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Can We Please Get Rid of the Pledge?
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The Pledge of Allegiance is not an expression of patriotism. It is a loyalty oath that one normally associates with totalitarian regimes. People who love freedom, should be appalled by the idea our children are being coerced to stand and declare their support for the state. This is the worst form of indoctrination and it is completely anathema to the principals articulated in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I cannot imagine outspoken libertarians like Thomas Jefferson or Tom Paine ever proclaiming their loyalty to the state when they correctly saw the state as the greatest threat to individual freedom. Which it is.

Now I know that many people think the Pledge is simply an affirmation of their respect for the flag, their love for the country, and their gratitude to the men and women who fought in America’s wars. But that’s not what it is. The Pledge is an attempt to impose conformity on the masses and compel them to click their heels and proclaim their devotion to the Fatherland. That’s not how it’s supposed to work in a democracy. In a democracy, the representatives of the state are supposed to pledge their loyalty to the people and to the laws that protect them. That’s the correct relationship between the state and the people. The Pledge turns that whole concept on its head.

Now I’d have no problem if our schoolchildren recited the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence before class every day:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

That’s great stuff, unfortunately, the people who run this country would never allow it. They’d never allow our kids to recite an incendiary, revolutionary document like that every day for fear it would incite violence against the state. What they want is “good Germans”, not revolutionaries, not freedom-loving populists, and not well-informed, critical thinking individuals who can see through the sham of their jingoistic propaganda. They want people who are going to follow the rules, do what they’re told, fight the wars, and perform their worktime drudgery for 30 or 40 years until they’re carted off to the glue factory. That’s what they want. Reciting the Pledge fits perfectly with this dumbed-down version of permanent indentured servitude. It provides the ideological foundation for bovine acquiescence to the demands of the state and the crooks who run it behind the tri-color banner.

The fact that institutions like the Pledge are never challenged in a public format, points to deeper problems with the media and the way our kids are being educated. And while I don’t have time to talk about that now, it makes me wonder where are the people to question these silly recitations that undermine democracy and personal liberty? Why are their voices never heard?

I can’t answer that, but when I see the state deliberately eviscerating habeas corpus and locking away terror suspects for life with no evidence, no witnesses, no due process, no presumption of innocence, no way to defend themselves or claim their innocence in a court of law or before a jury of their peers–when I see the US state assuming the same unchecked, tyrannical powers as all of the dictatorships that went before them– I grow increasingly concerned that this lack of critical thinking is costing the country quite dearly. We are on the verge of losing what-little democracy we have left because people are incapable of looking around and asking ‘what the hell is going on?’

Pulling your head out of the sand and asking questions is not a sign of disloyalty. It’s a sign of intelligence, the kind of intelligence this country needs to stop the bloody wars and get back on track.

So next time you’re in a situation where you’re asked to stand up and recite the pledge, just pause for a minute and ask yourself what it really means. Is it really an expression of “love of country” or a is it a vacuous and demeaning exercise in nationalism that should be done away with ASAP?

I’d say, it’s the latter.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Pledge of Allegiance 
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  1. Kirt says:

    Yeah, dump the pledge. It was originated by a socialist minister to humble and indoctrinate the (at that time) recently defeated southerners. It was also originally delivered with the arm extended “Roman salute” until the fascists and Nazis co-opted that and gave it negative associations.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
  2. If Hitler hadn’t been stupid and started racial imperial wars, would the present day Nazi state being facing demographic extinction and invasion by the third world?

    This pozzed libertarian view that group cohesion and group themselves are illegitimate must be done away with. Conservative societies always demand conformity to tradition. If Wilson had kept his interfering liberal nose out of the Second Reich’s business, we wouldn’t have had a reaction against the Weimar Republic.

  3. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

    Presumably an intelligent man like Jefferson meant, “before the law.” Otherwise, this phrase causes us no end of troubles.

  4. Bill Z says:

    Good stuff! Let’s include the other “Preamble”: The Preamble to the Constitution:

    We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    Both “Preamble’s” should be taught to all Americans….and while we’re at it, lets dump “The Star Spangled Banner” national anthem, and replace with America the Beautiful.

    • Replies: @woodNfish
  5. @The Anti-Gnostic

    Come to think of it, even that qualification doesn’t work. We treat the insane and children differently before the law.

  6. woodNfish says:
    @Bill Z

    The EPA won’t allow it, all those fruited plains and amber waves of grain were created with toxic environment killing fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs. We must return to our stone age roots to save Mother Gaia.

  7. @The Anti-Gnostic

    All men are created equal before their creator. And therefore equal before the law. And it’s self evident. Meaning any fool can see it’s true so don’t argue about it. The framers cannot be blamed for idiots who think it means all men are exactly the same.

    The pledge should be reserved for people who know what it means and take it voluntarily. I took a pledge when I joined he Army. It seems reasonable to require loyalty of soldiers. But not of little kids or drunken riff raff at sporting events.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  8. Corvinus says:

    The pledge is not going to be “dumped”. If you choose to not honor the flag, like Colin Kaperninck, fine. That is your liberty.

