Friday, June 20, 2008

The Flag, the Pledge, and What it Means

I note in the news that a small school district in Minnesota -- Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton by name/location -- has suddenly made national news by voting to amend a rule book to allow students to "sit out" the pledge of allegiance. Now watch the wingnut media come unglued over the whole thing, but really, what can you expect?

I am kind of amazed that this is the year 2008 and we're still fighting this stupid battle. Of course I'm lying when I say that. NOTHING amazes me any more.

But here's a little historical perspective from my personal point of view: I graduated high school in 1963 (yes, I know, it was still the Dark Ages and we used to have to bring our own slates and chalk, whale oil for the lamps, and a lump of coal for the stove...), which was less than ten years from the Reign of Terror of "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy, still in the days where my friend (the one who lives in Philadelphia now) had to sign a fucking loyalty oath to get a part-time job at the public library.

At some point early in my senior year I became politicized -- bullshit, call it what it is: radicalized -- and I decided that I would refuse to stand for the pledge. I was ready to make a classic "federal case" out of it, but I was -- to my chagrin -- totally ignored!

What the fuck is up with that?

Well, I blame this whole sorry state of affairs on my favorite teacher, who happened to be an active member of the ACLU and who knew which side of the issue was the "correct" side -- which is to say, the constitutional side. I suspect that there was a lot of scuttling in the shadows between him and The Suits before the decision was made not to make a "martyr" out of me.

Which brings us fast-forward to now. I am involved in a number of veterans-issues groups, and inevitably the first thing out of the chute for these group meetings is ... The Pledge.

I've evolved a bit since high school (thank god--imagine if I hadn't...) and my term in the service along with a period of years of "mellowization" opened my eyes a little bit to certain ... positive aspects ... of this kind of jingoisitic patriotism. So now I go ahead and say the pledge when I'm in one of these groups.

But one thing I still refuse to do is say the words "under god".

I remember when that phrase was added to the pledge, and even at that tender age (8 years old), growing up in the Bible Belt (rural Oklahoma), I suspected that there was something wrong with that whole concept. So I guess it's no wonder that when I grew up came of age, I was naturally drawn to such organizations as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

So what's the point of all this? That no one should be able to require that anyone, student or not, stand and recite a pledge of allegiance; that in the final analysis, the flag, while symbolic, is still just piece of cloth; and that we still have freedom of religion -- and freedom from religion -- as well as free speech in this country, even though they both are on life supports (along with most of the other provisions of the Bill of Rights); that it's up to each and every one of us to fight daily to preserve those freedoms.


jae said...

I have a friend that told her daughters what the pledge means and that if they didn't feel like they were speaking the truth when they were saying it, that they shouldn't say it in school.

Kind of made me wish I had thought about what I was saying by rote all those years....

mrln said...

"One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"
Sounds complete to me. Actually I think "under God" detracts from the meaning, and makes it less powerful.

jae said...

" Actually I think "under God" detracts from the meaning, and makes it less powerful."

It certainly seems to place the responsibility for maintaining the indivisible and justice stuff at the feet of someone other than oneself.
At least to me, it does.

Ah, the days of Liberty and Justice for all.....

Or am I just kidding myself? Was it ever really true? Or have liberty and justice only ever truly been given to those with wealth and power...? That's the problem with all that is going on is making me question whether the country I thought I lived in ever really existed.

Sorry to be so heavy on Summer Solstice. The sun and the moon have their own intense affects on me, I am afraid.

drainbamage said...

So Farnsworth, did you say the pledge before retirement or is that part of the disease?

Pssst stop drinking the coolaide!