Is The Pledge Of Allegiance Un-American?

Alex Knapp’s post about the latest outrage of the day that erupted yesterday over NBC’s editing of the Pledge of Allegiance reminds of something that a co-blogger at The Liberty Papers wrote several years ago:

We can decry pictures of children standing at attention wearing the red scarf of the Young Pioneers uniforms or the shorts of the Hitler Jugend as adults order them to pledge their undying loyalty to a state that plunders them and enslaves them. However, the sad fact is that while many Americans who would condemn other nations in a heartbeat for demanding such false displays of loyalty are supporters to a systematic version of it being practiced here at home.

Every day, millions of children living in the U.S. are compelled to utter the following words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”

Allegiance is a state of loyalty or devotion. A declaration of allegiance is not something to be taken lightly. It is a modern form of a declaration of fealty, the oath that a person took under feudalism that bound him to obey his lord’s commands, even unto death. The oath these children are ordered to make is loyalty not to any idea or set of principles, but to a flag, a symbol of the state. Change three words, and a Cuban child could utter it in devotion to Castro, a North Korean to the government of Kim Il Sung, a Scottish child to the British Queen or a French child to the Republic. This emptiness did not go unnoticed to the public who demanded that politicians correct the matter. They did not want to give it any principle that would challenge the legitimacy of the state, so they decided to add a loyalty oath to God to distinguish it. Of course, God is conveniently very lax in enforcing such oaths and so no practical impediment to the power of the state. Furthermore, I am told that the champions of adding a religious component to the oath carried the day by arguing that no “godless communist” could take the oath, marking them for ostracism.

(…)

The pledge of allegiance is not compatible with a free country. Written by a socialist who sought to indoctrinate children with the idea that they should be servants of the state, it opposes the very principles underlying the Declaration of Independence. It is the duty of every patriotic American, whose loyalties are to those principles rather than some flag or body of men, to oppose it. Let the enemies of freedom distinguish themselves by compelling people to take oaths against their will. Let us once again embrace freedom and expel the rotten pledge of allegiance from our schools.

A provocative argument, to be sure, but I have to wonder, what free man takes a loyalty oath to the state?

 

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    …what free man takes a loyalty oath to the state?

    Military folks and government officials do it all the time.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    That’s not a loyalty oath. It’s an oath to the law above loyalty to the government.

    “protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies — foreign and domestic

  3. James Joyner says:

    See also my August 2008 posting Fisking “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

  4. Boyd says:

    That seems to me to be an exceedingly fine hair you’re splitting there, Alex. I’ve taken that oath many times, and it sure feels like a loyalty oath, but directed to the Constitution rather than the flag. Since both serve as proxies for the state, I maintain my position regarding free men taking a loyalty oath.

  5. Matt says:

    ‘no “godless communist” could take the oath’

    Because it’s impossible for commies to lie!

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    Per James – there’s a difference between an oath to do something – “protect and defend” and merely an oath of allegiance. Once has meaning. The other doesn’t.

  7. Boyd says:

    Neither has meaning in this context, Alex. What would be the effective difference if servicemembers and public officials didn’t take their oaths of office? I’m not completely sure about the public officials, but I’m confident that military folks would be just as bound by the UCMJ as they are today.

  8. Franklin says:

    I’ve taken that oath many times, and it sure feels like a loyalty oath, but directed to the Constitution rather than the flag.

    As I say in the other thread, my opinion is that any loyalty should be based on some feature of what you are loyal to. Being loyal to the Constitution implies that you enjoy freedom of speech, etc. Any country that followed a Constitution similar to ours would probably be a decent place to live in.

    Being loyal to the flag, though, implies to me that you are only loyal to this country regardless of what it does or is. I would call this blind loyalty, where my country can do no wrong.

    That’s the difference in my mind, at least.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    I dislike the fetishization of the flag on the grounds that it’s just silly. The entire oath is silly. I’m patriotic and sentimental about my country, but I have never liked these fascist-feeling public displays of conformity.

  10. KipEsquire says:

    Six Words: The Children’s Story by James Clavell

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZzNVx4ZN9A

  11. Tano says:

    what free man takes a loyalty oath to the state?

