The Pledge of Allegiance

No, this is not a rant on the insertion of a dubiously religious phrase in a pledge to a country that was founded on the separation of church and state. That has been discussed ad naseum since its inclusion in 1948. I want to talk about another aspect of this pledge that while unoriginal, is perhaps too often over looked: the propaganda component and its use as a form of indoctrination.

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.

Here is some history of the Pledge that was formally adopted by Congress in 1942: The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist, first published publicly as a marketing tool for capitalism (to sell flags to school children), and the language chosen was intentionally used (omitted, actually) to prevent the possible implication that women and African-Americans were equal to white men (because state superintendents of education would be against it if it did imply that).

Now, ideological contradictions aside, the Pledge of Allegiance is, by definition of its meaning and intent, propaganda. Merriam Webster defines propaganda as:

“ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.”

Now, how could I call such a unifying and inspiring statement propaganda? Well, consider the historical effects of what could be considered the Golden Age of modern propaganda: posters from World War 2. Examples of which can be found here and here. Propaganda is used to inspire fear, or sometimes just to inspire. By itself, propaganda is as evil or good as a gun. It is a weapon that can be wielded to kill or defend.

By its very nature, propaganda is not supposed to make people think, it is mean to illicit a visceral response based on audio or visual cues. You are not supposed to consider the meaning, you are supposed to “feel” and “react” to the message of the piece. In fact, questioning is discouraged; discouraged to the point that despite the American Supreme Court declaring the inclusion of the phrase “under God” to be unconstitutional, it is still frequently said in public schools, sports games and even in the buildings of the US government. We are NOT supposed to think about this Pledge, but to “feel” it and “react” to it.
The author James Clavell maybe painted the clearest picture of it:

“During that day I asked all kinds of people of every age, “You know the ‘I pledge allegiance…’, but before I could finish, at once they would all parrot it, the words almost always equally blurred. In every case, discovered that not one teacher, ever — or anyone — had ever explained the words to any one of them. Everyone just had to learn it to say it.

To compound the forced allegiance to a political system and government that a child cannot comprehend (that most adults cannot comprehend), the “Pledge of Allegiance” of the United States of America is written with such arrogance and ignorance that it shines above similar pledges from around the world.

India: I, [name] do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of India and fulfill my duties as a citizen of India.

Italy: I swear to be faithful to the Republic and to observe the Constitution and the laws of the State.

Romania: I pledge my devotion to my country and to the Romanian people, to defend the nation’s rights and interests, to respect the Constitution and laws of Romania.

Singapore: I, [name], do solemnly swear that I will be faithful,and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Singapore,and that I will observe the laws and be a true,loyal and faithful citizen of Singapore,so help me God.

South Africa: I, [name], do hereby solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the Republic of South Africa, promote all that will advance it and oppose all that may harm it, uphold and respect its Constitution and commit myself to the furtherance of the ideals and principles contained therein.

United Kingdom: I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

Do you see the differences in these pledges and oaths compared to this one:

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.

Where is the US Constitution present in the US version, the document we hold so dear? Where is the promise of protecting our fellow citizens or obeying the laws of the land? We are told to be loyal citizens of AMERICA and to the FLAG and everything those STAND for, because we are under god and united in our right to liberty and justice for all.

What about when that liberty and justice fail? What about when those ideals are available to the MAJORITY of sovereign nations around the world? When are we going to admit we are not one nation under GOD, because the speech that line was stolen from (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) never intended for it to be a literal phrase. We were never one nation under God, because we were founded on the absence of that idea.

We consider radicals across the world to be evil, the “bad guys” and terrorists for being as fervently devoted to their cause as our Pledge of Allegiance calls for us to be. We point fingers, and guns, at them because they would die for things that they believe in, because their leaders tell them to.

How are those that pledge allegiance to a flag that represents a country that has long abandoned its claim to fame and prosperity, a country that stomps with arrogance and self entitlement around the world, how are those people in any position to label ANYONE a “bad guy”?

We indoctrinate our children into this system; have them say the words of an oath before they are able to understand what it means, before they have any rights beyond those given to them by their being an extension of their parents or guardians. We use propaganda to fill them with national pride so that they follow their leaders blindly and lose the ability to think for themselves.

Stare at the flag. Raise right hand to heart. Hold still. Recite the words. Fill with pride because you are a citizen of a country that is number one in the world. You are a citizen of America. You are a soldier. You are privileged. You are blessed. You are a consumer. You are a voter. You are a pawn. You are a robot. You are an American.

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