I don’t say The Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t sing the National Anthem. I’m telling you this for a reason, which I’ll get to, but let me tell you why I’m even talking about this. It has to do with my husband.
My husband thinks more than any person I’ve ever met. His brain is always going. ALWAYS. He’s one of the most curious people I know. These are two of the things I love most about him. I like talking to him. He looks at things differently (and generally less hostilely) than I do. We don’t have that much time alone. You know how it goes. We sit down with a beer and go through our days with each other and eat dinner and holy crap! How did it get to be ten at night? We don’t have much time for the kind of philosophical discussions we used to have. Like how it bugs the snot out of me that Superman is considered a super hero–*coughaliencough*–and why Steve Winwood is neither Robert Plant nor Roger Daltrey (A good thing, in my book). Oh, sure. There’s the occasional discussion about determinism and free will since, you know, quantum mechanics, but generally we talk about whether or not Raylan Givens could still be Raylan Givens if he didn’t wear that hat. We are, it may come as no surprise to know, concerned about brain atrophy.
This is why I’ve started keeping a running list of questions we have, and I take a few minutes a day (okay, it generally turns into a couple of hours) to research them. We then pick a topic for discussion. I know it sounds like I’m micromanaging. That’s because I am. If we don’t schedule these kind of things we end up talking about pocket knives. I like a good pocket knife as much as the next girl, don’t get me wrong. I just cannot discuss it with the kind of gusto exhibited by my beloved. We’ve recently discussed the Korean War, unions, the modern state of Israel, and how many people would choose to get out of a speeding ticket if it meant passing it on to the person who was traveling behind you.
It occurred to me over the weekend that I had no clue what the history of The Pledge was. So, hey, did you know The Pledge was written by a socialist? In 1891, Francis Bellamy was hired by a magazine to work in its premium department. Youth’s Companion started selling flags to schools to try to bulk up subscriptions. The company wanted a flag above every school in the nation, from sea to shining sea. A salute to the flag was written as part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus reaching America. The Pledge, in October, 1892 read as:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
There was also a salute, the Bellamy salute. If I were to show it to you now, this Bellamy salute, you’d recognize it. It looks a lot like the Nazi salute. Bellamy was a Christian Socialist. He was removed from his Baptist minister’s job because he believed the teachings of Jesus to be, well, socialist. Bellamy believed in the power of the worker and the equal distribution of wealth. His generous views of economic distribution did not extend to immigrants and the right to vote. He wrote, “A democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to the world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another.” Alrighty then.
The salute was changed during World War II for reasons I don’t believe I need to explain. The “under God” part didn’t get added until 1954 when Eisenhower asked Congress to add it in response to the threat of the Godless Communists.
None of the above has anything to do with why I don’t say The Pledge. I stand for it, as I do the anthem. Both of these things are important to people I care about, and there’s no point in being a jackass about it. It doesn’t bother me to stand, so I do. Just as I would if I were in Toronto when “Oh, Canada” was played. I simply find The Pledge to be creepy. I don’t pledge allegiance to a flag. I have no allegiance to inanimate objects.
There has been a lot of talk the past few weeks, deep into the presidential campaign, about The Pledge. If you don’t say it, you’re not a Real American. If you want to take “under God” out of it, you’re not a Real American. If you use it to shape the course of your campaign, you’re either a Real American or politicizing words some people believe to be sacred. Words written to sell flags. Words written by a man with an Orwellian view of the future of America. Benjamin Franklin never stood up to pledge the flag. Thomas Jefferson didn’t either. It wasn’t officially recognized by Congress until 1942–a time of war.
Here’s my point. I don’t want to say The Pledge. So I don’t. It doesn’t make me any less American than anyone else. A discussion about The Pledge made me go research its origins. Now I know more about it than I did. And what I learned made me feel better about my position. But maybe that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I’d have learned something that made me say, “By jeepers, I’m going to start every morning saying The Pledge!” I’m just some woman in West Tennessee. I’m not running for president. I’m not asking for your money to put me in Congress. I’m NOT politicizing The Pledge. The Pledge has evolved just like my views on it have evolved. I wonder if our presidential candidates know the history of The Pledge. I wonder if they would ever be inclined to spend a few minutes doing a little research on a topic about which they know very little–this one or any other. Or would they just pick a side and use the person’s research that backs up their views. How does the leader, or future leader, of this capitalist republic make a few words written to sell flags the cornerstone of a campaign? That might be my next bit of research.