    Military folks and government officials do it all the time

    Military folks are not free men. They follow orders from the state. Same with gov’t workers, to a lesser extent.

  12. Boyd says:

    Military folks are not free men.

    What an extraordinary claim, Tano.

  13. mantis says:

    I’ve taken that oath many times, and it sure feels like a loyalty oath, but directed to the Constitution rather than the flag.

    The Constitution is not a proxy for the state, it is the foundation of laws and principles for the state.

    The flag is merely a symbol.

    Learn the difference, and maybe you’ll understand the point.

  14. mantis says:

    I’m not completely sure about the public officials, but I’m confident that military folks would be just as bound by the UCMJ as they are today.

    The UCMJ enforces laws members of the military must follow. The oath is not about obeying the law, but supporting and defending the Constitution. Everyone is expected to obey the law, regardless of oaths. The oath is commitment to a higher service.

    …I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic…

  15. Boyd says:

    mantis, if you would think objectively instead of starting with your conclusion and working backwards, you’d realize how baseless your claims are.

  16. mantis says:

    mantis, if you would think objectively instead of starting with your conclusion and working backwards, you’d realize how baseless your claims are.

    Nice dodge. What conclusion am I starting with, and what claims are baseless, in your mind?

  17. Boyd says:

    Both the flag and the Constitution stand as concrete proxies for the state as we envision it in our collective mind. If the Constitution has changed, then the state has changed. The changes we make to the Constitution are merely reflective of the change in the state that’s already in place. Since we are a nation of laws, we change the laws to reflect the condition of the state.

  18. mattb says:

    @mantis:

    The Constitution is not a proxy for the state, it is the foundation of laws and principles for the state.

    The flag is merely a symbol.

    You’ve just attempted to give everything one meaning and at the same time in calling the flag a “symbol” opened up exactly why the constitution is a symbol as well — unless you mean that the only purpose of a flag is to identify objects belonging to a particular country.

    @Boyd is totally correct is that “The Consitution” (especially in it’s aged, brownish, document form) is one of the most powerful symbols of America that there is. And this is before we even get into the question of “Changing” the Constitution.

    Hence, for example, the uproar that emerged when Barack Obama made comments like “The Constitution is an imperfect document” or “The Constitutions Bill of Rights was largely a list of Negative Rights.” Both are of course completely logical statements from a legal or historical perspective. The fact that both created such an uproar and were used as further proof of how un-American he is speak to the power of the Constitution as a conceptual symbol and proxy of sorts for the US.

  19. Tano says:

    Military folks are not free men.

    What an extraordinary claim, Tano.

    Extraordinary perhaps, but hardly debatable, is it? ‘
    When you join the military, much of the course of your life is determined by orders from the state. Even to the extent of putting your life in extreme danger on a mission to kill people whom the state decides should be killed.

    Once you sign up, you forfeit your right to act on your own moral calculus as to whom should or should not be killed (I recognize that one still has the legal right – indeed the responsibility to decline orders to commit war crimes, but that is a special limited case).

    By what possible definition of “free man” would a member of the military qualify – given how these fundamental moral decisions are out of their hands, their participation in missions is not voluntary (so long as they are in the military), and a huge chunk of their waking hours are spent doing things that superiors have ordered them to do?

  20. mantis says:

    You’ve just attempted to give everything one meaning and at the same time in calling the flag a “symbol” opened up exactly why the constitution is a symbol as well — unless you mean that the only purpose of a flag is to identify objects belonging to a particular country.

    You overlooked the word “merely.” The Constitution is a symbol insofar as anything can be a symbol, but as a document that sets up the structure and legal foundation of our country, it is much more. The flag is, as all flags are, just a symbol. That’s all it is.

    Boyd is totally correct is that “The Consitution” (especially in it’s aged, brownish, document form) is one of the most powerful symbols of America that there is.

    I agree that the Constitution is a symbol, but that’s not Boyd’s argument. He argues it is a proxy for the nation, and that by pledging to support and defend it, you are merely pledging allegiance to the nation. This is what I dispute. You are pledging more than just “my country, right or wrong.” In fact, you are pledging something different entirely. You are swearing to defend the Constitution even against domestic enemies.

