Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A New and Improved Pledge of Allegiance

Why are we pledging allegiance to the government?
Shouldn’t our public servants be pledging allegiance to us?

You may have seen my July 4th Patriotism Quiz that was published here a few weeks ago. If not, check it out. The little quiz uses major historical facts to open the reader’s eyes, hopefully, to see that there is a big difference between America and its government, between patriotism and nationalism. At least it’s a start.

One of my questions is about the Pledge of Allegiance. It says, “The original Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who was _____.” Choices are (a) a godly man and patriot who wanted to reinforce America’s love for country through a memorable tribute to be repeated on special occasions, or (b) a defrocked preacher and socialist who wanted to cultivate allegiance to strong central government through a political oath recited frequently by children. My good friends on the Religious Right hate it when they realize (b) is correct.

Those same friends came undone when a federal court ruled that under God was unconstitutional. Not me. I hoped they would be so furious that they would never say the Pledge again. The wording issues of the Pledge are actually not religious but constitutional, e.g. one nation and indivisible. This is the language of Lincoln's centralizing conquerors, not the federalism of the Founding Fathers who formed a union of states rather than a mass nationalism. Adding under God in the 1950s was a well-intended but terrible mistake giving the oath a pseudo-spiritual authority that protects it from criticism.
The main problem with Bellamy’s pledge is that American citizens should not be pledging allegiance to the government for any reason. This is completely backwards. Our public servants should be assuring us of their faithfulness by adhering to the rule of law and limits specified by the Constitution. It may seem natural to swear loyalty to God and country but not to a metastasizing central government that we often fear and constantly complain about. Nevertheless, we mouth the oath like robots and teach it as a mantra for our children. This should cease.

Another good reason to scrap the Pledge is a Christian argument that all oaths are idolatrous and should be avoided. Most Americans, however, do not believe this and would want to fill a pledging void with something. So, I have prepared a replacement Pledge, but this one is for the government, not the private citizen. At a ballgame, for example, it could be read over the loud speaker by a well-known bureaucrat. Political figures, government employees, judges, military officers, FBI and IRS agents in the crowd would be expected to join in while the rest of us stand silently and enjoy their constitutionally correct words of dedication. Imagine this.
I pledge Allegiance to the People of the United States of America
And to the Republic sustained by their Consent,
A Federation of Sovereign States,
Constitutional, under God,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Now that is a philosophy of government the Framers would recognize. If Americans had been hearing this pledge for over a hundred years instead of reciting the Bellamy oath, I wonder what difference it would have made. What we do know is that the Pledge of Allegiance has been helpful in shaping a foolish devotion of generations to an unchecked central government that, as General Lee feared, has become “despotic at home and aggressive abroad.”

We Americans have left our first love, and it is not the government. It is a love of country and liberty and the well-being of our people. It is time to get our loyalties straight and restore true patriotism to this great land.

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