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I pledge allegiance, to the almighty demagogue
January 3, 2010 - John Stack
Recently there has been a lot of local discussion on the Pledge of Allegiance. For myself, I have never chosen, nor do I ever plan on choosing not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. I have always stood at attention during the National Anthem, going so far as to stand at attention for the national anthem while watching hockey games with my friend Craig. Normally, the conversation has been driven by the inclusion of ‘under God’ . In 1954 President Eisenhower helped get ‘under God’ into the Pledge. He was moved by the (Scottish born)Rev George Docherty who believed the power of America derived from God. He was troubled by the fact that the Socialist Francis Bellamy (Who wrote the original Pledge) did not include God. He felt the inclusion of ‘Under God” would somehow better “reflect the American Spirit and way of life as defined by Abraham Lincoln (purportedly in his Gettysburg address). Ironically, in Abe’s day, the term ‘under God’ did not mean to be subordinate to, a foundation which is built upon or anything of the like. In fact, it meant ‘God Willing’. So, not only would the phrase be grammatically incorrect, but has a completely different meaning.
But my concerns (today) don’t have to do with the ‘under God’ part, but of the mandatory reciting of the pledge. In local papers, a number of letters to the editor and such have decried local districts (most specifically Beekmantown) who have informed the students of their rights to not recite the pledge. Former SLCS superintendent, now Beekmantown Supr understood their may be religious and other reasons for a child to not recite the pledge, but that a child may feel pressured by other students, or feel worried about what they may think of them. He instituted a policy that changed the morning announcements to say ‘You are invited to join us for the Pledge of Allegiance’.
Many who are peeved at schools for letting the students know their options claim this si somehow new ‘political correctness’ and ‘socialism’ (once again ignorant of the fact that a socialist wrote the original pledge). Far from being ‘new’, the pledge became the ‘official national Pledge’ in 1942. Just one year later, the US Supreme Court ruled that students in public schools cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge, in that"compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment.
A local superintendent spoke about how while he was a principal, if someone chose to not recite the Pledge, he would have them down to his office and explain how his father was a Marine, and how he would have wanted him reciting the Pledge, and how this may be looked at by teachers and others. To me, this sounds a bit too much like coercion. Many who choose to not recite the pledge have very deep reasoning for not participating. They all know the consequences of not standing and reciting the pledge. A family I was very close with in High School practices faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe to pledge to a flag is idolatry. I sure wouldn’t want a principal telling my son or daughter a story about his father being a Marine was to somehow supersede her own religious beliefs (now the irony of ‘under God comes up, eh?). This superintendent went on to say that this may come back to haunt them by teachers possibly not giving college recommendations because of their failure to participate. If that doesn’t sound like coercion, I don’t know what is.
This argument also is one that many letter writers and their ilk seem to come back to time and again. Something along the lines of ‘my father/brother/uncle/sister’ fought in war to preserve your freedoms. You should be forced to stand and recite the pledge. Often, this has been followed by the ritual ‘and you can then move to Iraq/Russia/some socialist country and choose not to recite the pledge’. Talk about missing the point! I believe our armed forces men and women are ‘over there’ to protect our freedoms, and those freedoms come directly from the Constitution. To me, some of the most compelling images of freedom have to do with the tearing down of statues. Of the Iraq war, the tearing down of statues of Saddam Hussein .This marked the seeming BEGINNING of freedom in Iraq, the likes of which many had never enjoyed. The stories of forced pledge of allegiance to Saddam Hussein form the very young to very old often sends chills up the spines of many who see or hear of them. Under Saddam, there was no religious freedom, there was no political dissent, there was only Saddam and his dictatorship and forced ‘compulsory unification of opinion’.
So, while I choose to recite the pledge, I do so willingly and voluntarily. I don’t and won’t do it by edict or by force. This is why my nephew Alec, my uncles John, Pete and Joe, their father George as well as other family and friends fight or have fought during their times in service to the USA. .
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