    The Pledge of Allegiance in its current form was composed by a Baptist minister with the purpose of teaching immigrant children loyalty to the United States, NOT to “indoctrinate the recently defeated southerners”.

    • Replies: @Chris Mallory
  9. Corvinus says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    No, Jefferson was clear with his intention, and had been influenced by George Mason, who wrote on June 12, 1776, “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights of which…they cannot deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

  10. dearieme says:

    Presumably an intelligent man like Jefferson meant …

    Come on, he wrote as a propagandist. He probably didn’t mean anything rational at all. Hell, he owned slaves including, in due course, a couple of his own children.

  11. Diogenes says:

    How many people take their Pledge of Allegiance to heart when they are asked to recite it publically ?
    Not many, I venture, they are more likely to just mindlessly utter the words in a perfunctory manner. [ Just like American Presidents, when they take the oath and swear to abide by the Constitution, then just ignore it if it suites their purposes.]
    It seems that if people are citizens of a country then they must undertake to be loyal to the country, that is, to do as their rulers want them to do. Is it ,however ,treasonous to disobey your rulers and/ or not loyal to disagree with the policies of your rulers? Perhaps the Pledge is just an anachronistic gesture of fealty to the state by a vassal and contradicts the presumption of individual liberty?

  12. J1234 says:

    Yeah, “…and to the Republic, for which it stands….” is probably the only valid part of the pledge.

    OTOH, I still say the pledge, and encourage my children to say it, mostly as a recognition that there is still a substantial community of people who don’t believe that the United States is evil in a historical sense. And don’t believe that the US is evil with respect to it’s founding principles. And that we consider ourselves part of that community. It’s one of those statements that represents more of a cultural expression than an actual oath.

    It’s leftists who usually refuse to say the pledge, currently out of respect for the (mostly) violent thugs who are shot by the cops during the commission of a crime. The leftist’s pledge could never include the words “under God” or “liberty.”

    I agree that the preamble to the Constitution is a better oath to take. Having a pledge that culturally or emotionally coerces people to take part in George W. Bush style wars or Barrack Obama style collectivization and wealth redistribution is not good. Something better is needed.

    • Replies: @bluedog
  13. Mark Green says: • Website

    Mike Whitney is quite correct to say that we should do away with the Pledge of Allegiance. But what’s with his naive attachment to the Constitution’s preamble?

    True, the preamble doesn’t unconditionally pledge loyalty to a government that could easily become tyrannical. But the highfalutin preamble does make at least one ridiculous claim: that “all men are created equal”.


    Totally absurd.

    Our all-white, property-owning, slave-holding Founders never believed such nonsense for even a moment. This rhetoric was designed to demean Old World royalty, not do away with real-life class or racial distinctions.

    ‘All men are created equal’ is about legal rights. So let’s not get carried away with some lofty populism directed at kings.

    Sadly, human equality exists only in the case of mono-zygotic (identical) twins, and that’s about it. Please study your biology, Mike. The simple and obvious fact of ‘un-equality’ is understood by every mother or school-teacher or sports coach. This surprises you?

    Vast differences in intellectual and physical endowment exist. Always have. Always will.

    Also, please also dump all references to the ‘Creator’. Sorry, Mike. Many people consider that concept woefully superstitious.

    So the pompous preamble is a very unsatisfactory substitute for the authoritarian Pledge.

    Why not dump both?

    But let’s agree that we American all deserve “equal treatment under law”. On that we can surely agree. Equal treatment under law is fundamental and essential for a democratic government to be a legitimate force and to remain one.

    Unfortunately, in America, wealthy defendants can buy better legal representation and work the system far better than poor individuals. Similarly, wealthy activists and well-heeled NGOs can sway public opinion (and influence elections) via advertising as well as by making connections with media professionals who, in turn, are in a unique position themselves to shape public opinion. This fundamentally affects democratic process. It’s a very unequal playing field. Rich donors can also buy access and influence directly. This is how the game is played. Soft corruption abounds.

    What’s worse, foreign countries are now able interfere in America’s domestic politics. Some even bribe/manipulate (via lobbyists, donations, media and PACs) US policies which can result in actual wars. Millions can be ‘legally’ slaughtered. This is criminal. And it’s how Washington does business.

    America’s coddling treatment of Israel as compared to its injurious relationship with Iran is one stark example of entrenched, extra-national political corruption that supersedes Constitutional safeguards. It’s a very sorry state of affairs. And getting worse.

    But let’s be clear: not all men (or nations) are ‘created’ equal. Never have been. Never will be.

    • Replies: @Kirt
  14. bluedog says:

    Why bother to take an oath at all,you take an oath to the Constitution when you join the military only to break it when the deep pockets neo-cons or deep state wish’s to start yet another war without congress issuing a declaration of war making you as guilty as they are,and no saying well congress funds it so it must be alright simply won’t cut it.!!

