/nat_pled4.htm).
The argument often made is ALL religions have freedom in America, not that all religion needs to be taken out of government. But monotheistic religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, by their very virtue, create an "us versus them" mentality that cannot be reconciled, due to their monotheistic nature. So since these monotheistic religions will not function in a mode that accepts ALL religious beliefs as equally valid, they want ONLY their religion to be counted as "the truth," thus they cannot be part of a diverse equality of religions and politics. The Newdow case clearly reflects this sentiment, when reviewing who supports Newdow and who does not. The Pew Forum ( http://pewforum.org/religion-schools/pledge/) lists the following groups supporting the "one nation under God" wording: American Jewish Congress, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Christian Legal Society, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Alliance Defense Fund, Knights of Columbus... and we find these groups fighting to remove that God wording: American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Anti-Defamation League, Buddhist Temples, et al, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Seattle Atheists, etc. Instead of religious tolerance from monotheistic religions towards each other, which is apparently required for peace on earth, we get religions fighting to run nations in exclusivity, and wars murdering innocents get underway, and we better say the Pledge to remember who is right and who is wrong... maybe if we recite it, like saying you are a witch three times to become one, we will become what we force our children to pledge in school, blind followers of the American flag, willing to walk with muted questions into battle for our country, UNDER GOD.
The children in the vaudeville performing clan I am associated with, learn the Vaudeville Pledge of Allegiance young. It says: "I pledge allegiance to the gag, of the united states of vaudeville, and to the repulsive way we stand, donations understood, with licorice for just us, and not all!" I have no idea who wrote the pledge, or where it came from, but it makes more sense than the American Pledge of Allegiance ever did to me! I understand gags, more than flags. I get repulsive and republic mixed up. "Just us" is really similar to justice. I think 5 year olds reciting the Vaudeville Pledge understand more of what they are pledging to, than 15 year olds reciting the American Pledge of Allegiance! I have yet to meet an American who can testify that saying the Pledge made him or her more patriotic. Everyone I have asked has said they only recited the Pledge until they were not forced to. My observation is Americans stop doing the Pledge of Allegiance the minute they are out of paternalistic, authoritarian environments, i.e., once they grow up.
address: Seattle, Wa USA
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