Posted by: distributorcap | March 22, 2008

One Nation, Under…


Religion (not faith, not spirituality) has always been an insidious part of the American government. Under President Sociopath, the infusion of religion into policy has gotten even more brazen. As much as the founding fathers tried to keep church and state separate, it has not worked. One of the more effortless channels that has allowed religion to take root in American politics has been something as simple as this passage:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Every time I hear those words for some reason I immediately think getting under a desk in an air raid drill – just like we had in the early 1960’s. I have not recited the Pledge since sophomore year of high school, and more than likely I will never recite those words again. Of course the few students (including myself) that chose not to recite the Pledge were subject to [some] pressure. I didn’t succumb. I stood in silence every day for almost 3 years. At least I got a bit of exercise.

Something just doesn’t sit right about pledging allegiance – to a flag, to an object or any symbol. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about my country or my fellow citizens or that I am not patriotic, it just means I don’t think I need to prove it by reciting a “pledge”. There is something very totalitarian and indoctrinating about it to me. It is no better than the bell ringing for one of Pavlov’s dogs.

But forget about what I just wrote about the ‘loyalty oath’ angle — the words “under God” are enough to make my whole autocratic argument moot.

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Title 4.4 of the United States Code states that the pledge

should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

The Pledge of Allegiance first appeared in the September 1892 issue Youth’s Companion, a children’s magazine. The author was Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist and Baptist minister. The owners of Youth’s Companion were selling flags to schools, and approached Bellamy to write the Pledge for their advertising campaign. It was marketed as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas.

Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows: “I Pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.” It was seen as a call for national unity and wholeness in country still feeling the leftover scars and divisions 25+ years after the Civil War. The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds and not to be a religious calling.

After a proclamation by President Benjamin Harrison, the Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892 during Columbus Day observances. (not a pleasant looking guy huh?)

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In 1923, the National Flag Conference requested the words “my flag” be changed to the “flag of the United States.” One year later, the words “of America” were added. This particular change was enacted as a way to ensure that immigrants knew that were pledging to the flag of their new home, not their native country. In December 1945, soon after the end of World War II, the U.S. Congress officially recognized as the Pledge as the “official national pledge”.

Needless to say the Pledge has had a very controversial history.

In 1940 the Supreme Court ruled that students in public schools could be compelled to recite the Pledge. In 1943, the Supreme Court reversed its decision, in the landmark case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. The court ruled in that “compulsory unification of opinion” violated the First Amendment. Since this ruling, public schools (even in 2008) cannot force student to recite the pledge, nor can they punish them. That would surprise a lot of people, since the way the pledge is positioned and performed in almost all public schools – you would think it is a requirement.

Under God

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Feeling a reference to a deity was necessary, The Knights of Columbus began a campaign in 1951 to add the words “under God” to the Pledge. In February 1954, President Eisenhower attended a service in which the speaker – Revered George Docherty, gave a sermon about the flag and patriotism — and adroitly used Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (which contains “under God”) to push Eisenhower to act with respect to adding “under God.” Couple that with the fact 1954 was the beginning of the Cold War with the “godless” Soviet Union, you have a recipe for the perfect Pledge re-write. A bill was quickly introduced and passed in Congress. The phrase “under God” was added after “One Nation” when Eisenhower signed a bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. You can lay good money on the outcome of that legislation — a lot more controversy. Welcome to one more step in the creeping terror of mixing religion with state.

Since that last wording change, there have been many challenges to both the pledge and especially “under God.” A variety of organizations have attacked it from many different angles. Jehovah’s Witnesses want the words eliminated since their beliefs preclude swearing loyalty. Critics and progressives say that “under God” violates the Establishment Clause of the First amendment with respect to freedom of religion, as it gives the impression of religious endorsement by the government. Atheists say it demonstrates that God is a required part of society. Non-Christian groups say it refers to Christianity, while polytheists say it sanctions monotheism.

Other groups just have a problem with the entire pledge. Libertarians say a loyalty oath is just another form of socialism. People have challenged individual words as a reason to negate the whole Pledge – indivisible doesn’t work since states can secede; liberty and justice for all doesn’t fit since that concept really doesn’t exist. Some even say the Pledge trivializes patriotism. The list goes on — why does it have to be recited every day? Doesn’t this show how arrogant we are? Why are we pledging to a flag instead of ideal? Does it overly-influence children? Do they really know what they are saying? Yadda yadda yadda.

