4 Reasons I Don’t Say the Pledge of Allegiance (And You Shouldn’t Either)
I hesitate to even write this piece, because in America, if you are a True American™ you must be super nationalistic. Being nationalistic means that you wear American flag everything, including an American flag thong. And that you must worship the military with reverence approaching godhood. It also means that, as children, every day, we were made to stand and say the pledge of allegiance (to a flag).
“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.”
Modern Pledge of Allegiance (1954)
Hear Me Out
You’re probably thinking this guy is nuts and hates America. But hear me out. Our pledge of allegiance is weird. We’re pledging allegiance, to a flag. We’re indoctrinated to do it, daily, from early childhood. So it seems normal. But it really isn’t. If we heard that North Korea makes school children swear allegiance to the dear leader every morning (they do) or that Iran makes school children swear allegiance to the ayatollah each day, we’d think that’s weird or even creepy, right? But we do the same thing. And we’re supposed to be a free country.
I never gave much thought to the flag salute until recently. I was never particularly patriotic, but I just stood for the flag salute, because that’s what you do. More of a habit than because I really gave it a lot of thought.
And, honestly, in my adult life there aren’t many opportunities except maybe professional sporting events where I’m even exposed to the flag salute. But recently I joined a Rotary club, which, despite being a secular organization (its original appeal for me) say the pledge of allegiance and a prayer before each meeting. This caught me off guard. And while I want to be a good member of the organization, I do not intend to go against my own values to do so.
So when they ask us to stand for the flag salute and prayer, I do stand, but I keep my hands at my sides and do not participate.
1. One Nation Under God
The original pledge of allegiance, as written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, didn’t include the words “under god” in it. These words in our modern version weren’t added until 1954 as a cold war campaign to differentiate ourselves from the “godless communists” of the USSR.
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Original Pledge of Allegiance (1892)
Except…they never really went away once the cold war ended. And we aren’t a nation under any god, we are a nation with separate of church and state. There are people of many religions and people with no religion (like me).
The fact that under god is part of the pledge at all actually negates the indivisible part because…that’s definitely something that not everyone agrees on.
Also, most importantly, this is an unconstitutional infringement on the first amendment.
2. Blind Loyalty to a Flag is Fascism
Seriously. And I’m not a fascist. I don’t have blind loyalty to my country. We’ve done many good things for the world, but we’ve done many bad things too. And it’s time to be honest about the bad things and do better. Not just be blindly loyal.
3. Liberty and Justice for All is a Joke
We’ve made a lot of progress where civil rights and liberty are concerned, but we aren’t even close to having liberty and equality for all.
- Many LGBTQ and trans Americans can be fired for just existing. And the President has been removing as many protections as he can.
- Black Americans get killed in routine traffic stops because police are racist.
- Black men also make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population – often in for-profit prisons.
- Native Americans that survived multiple genocide attempts are still to this day being disenfranchised whenever possible.
Once we are truly equal, it’s something I would reconsider.
4. It’s Pointless
For many people, it’s just 31 words that they had brainwashed into them as a kid and recite mindlessly, without thinking about what they even mean. Just like I used to do. It’s symbolic at best and a complete waste of time at worst.
I’m sure someone is going to be like but the troops DIED for the flag. No they didn’t. They died for political expediency and to enrich billionaires in their country. And back when we fought a war that was actually about protecting our freedom (World War II) they still didn’t die for the flag, they died to protect their country.
What I’d Like to See Change
- Divisive religious language must be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, in an initial effort to make this powerful national symbol inclusive of the growing population of nonreligious Americans.
- The First Amendment right of students to boycott the Pledge of Allegiance must be protected and recognized as the constitutional freedom it is, no matter the motivation behind their boycott.
- We must all work towards the vision of the country that the Pledge of Allegiance aspires to: indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Elected officials must enforce the laws that protect these aspirations and continue to promote legislation that does the same.