Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reforming the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

Bless the cranky, for they dare to speak uncomfortable truths. Rex Curry doesn't much like the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. He has good reasons to object, too, which he has carefully documented. If you want a shortcut to outrage, just cut straight to his photos of U.S. children being forced to give Nazi-style salutes to Old Glory. I suggest, though, that you also linger over the text, which describes the Pledge's ugly origins in a swamp of totalitarian socialism.

I've never liked saying the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. As a kid, I just naturally bridled at the notion I could be forced to consent. It doesn't take a degree in philosophy to spot that hypocrisy. Having now such a degree, I still object to the notion that a child's consent to political allegiance counts for anything. Say what you will about Baptists, but I agree with them that children lack the capacity to dedicate their souls to God. So, too, with regard to an infant's capacity to pledge political fealty.

Even when voiced only by adults, I still have doubts about the Pledge of Allegiance. Set aside the salient problems with the "under God" bit. Set aside, too, the idolatry of pledging allegiance "to the flag" or to even to its political organization—"the republic for which it stands"—rather than to the ideals embodied in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. (Chalk one up for the Methodists, inter alia, on that count.) I balk on grounds that the extant Pledge demands too much.

In its current form, the Pledge of has its speaker promise allegiance to the flag and its associated political regime, followed by a description of the latter. The Pledge does not clearly condition allegiance on "the republic" hewing to the principles that alone might justify it. Surely, though, we would owe no allegiance to a tyranny.

Here, then, I offer a first cut at a Pledge that better reflects to political philosophy that gave rise to the U.S.:
I pledge allegiance, to the republic, of the United States of America, on condition that, it respects my rights, both Constitutional and natural.

To call for revising the wording of the Pledge isn't as mad as it might at first seem. The "under God" bit got added in the 1950s, of course, and others have since suggested alternative versions. I've found no revision, however, that corrects the odiously unconditional structure of the present Pledge. I think that friends of liberty should accept nothing less (though they still might well demand more).

Regardless of the Pledge's wording, though, I'll be damned if I'm going to give one of those Nazi-styled salutes. I've got quite a different sort of salute for totalitarian statists. And happily, it economizes my effort while maximizing my message.


Blar said...

I don't like that "my". Surely you wouldn't support the republic in its violations of other people's rights. Also, the "on the condition that" is too explicit - this isn't a contract. How about:

I pledge allegiance
to the republic
of the United States of America
under the principles
for which it stands,
one nation,
with liberty and justice for all.

It's a much less drastic change, and it at least implies that allegiance only applies insofar as the country follows Constitutional and moral principles.

Gil said...

I don't think there's a good re-wording that would make the pledge better than none at all.

It's a joke to most who say it. It's disgusting to many others.

If anything, it might be better the way it is.

At least now, if anybody wonders why education and state should be separated we can point to the current pledge for one reason (of many).

We can say: "Look! When the state controls education, it makes 5-year-olds pledge allegiance to it like Hitler Youth!"

ortho said...

They stopped doin the Nazi salute thing when the NAZIS started using it, not after the nazis.

Using the salute as an example of the what's wrong with the Pledge is pretty disingenuous. I agree with your other points though.