As you can see, the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “under God” make people uncomfortable and ill-at-ease. A lot of people. Including me. I really do not see the need for the words “under God”, and for that matter the Pledge itself. The only fully happy, shiny people with respect to “under God” clause are the wingnuts, the uber-nationalists and, of course the US Congress. The words “under God” truly tip this from “I love my country” to “the higher being loves us.”

In 1992, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the words “under God” did not violate the Establishment clause. Then in 2002, the Ninth Circuit ruled “under God” was unconstitutional.

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Enter the fundamentalists, jingoists and other assorted nut cases – who went wild at that ruling. The Senate, House and Idiot President all spoke out in favor of keeping “under God.” (big surprise huh!) The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court in 2oo4 and was overturned on a technicality (the parent of the child in the school did not have custodial standing). SCOTUS dodged the proverbial bullet — the constitutionality of the pledge and “under God” were not addressed. The Republic was saved!

In their great tradition of mixing politics and jingoism, and in the spirit of eliminating any further cases to junk the words “under God,” the Congress introduced – H.R. 2389 in 2005. That bill would strip the Supreme Court and federal courts of any power to consider legal challenges to government requiring or promoting of the Pledge of Allegiance. H.R. 2389 was passed by the Republican led House of Representatives in July 2006, but failed when the Senate did not take it up.

If you can’t stop the court from acting by shaming them, just pass a law. The creeping terror continues.

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Responses

  1. Great post, DCap. Very interesting history of the Pledge of Allegiance. I still say it if I am in the situation but I always leave out “under God.”I still have to write my Blog Against Theocracy post – hopefully I’ll get it up tomorrow!

  2. I’ve gone around with the school a couple of times because I do not support forcing the children to participate in the pledge.I stand quietly, but that is all I do when it is said in a group. At work, we start our luncheons off with the pledge and a prayer. I leave the room so I don’t draw attention to my lack of compliance with the group, um, activity.

  3. I do not say the pledge either. Sometimes people look at me funny from the side or something but so far no one has outright confronted me about it. Thanks for the history lesson. That was interesting.

  4. Jesus will smote you if you do not say the pledge. So will his mom. 🙂 (Great post my friend.)

  5. Interesting post, to say the least. I look at reciting the pledge as sort of of “being married” thing. You don’t always have to mean everything you say.:)With the advent of the First Dictator, as you pointed out, everything stems from a religion, a voodoo one at that. My blog states my case, so I won’t waste bandwidth here.I’ve never thought of myself as being “under God”, because I don’t believe in God, as he is commonly defined. But I do put my hand over my heart, and pretend to be talking, as I believe part of our pledge honors those who made this freedom possible.

  6. DCap – I admit. I recite the pledge. While I always leave out the “under God” part, I still say it as if it were a morning prayer. What makes yours such a great post is that you’re making me re-think the very act of saying it. If I gather your meaning correctly, what do I need to recite a pledge when I’ve already given my consent to a document that defines my freedoms and responsibilities. Again, nice work here man!

  7. Are the little darlings still required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school?I don’t have I’ve said it since little school and I certainly wouldn’t utter those words again.Liberty and justice for all? What a crock of shit. Tell it to the homeless Veterans living in parks in U.S. cities, or single mothers working two jobs because the system cut off their welfare assistance thanks to Bill Clinton, or to victims of HIV/AIDS forced onto Medicare Part D thanks to George Bush but have to choose between co-pays for their meds or food.Utter bullshit, I tell you. Utter and complete bullshit.

  8. Since I started subbing, every school I’ve been to says the pledge. I put my hand over my heart out of respect for what the others are doing, but I usually don’t say it. If I’m leading a class, I tell them to lead me, because I don’t say “under God.”Very interesting post.

  9. Do you hear me clapping and cheering from the farthest reaches of outer Smalbania???Brilliant and I just left a long comment for you at your MPS post.I do not say the pledge and the under God part just adds further insult to further injury to the whole cluster f*ck.Thanks for this DCap. You rule my world.

  10. And to this day, the only visual evidence I’ve ever seen of something writing on a flag has been Chimpy. “I pledge allegiance to….myself! Heh, heh.”