    • Replies: @J1234
  15. The pledge will stay as long as Yankees hate Southerners.

  16. Kirt says:
    @Mark Green

    Mark, the preamble to the Constitution refers neither to equality nor a Creator. You’re thinking of the Declaration of Independence, a common enough mistake. I’d certainly be happy to do away with all state sponsored pledges.

    • Replies: @Mark Green
  17. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning to start the school day for many years in public school. It was mandatory and anything imposed upon a person has no meaning, no legitimacy, no more than signing a contract with a gun to one’s head could be considered valid. We just went through the motions because we had to. The ‘under God’ part made me wonder how the irreligious felt about mouthing those words daily but it’s not as if I was about to go around taking a survey since something like that would certainly have been construed in a negative way. Besides, who cares, we had no choice anyway. Keep it, drop it, it makes no difference as no one’s behavior was ever altered by it.

  18. Mark Green says: • Website

    True enough. This famous hokum is contained within the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. In any event, what’s problematic it’s still famously repeated. Right now. Today. Yet it’s clearly untrue. That’s what matters.

    If government/media can make millions of people repeat and believe obvious falsehoods, then we’ve got a population that’s ripe for manipulation.

  19. Replace the militaristic and deceitful flag pledge with a oath to uphold the US constitution.

    US constitution is the law of the land, not the DoI or illicit federal laws or the dumb pledge of allegiance.

    All federal employees elected and non-elected already swear an oath to uphold the US constitution, so why not the average Joe?

    Yea, I know most elected federal employees are liars, but at least they are on record as swearing an oath to the constitution, and can be confronted using the constitution as a counter to their lies.

  20. @Corvinus

    Bellamy was a socialist and a Yankee. The pledge was written to sell flags to schools. The “indivisible” line was a dig at the South.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
  21. @WorkingClass

    ” I took a pledge when I joined the Army.”

    Unlike the oath of enlistment, which specifically states that an enlistee will follow the orders of the President and the Officers appointed over him, the oath of an officer pretty much stops at protecting and defending the Constitution ofthe United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Make of that what you will.

    I took the oath when I joined the Air Force. It seemed like a reasonable request to make of someone being entrusted with a position of trust in the government of the US. In contrast, a pledge being recited or expected to be recited by subjects merely by reason of birth or naturalisation strikes me as shallow and, dare I say it, un-American.

  22. Corvinus says:
    @Chris Mallory

    “The “indivisible” line was a dig at the South.”

    Touchy, touchy.

  23. Flavius says:

    Sensible proposal. That the so called pledge remains popular, and will remain popular, with decent and nominally sensible people tells us that we have so far to go that we have no hope of getting there.

  24. @The Anti-Gnostic

    You got THAT right–240 years of troubles and counting.

  25. Much ado over nothing. Makes no difference to me one way or the other although it’s a tradition which is by and large harmless. The bit about “The Fatherland” and “conformity” is overwrought. As kids we pledged every morning in school even though half the time our minds were elsewhere (if in fact we even remembered the words). It’s a rote activity which has become increasingly meaningless. And it is indeed no more a demonstration of “patriotism” than is singing the National Anthem before baseball and football games, another example of feigned patriotism. Be that as it may, if they got rid of the pledge tomorrow I wouldn’t lose any sleep. The republic –well, what’s left of it anyway–will still stand. Hopefully.

  26. @The Anti-Gnostic

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal


    I would submit that he might have amended that statement with “regardless of man’s law”. As we’ve seen repeatedly, from the flows of electoral politics, political correctness and the reparations of affirmative action through the laws man sets up, it always works out that some are “more equal” than others as defined by–whatever. Whatever being, political expediency, ghetto pacification, the screeching of feminists, for instance. We now have the powers deciding who is more “equal” and at the expense of whom, in effect, as always, “choosing winners”. And just look at the trouble THAT causes for the little people, the divisions, the fighting and the higher orders love it. While the little people fight, they steal the last morsels…

    I suppose Jefferson and even our creator couldn’t cover the cool-people cliques we set up, from elementary school all the way up to those who rule.

    • Replies: @Jacques Sheete
  27. @Jim Christian

    Blue ribbon comment on a fine article!

  28. Klokman says:

    I re-wrote the Pledge some time ago to represent what it really suggests:

    I submit fealty to the Stag, of the Federated States of America, and to the fascist Autocracy for which it’s destined, a world Dominion beyond restraint, with retribution and terror upon all.

    I have never formally sworn allegiance to the Federal Republic of America, nor to sustain or uphold its Constitution, save for the brief period I served in its military Air Force (or for that matter any other so-called government), which oath was of no efficacy. Informally, as a dupe citizen I pledged allegiance to its flag, until I realized that I had never formally consented to the terms and conditions specified in state or national charters. Therefore, all assertions by their representatives are baseless and without efficacy with regard to my person, property, association, conscience, or futurity. As a citizen it is assenting to forced fraternity, unity, organization, and association.

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