On this Fourth of July, full of whiz-bang fireworks exploding in warehouses all around the country, we asked ourselves the following question: What are we thinking when we insist that our children recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school?
Consider that the word "allegiance" is derived from the old word "leige", meaning a feudal lord. Allegiance is thus, at base, loyalty to a ruler.
Traditionally, such allegiance was compulsory. Kings demanded it. Once democracies such as the United States as America were formed, some nations allowed allegiance to be a matter of conscience.
There is still a veneer of the voluntary nature of allegiance, but more and more, our nation's Republican leaders are categorizing those who refuse to pledge allegiance to the President of the United States as enemies. "You're either with us or you're against us," George W. Bush proclaims to the world. The Republicans in Congress have pushed through a new national holiday to celebrate allegiance to the nation's leaders. They call it Loyalty Day, and they've put it on May 1 as a replacement to more traditional holidays celebrating the contributions of workers to the nation's well being.
To pledge allegiance is to promise to be an ally, regardless of what one's leaders do. As such, allegiance is incompatible with responsible citizenship. For allegiance to exist as an end in itself requires the person pledging allegiance to surrender the freedom to independently evaluate the policies of national leaders, to surrender the freedom to criticize those leaders when their policies do not seem to be in keeping with the national good. To practice allegiance is to blindly agree to whatever policies the national government has put into practice.
To pledge allegiance is to pledge a passive amorality. Allegiance disregards the goodness and badness of our leaders' actions, instead proclaiming that anything our leaders want to do is all right with us, regardless of the harm it will cause. Nazi SS stormtroopers pledged allegiance to their leaders, but that didn't make their allegiance an honorable thing. In fact, the Nazi preoccupation with allegiance was a part of the problem. America is not incapable of falling prey to the destruction of extreme demands of allegiance.
Allegiance presupposes enemies, and thus contributes to conflict. To agree to become an ally implies the agreement to gang up on anyone who opposes the group's leaders.
Pledging allegiance is downright undemocratic, but if we must pledge allegiance to something, why on earth are we pledging it to a flag?
A flag is, in itself, nothing but a bunch of stitches and weaving thrown together to make a pretty design. Is that what our citizenship is to be reduced to? Cloth?
Soldiers don't fight and die for the flag, at least one would hope not. One would hope that they believe that by killing and dying in combat, they are protecting the freedoms protected in the Constitution of the United States of America. The flag's symbolism has nothing to do with freedom. It only represents the fact that there were originally 13 states and now are 50 states in the union. That's all. It's the Constitution that provides us our freedoms, not the flag.
Americans like to say patriotic pledges, and that's fine. However, we here at Irregular Times believe that it is downright unAmerican to provide only one form of pledging through which we can express our patriotic feelings. America is supposed to value freedom, including the freedom to express patriotic feelings in a manner that fits with our individual consciences.
Therefore, we at Irregular Times propose the official recognition of an alternative to the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. We call it the Pledge of Commitment, and it reads as follows:
I pledge commitment to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the freedoms that it protects for all people, citizen and guest, with no restriction for the comfort of the majority.
We encourage you to spread the word and take a stand. Whenever you are asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, speak the Pledge of Commitment instead.
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