  11. I knew the pledge was changed to add under god, but was not aware of the rest of the history. Thanks!

  12. Great research efforts, D-Cap.I am reminded of my high school days, when a radical liberal girl named Tara Wah refused to say the pledge, much to the consternation of our fellow Texas redneck students and teachers.She eventually ran for student council and I was her campaign manager. I wrote her campaign song, called “Ta Ra Wah BOOM Dee Ey.” She lost.But she went on to become an M.D., so she had the last laugh.

  13. Happy to see this! I stopped pledging in 7th grade, after my grandmother went to communist Hungary to see our family there and told me how children were forced to pledge fealty to the government every morning. I couldn’t bring myself to do the same the next day. It really seemed much too similar, no matter what I was told. Caused a lot of problems, but I am glad that I thought about my position instead of mouthing words without thought.I came via the Blog Against Theocracy carnival; my entry should be in the next wave. Thanks!

  14. If you haven’t seen Carlin’s latest gig, do check it out. He does a big segment on God, the bible, swearing in on it, which had to use, etc.etc.I just love it when someone puts absurd things in the proper perspective.Great post — a keeper for sure.

  15. You’re a great American, DC! And, exquisitely handsome, I might add!

  16. I have a problem with this post, even though it is excellent. Substitute God for Allah as you read it. That’s really where we are at, religious wars throughtout history has killed us off. And please remember we are “animals” , thank God for that! What did I say?

  17. I am so proud of my two children who decided early on in their separate elementary school experiences (and without me prompting) to stop reciting the pledge. My daughter explained to one teacher that she didn’t want to say it and the teacher could only say,”Oh…” Reciting the pledge does nothing. Even terrorists and those who hate America will recite pledges, wear lapel pins, display the flag….

  18. I’m telling the fascists that you said that 😉

  19. Sweet freakie Jesus, I’m learning so much today!And I must agree with the Dean.

  20. So I am driving to church tonight (natch!) and I realize that I have mentioned sporting events and it is the singing of the national anthem I was referring to and not the pledge.Same shit, different jingoism.I think you get my point.

  21. DC, off topic, you might find the “Celebrating…” post at PP yesterday of personal interest to you. Will be back when just a bit healthier.

  22. I’m just holding on to hope that the fundies are fading fast. It looks as if their going out of style. Let’s hope.

  23. D-CAPny: I agree with you on everything here. I never stood for anthems at sporting events. I have nice memories of the Pledge of Allegiance, however. I had a bsseball coach who raised the flag before pratice and would recite it, albeit WITH SOME CAVEATS.The coach was a Marine and this was during a Vietname war HE OPPOSED. He made it clear that no one was required to recite it. I remember at teammate used to recite it and when it got to “under god, with_________,”my friend used to whisper to me “AND BULLSHIT FOR ALL.” And I’d always crack up laughing.Nevertheless, I liked the way the coach presented the whole thing, so I said the pledge then. I wouldn’t now, but I’m glad I can recite it because during the first time this bullshit came up during a presidential election, Bush Sr v Dukakis, I won a lot of free drinks from Republicans in bets over who could recite it better.

  24. I never really thought about the pledge of allegience until we got president jackass which coincided with my new teaching career. I never say the pledge anymore, ever. I stand quietly. I think the pledge is a huge time waster in schools and add to it the moment of bugus silence and you have wasted 190 minutes in a year. People that is more than 3 hours of learning that could happen but by reciting the pledge learning won’t happen.

  25. I, like Mathman and some of the other teachers/educators remain silent or I dont put my hand over my heart thing…yes sometimes it is uncomfortable but I just feel that we should not have to do that. But yes in our schools it is done in English and Spanish each day!

  26. i sub-vocalize the “under god”,as well. . . simple — easy.here is my meager contribution topreserving neutrality. . .p e a c e

  27. Stupendous post! And thanks for the history – like Skylar, I knew about the “under God,” but not the rest.This reminds me, when I was doing research for my historical novel (set in post-war Japan) I learned that shortly after the war ended, the Americans announced that the Japanese could now fly their flag on public buildings. Their reaction was a head-scratching WTF? – but umkay, they dutifully rounded up some flags and, um, ran them up the poles. 🙂

  28. DC, I learned a lot here. Excellent post, well developed, well documented, and on a subject many of us do not think of., Good job!


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