Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pledge of Allegiance

"I don't pledge allegiance
to the flag of the United States of America
and to the corporations for which it stands,
one nation, divided by God,
with liberty and justice for the wealthy few."

Blasphemy? Nah! It's what America has become. Why pledge allegiance to it? My allegiance is to a principle...a principle spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, not a piece of colored cloth that is made in China these days. I hate to be cynical, but our government no longer deserves our loyalty, obedience, blood, or even taxes.
In the spirit of Independence Day, this week, I'll post on various topics of our political system in the current era of cynicism and corruption. Today's post is on the pledge of allegiance itself.

In my senior year of high school, due to an awakening I experienced as a result of having an inspiring teacher I idolized and world events proving to me that people can make a difference (the wonderful school year that was 1989-1990), I felt brave enough to question a ritual that schools forced upon us. The ritual? The Pledge of Allegiance. For years, I had noticed that most people were like robots during this part of the school day. They stood up, held a limp hand against their hearts and mumbled the words to the pledge of allegiance with all the enthusiasm of a person on prozac. It became obvious to me how meaningless the ritual had become. I had long questioned such practice, at least since elementary school when I imagined Soviet children pledging allegiance to the Soviet flag and how Americans would view them as brainwashed. Or how German children pledged allegiance to Hitler in the 1930s, or Cuban children pledged allegiance to Castro. Why does it seem ridiculous when other people do it, but not when we do?

Because my favourite teacher in my senior year was an atheist who didn't participate in the pledge, he was "coincidentally" scheduled a planning period during the hour when the pledge was recited. His beef with the pledge was the "under God" part, but if they removed that phrase from the pledge, he would say it. His stance gave me the confidence I needed to refuse to stand for the pledge during class, even though classmates would heckle me about it. But, no teacher ever made me stand and recite it and I'm glad. Here's why...

I don't pledge allegiance to a material object. I only pledge my allegiance to God and my own conscience. I cannot even pledge allegiance to friends, as one of them had wanted me to do a few years back. People change. I change. I don't know where I'll be five years from now. I've seen friendships die out. I generally make friends for life and have only rejected two people's interest in maintaining a friendship with me (both of those people were blindly loyal Bush supporters, but that was only the final straw in a long list of grievances that doomed the potential for friendship). However, I don't believe it is honest or wise to pledge allegiance to anything that lacks permanence. Only God and one's conscience are eternal. Flags, Constitutions, governments, countries, churches, and even friendships are not permanent. Things can change. People change. And yes, our country has changed. I would never pledge allegiance now to such a vile government that completely disregards the mass of people in our world.

When I see the American flag wave, I can't help but think of how obscene it has become. The American flag, once considered a beautiful sight against a blue sky, now brings to mind torture, war, greed, corruption, disregard for human lives, corporate profits, low wages, debt, cynical politicians, jingoistic xenophobia. Why would I pledge allegiance to such a thing? So I don't. When my country can live true to its founding ideals, then maybe it can restore some pride. But that doesn't mean I'll ever pledge allegiance to the flag. I want to see that ritual end. I wouldn't allow my children to participate in such nationalistic blasphemy (against God).

And while we're at it, I support a move to change the national anthem from the war glorifying "Star Spangled Banner" to "America the Beautiful", which is the best song tribute to what makes our nation great. Given the choice between a flag that's made in China or the landscapes God blessed our country with, I'll choose land every time. Wouldn't you?

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