I Pledge Allegiance…

A while ago, there was considerable brouhaha surrounding a single line of the pledge of allegiance.

To require children to say “under God” was an affront to some non-believers, enough of an insult that they filed suit with the Supreme Court to get it removed as a symbolism of separation of Church and State. For Christians, it was an outrage for these people to consider changing something that has been an institution for as long as any of them could remember. For anyone who cared to be objective, it was humorous, because it had actually been added in a 1954 revision. Consider the history of the pledge of allegiance.

My own belief in God aside (or non-belief as the case may be), both sides are missing the point of what the pledge of allegiance really is. It’s an institutionalized message, which reinforces our children to cease thinking about abstract terms of “liberty” and “justice” and to accept a concrete ideology. That ideology of course is that wherever the American flag is flown, liberty and justice are present. To put it even more bluntly, this allegiance is conditioning our children to disbelieve any statements that America can do any wrong (either intentionally or accidental).

If one removes the phrase “under God” completely, the oath of allegiance is still fundamentally unchanged. However that one utterance evokes a moral righteousness in many people, even those who do not profess to any religious faith. It’s meant to augment the initial proclamation that where the American flag flies, the tenets of its Bill of Rights, liberty and justice, are enforced. Adding God to this merely endears people to believe that it is also backed by divine will.

There are those that disagree with this simplification of the pledge. However, history shows that nationalist States show a high preference to indoctrinating children into their folds, while their young, innocent minds are malleable and susceptible to suggestion. Adults as a whole are much more skeptical of new forms of suggestion and metaphors unless it is first triggered by a past association. What America is witnessing now is a majority of its adults and youth who are victim to this clever, yet simple, form of learned Nationalism.

Nationalism is not mass hysteria; it is born from years of implicit education. Techniques may differ from country to country, and the allegiances can either be obvious or covert, but the ultimate goal is the same: Allegiance to the State (with little or no questioning of why). America’s endeavors have put our own nation as a whole in the same patriotic frenzy as such States as Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Germany, Soviet Russia (USSR) and others. Although the ideology is obviously not the same, the methods used to attain nationalist pride are strikingly similar.

To bring the case home, one must only point to the zealous usage of American flag graphics on national news stations, the pervasiveness of flags on bumpers, in shop windows and adorning clothes. America has been blind-sided by the argument of “under God”, a simple reinforcement phrase, when it should be focusing on this pledge on it’s whole. To condemn someone who cries for the removal of this minor phrase, as “un-American”, is laughable at best, because that person is still willing to pledge allegiance to the State and are contempt with removing the theological aspects of their obedience.

America has become a haven for Nationalism, something our founding fathers were not implicit on dissuading. They linked pride in matters of the nation with pride in individual accomplishment, something that is slowly being erased from our collective memory. They pledged their allegiance to themselves, and to their own liberty and justice, and hoped that by assuring their individualism and autonomy, collectivism and reliance could not grow to threaten men. They knew that when such values are perverted and rendered hollow by repeating without meaning, the conditions become ripe for mental slavery and the ugly barbarism of dictators and war that fill their vacuum.

posted by vforvandyke
  • clarie

    That was really interesting! Can you cite any sources or is this all based on speculation?

  • Stephen VanDyke

    Clarie, this information can be found in the book The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. I will make a point of better citing in the future.