January 10, 2006

Why to a Flag?

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Perusing a story about the pledge of allegiance, it struck me: why pledge to a flag? Yes, you're pledging to the Republic as well, but why to the flag? Because it's a convenient symbol? Maybe, but there's a big problem there: anyone can hijack the symbol. Why not simply make a pledge to the Republic alone? It can also be hijacked (witness the present), but at least it's quite a bit more difficult--and it's usually accomplished by hijacking the flag first.

Even better, why not make the pledge to the Republic and the Constitution upon which it is based? The flag can be twisted to represent all kinds of bad stuff, but the Constitution, that's got the foundation for a nation of laws printed right on it. A bit harder to grab that and use it as a symbol of crushing someone's rights and liberties. It specifically enumerates what we're supposed to do and how. More general symbols, such as the flag and the sacrifice of past generations can be far more easily subverted by claiming that they stand for what you want them to stand for; the Constitution is much less forgiving of people trying to create meaning out of whole cloth.

So hang a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on the wall of classrooms, and make a pledge to it. "I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the Republic based upon it: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all." Give the "Under God" bit back to the Knights of Columbus who got it stuck in there during the McCarthy Era by using fear and manipulation; there's no need for it in that pledge anyway, least of all for those true to their God.

And while we're at it, let's stop making kids recite the pledge until they can demonstrate real understanding of what it means. Mindless indoctrination was supposed to be something we're against, right? Why are eight-year-olds reciting it? Most kids don't have a clue as to what half the words mean, and I don't ever recall a teacher explaining them. Heck, for years I thought that I was pledging "allegiance" (whatever that meant) to an "invisible" nation. I thought it was weird, but then, the whole Pledge thing was, to me, back then. Still is today, to the extent that it's more a political tool than a meaningful pledge. Ergo my suggestion for changes.

Posted by Luis at January 10, 2006 09:44 PM

What about making it simpler:

I promise to obey the law, tell the truth, and treat people with respect.

Posted by: ykw at January 11, 2006 03:22 AM

Well, no one ever thought that the flag would be hi-jacked by some waterdowned neonazi's that refered tothemselves as neoconservatives bent on destroying all civil institutions, including the constitution itself.

I believe the bible says, make no pledges, just do, or don't do. ...Imagine there's no heavon... etc...

Posted by: tmkane at January 11, 2006 05:32 AM

I think that you touch upon one of the reasons that some people get so super-duper upset about *burning* the flag.

It's not just a flag; if we are pledging to the nation, and we're using the flag as a symbol for the nation, then to burn the flag is to show disrespect for the entire country- not to merely use the flag-burning as a symbol for how upset someone might be.

I think that even those who're most vehement against flag-burning might say "well, if you're really upset at the policies of the United States and want to make a dramatic statement against it, that's fine..." but if you choose to do so by burning the flag, look out- now you're not just criticizing the USA, but you're actively harming the nation somehow.

Myself, I don't really have much of a problem with the Pledge of Allegiance. I do think "under God" should be jettisoned, but I think that kids need MORE education about what the USA is all about, not less.

Besides, I said the pledge every day in 1st through 6th grades, and I turned out okay. :)

Seattle, WA

Posted by: Paul at January 11, 2006 10:42 AM

Wait... in the US, you say that pledge EVERYDAY in school? Is that normal for every school in there? Didn't know that...

Posted by: Claus at January 11, 2006 08:06 PM

I don't know about today--I'm sure some communities have that policy and some don't. I believe that when I was a kid, like Paul, we said it every day (as opposed to once or twice a week). I clearly remembering starting morning classes in first and second grades by standing up, looking at the flag, hand-over-heart, and reciting the pledge. That was in Cupertino--I'm fairly sure that after I moved to another school district near the end of the second grade, I never had to say it in a class again.

Paul: I'm not suggesting that it'd warp you or something... mostly that it's a waste of time. As for indoctrination, I betcha for the weak-minded kids it works fairly well. Me, I've always believed in having reasons for doing stuff.

Posted by: Luis at January 11, 2006 08:55 PM

I'm with you Luis. Maybe the pledge should be something along the lines of the Presidential Oath. "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I could deal with putting my hand over my heart and sayng I will to the best of my ability, perserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Maybe if kids, including Georgie, had learned this in school we would have a better President today.

Posted by: Kate in Phila at January 16, 2006 05:14 AM