Pledging My Allegiance

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

That was the text of the Pledge until the mid-1950s, after which some changes were made.  Most of these were minor — punctuation, capitalization, et cetera — but in one place the words “under God” were added.  Today there’s once more the perennial outcry about whether those words are appropriate.

Personally, I’d counter with the following:  I wonder if any pledge at all is appropriate.

I see no reason to pledge my allegiance. It seems to me to be a philosophically bankrupt concept. Consider:

– The pledge is an assertion of patriotism.
– I know I’m as patriotic as the next person.
– I could care less what the next person thinks about my patriotism.
– If the next person is Senator McCarthy, we’ve got bigger problems.

Generally, though, patriotism is a problematic concept. It means either “My country, but only when it’s right”, which isn’t much of a pledge, or  “My country right or wrong”, which is an endorsement of every act of villainy our country opts to commit.  And make no mistake; it’s committed quite a few.

I’m a citizen, and that makes me morally obligated to improve my country. It also makes me ethically responsible for every act taken in my name by my government. As a result, I spend a lot of time being ashamed of being an American, a person from the Land of the One In A Hundred Is Imprisoned and the Home of both the Corporate War Profiteer and the Welfare Scam Artist.

But I am loyal to my country, pledge or no, and that means I want to fix its problems, not just whine about them.

The trouble with these arguments isn’t that God is either unimportant or all-important.  Instead, it’s that they tend to distract us from those subjects about which we could have intelligent discussions.  We could be discussing ways to end corporate welfare, whether or not to levy an inheritance tax on the family farm, the propriety of ever charging anyone money for emergency health care.  We could be focusing on questions with deep moral and ethical significance.

Instead, we’re pissed at each other about whether the name of God is in the Pledge of Allegiance — as if that matters the tiniest bit, in the long run, either to us or to Him.


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