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.
See those words up there? They represent different emotions of varying levels of importance for each individual.
Here are a few:
1) It’s critical for the pledge to be said in public school, because reciting the words teaches children about patriotism!
2) I, or someone I know/am related to have just earned citizenship–pledging is the final stretch of the Citizenship triathlon.
3) The parts “under god” and “justice for all” are false to me, thus the entire pledge is also false.
As an Army brat, a US citizen, a sociologist, and a parent I could debate either for, or against any of the above points. Nicely demonstrative of what makes the definition of patriotism a multifaceted issue.
The Army Brat knows exactly the force of emotion when that pledge results in your parent going to a war.
The natural-born US citizen recognizes that my homeland’s “bad day/month/8-years” still looks dreamy to millions of wishful immigrants– and that saying the pledge during a citizenship ceremony marks the end of an expensive and bureaucratic battle.
The Sociologist comprehends that symbols, (symbolic interactionism) not our ability to accessorize, create cultural identity.
The student who once took both American and Women’s History knows that the words “under god” were added to flush out the commies in the Fifties, and that “justice for all” doesn’t mean everyone.
The Mother realizes that none of these subtle (or not subtle) nuances are part of my children’s experience repertoire. That saying the pledge won’t bring the same wealth of feeling that it brings to the Army Brat, or the new US citizen. That the underlying symbology of saying these words with the tribe is just that– symbology. For either of them, making a pledge doesn’t actually mean promising fealty to everyone in the United States. It just means going with the flock.
That’s it, right there– saying the pledge of allegiance doesn’t teach patriotism, it teaches children to memorize and repeat some words that some day will– or won’t– have greater meaning.
Some of the conservative-right like to trot that pledge and their (imported) flags out as a litmus test for citizenship. If you say the pledge, then you love America. If you don’t say the pledge, then you are an American-hating socialist!
During my research of the pledge’s origins (because the cool kids fact check), I realized something so delicious in its irony that I no longer feel twitchy about my kid saying the pledge.
Y’all– it was written by Francis Bellamy. Francis Bellamy, prior to entering into journalism was a religious SOCIALIST. Many of their vision statements parallel my own secular humanism beliefs quite nicely.
Again, in case you missed it: A socialist wrote the pledge of allegiance. Am-azing.
“Give me your tired, your poor, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES…” you know?
I tried to explain all of these points during an opinion debate on an online forum. I should have kown better. But when one of them decided to suggest that my patriotism is less for my ambivalence to the pledge, going on to tell me that I am incapable of teaching my children to respect soldiers unless we genuflect in front of a flag? Honestly? Makes me want to TP* your house.
*I would never TP someone’s house, because wasting that much paper kills trees and hurts my hippie heart. I might cloth rag your house though.*
I teach my children:
1) to respect PEOPLE.
2) that real life heroes– soldiers, firemen, police, teachers, EMTs, sanitation workers (Yes, garbage collectors— have you any idea the amount of disease that would spread without them?)– deserve our respect.
3) that demonstrating respect is polite.
4) that the uniform deserves respect, but that the person wearing it may not.
Teaching them to respect ALL people (as much as children can), because we are humans has turned out to be pretty darn simple.
So when the faceless internet people suggest that those of us that aren’t all yippee about the pledge are remiss patriots, I personally feel like:
I could spend the next 100 words defending myself– but to what end? My family lived the sacrifices that prompts some people to walk up to a soldier expressing their thanks.
**A lifetime of personal experience, and the memory of the man that fathered me allows me to teach my children about what it means to be a solider in the United States.
**I promised to give warning before I posted items that bring on tears. So. Warning.
To seek truth and pursue it, not blind allegiance to the way it has always been is how we teach patriotism.