The Pledge of Allegiance is in the news again. The exhausting debate over whether the phrase “under God” belongs in the pledge is a potent distraction from the real problem with this thing. The real problem with the Pledge of Allegiance is that we have a Pledge of Allegiance in the first place.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” The whole thing seems a little Orwellian for my taste: the systematic programming of American youth, the assembly-lining of an idea, the pressure to conform-it's all there. What's worse, we are asking children to pledge to an entity they know little about. These kids know nothing about foreign policy, nothing about history or war or death. How can they make such a powerful, eternal pledge of allegiance with almost none of the facts? It's like tricking someone into signing a contract before they have read it.
If I knew then what I know now, I'd be like, “Whoa, Teach! Slow down there! You want me to pledge whatchima to whozit now? Sorry, I don't know anyone named Amanda Republic and I'm not signing anything till my lawyer gets here.”
But that's not what happens. Because a child is this wonderful, malleable idiot who will memorize, recite and believe anything you tell him. Then he grows up to host his own talk show, and he's yapping on the air about the importance of some asinine childhood pledge he never understood, and never came to understand, and he's getting all thin in the throat about how he loves that pledge sooo much-without ever truly understanding what an enormous keg of shit the Pledge of Allegiance really is.
“And to the Republic, for which it stands.” A thinking man cannot take this pledge. Even if you concede the point that Amanda Republic is some wonderful lady who pays her taxes and tips the mailman, you still can't account for what kind of person she may become.
Governments also change their personalities. Good rulers go bad-driven mad by fear, despair and interns. What if America suddenly started dropping our radioactive turds all over the globe simply because we enjoy the sound of splintering glass? Will you support it then? You made a pledge, son. If a pledge ain't forever, then it ain't worth the spit you say it with.
Which is essence of the fascinating paradox that is the Pledge of Allegiance: To truly devote yourself to your country, you must revolt when it misbehaves. That is the ultimate act of patriotism. And it doesn't matter a good goddamn what promise you spake in class some 30 years ago, when you were just a little twit.
“One nation, indivisible.” OK, let's see, 75 percent of polled white Americans believed O.J. was guilty, while 75 percent of polled blacks believed he was innocent. Like hell, indivisible. You want divides, we've got divides. Step right up. How about the grizzly no-man's land between those who want this war and those who rue it? How about Indian reservations? Oh, we've got your divides. How about the generation gap, the gender gap and the gay gap? How about the cold war between the classes? You want divides? Please. America is a veritable Divides-R-Us.
“Under God” (UG). In 1954, The Knights of Columbus successfully campaigned to have UG added to the Pledge. Even though religion is the Grand Canyon of all divides, they selfishly placed UG smack in the middle of the very sentence that was trying to sell all that “unity” ca-ca in the first place.
Whereas it used to say, “One nation, indivisible...” now it says, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. With the “all” meaning, “all Americans-except, of course, Muslims, Buddhists, homos and atheists, and anyone else God hates. Those folk can all go to hell.”
Look, maybe ye who desire UG to stay in the Pledge of Allegiance believe the aforementioned souls shouldn't be allowed to stand under the nurturing umbrella of Amanda Republic. Maybe you're perfectly comfortable with the religion divide. Fine, but at least admit a divide exists. Then stop bitching at me when I state loudly and proudly that I will never take your pledge. Because you haven't included me-the Godless one-and because, frankly, I'm embarrassed to be an American right now.
I'm embarrassed about this looming war. I'm embarrassed that we incarcerate drug users. I'm embarrassed that our police shoot the mentally ill. I'm embarrassed that we purposely electrocute human beings. I'm embarrassed that we built this country atop the graves of the natives. I am embarrassed about our rampant narcissism. I'm embarrassed that we hate France for disagreeing with this war. I am embarrassed that Nora Jones beat Springsteen for “Album of the Year.” I am flat-out embarrassed.
Speaking of France, here is a country that knows how to compose a pledge. Take this minimalist dandy from the French Revolution: “Liberty, equality, fraternity.” That's it, baby. Three simple words: No bull, no fluff. Just the real deal. Now that's a pledge I can say with a hand on my heart.