    In case you still don’t understand, consider it this way. The president is a symbol for America. Should we swear allegiance to the president? Yeah, that’s what I thought. There is a difference.

  21. mantis says:

    Boyd,

    You neglected to answer my questions. Probably because you can’t. See you when you approach coherence, if ever.

  22. Boyd says:

    Just because you can’t understand my answers doesn’t mean I didn’t provide them, mantis.

    That being said, I’ll point out that I didn’t claim it was your fault that you didn’t understand them. I’ll freely admit that I could well have failed to distill my ideas to comprehensible written words. But if that’s the case, it’s not because I’m avoiding anything, it would be due to my inability to articulate my thoughts adequately.

    Or it could be you. Either one.

  23. mantis says:

    These were my questions:

    What conclusion am I starting with, and what claims are baseless, in your mind?

    Here’s your answer:

    Both the flag and the Constitution stand as concrete proxies for the state as we envision it in our collective mind. If the Constitution has changed, then the state has changed. The changes we make to the Constitution are merely reflective of the change in the state that’s already in place. Since we are a nation of laws, we change the laws to reflect the condition of the state.

    You did not, in fact, answer the questions. You just ramble on about changing the Constitution, as if that were germane. It’s not.

    I’ll try another way of explaining it. Without our Constitution, the United States of America does not exist. Without our flag, it still does. See the difference?

  24. Boyd says:

    And that’s the difference that you’re not seeing, mantis. Without our Constitution,the US government does not exist. We, the people who make up the country, our principles, our beliefs, everything that makes the USA what kind of country it is, would still exist.

    So my point is that the US is not its government. And your apparent belief that, without our federal government, we would no longer exist as a country, is what I see as your mistaken premise.

  25. mantis says:

    The federal government and the Constitution are not the same thing, Boyd. Seems obvious to me, but apparently not to some.

  26. Boyd says:

    Okay, mantis, you’re revealing your failure at reading comprehension. Nowhere did I claim that you or anyone else said that the Constitution and the federal government are the same thing. I’ll repeat my points for you: “Without our Constitution,the US government does not exist.” And “…the US is not its government.”

  27. mantis says:

    Okay, mantis, you’re revealing your failure at reading comprehension.

    No, but you’re revealing your failure at even paying attention to the things you write.

    Nowhere did I claim that you or anyone else said that the Constitution and the federal government are the same thing.

    Ahem…

    And your apparent belief that, without our federal government, we would no longer exist as a country

    And I was talking about the Constitution, which you equated to the federal government. You were saying something about reading comprehension?

    But since you brought it up, please explain how the country exists without a federal government. How is it a nation and not just a bunch of states occupying a contiguous land mass, exactly?

  28. Tsar Nicholas says:

    When you see a blog headline like this one you just know the Internet left is starting to melt down into abject lunacy. Just imagine how looney they’ll be a year from now. It’s probably time to go long on the makers of Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax and Wellbutrin.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    When you see a blog headline like this one you just know the Internet left is starting to melt down into abject lunacy.

    Actually, the true lunacy is how anyone who doesn’t follow the conservative party line as thought of by certain people is considered part of the left…it is very amusing when many of the this blog’s main contributers are painted as raving lefties…as if…

  30. anjin-san says:

    Loyalty oaths, yuck. Especially when you line up kids and have them recite it every day.

  31. Tiffany Bell says:

    Great post and it ties in with the fact that the Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the Nazi salute used later by the National Socialist German Workers Party. The early pledge salute was the stiff-armed salute. See the work of the documentarian Dr. Rex Curry (author of “Pledge of Allegiance Secrets”).

  32. Kathleen Geier says:

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”

    For me this is a pledge to God and Country and not the flag. The flag is a symbol of our country.
    Now we are told God and the flag should not be a consideration. Is this still our Country? It seems to me we are losing it and our own government is helping it disappear before our very eyes. They are more concerned about looking politically correct than stopping those who are stripping Our Nation of Our Rights and Our beliefs. English is our language

    Our Country was founded of Freedom of Religion and we are suppose to be Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All. Now those who come here from other countries have more rights than we do and more freedom. We have to learn their languages in order to get jobs and now we have someone in office who takes our flag out of Our Countries Capital and we do nothing about it. When will our Government stand up for us?