Deconstruction Of a Pledge
Do we even know what the hell we’re saying? Do we care that we do or don’t know? I contend that we don’t know and we don’t care. Most of us were never given the option to understand and agree to any pledges of allegiance or celebration of what being American even means.
As children, before we even understand the meaning of the individual words, let alone their combined denoted meaning or, even more complicated, their connotative meanings, they make us swear that we understand and agree. If you unpack the Pledge of Allegiance, it would be as complicated as an iTunes terms of service agreement. You want to play, right? Just say you agree.
So as kids, we are forced—yes, we are forced; no child has the critical thinking skills, the power or the authority to disagree—to say the “The Pledge Of Allegiance.”
It goes like this (sing along if you know the 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, with liberty and justice for all.”
Well let’s click on all the links on this page. Let’s unpack this. Let us begin deconstructing the Pledge of Allegiance so that we can say that we have taken seriously one of the most important pledges we could possibly make and make sure we’re all on the same side here.
“I," meaning me and only me. That’s what it means. Not "you," "us" or “them." You can’t rely that anyone else agrees. Do you, by yourself, agree to what America stands for? I’m not talking about the guy next to me. He or she have their own thing going on.
“Pledge.” not just a promise, stronger than that. It’s a solemn promise. One not taken lightly. If I back out on this type of promise, I am not to be trusted in the future. Take a pledge seriously. How can a child take a pledge this seriously when they don’t even understand it?
“Allegiance." That is a commitment. Like the one you make to your wife or the one you feel with your family. It’s loyalty.
“To the flag of the United States of America.” Wait a minute. A flag that represents the country isn’t the people that make up the country. But, OK, I’ll commit to it, if everyone else around me is. It must mean we’re committed to each other. Maybe?
“And to the republic for which it stands.” Ah. That makes more sense. “The Republic” is “a state in which power is held by the people as well as their elected representatives.” That means we’re deadly, seriously committing to this thing we built and are continuing to build everyday, in full consideration of what we all, each of us, needs and wants from each other.
“One nation.” One collection of humans united by a common what? We’re America. We don’t really have what the dictionary suggests a nation should have; i.e. descent, history, culture. We’re a nation made of many different descents, histories and cultures, and that is the ideal we are dedicated to. We are dedicated to the protection and celebration of each other. We are dedicated to each others' well-being.
“Under God.” This was added in 1954. After World War II and during the Red Scare. The thing that helped identify us and unite these states was, apparently our commonly held belief in God. Well, we know that’s not true. If we truly believe in the country, we have to believe in the wide range of thoughts, feelings and beliefs that make it. If we are pledging allegiance to our nation, then throwing God in as an after thought is kind of a trick to out people who don’t agree to a very specific view of what this nation is based on. I believe in a God of some kind but I don’t claim that the definition in my brain is the same as anyone else’s.
The idea of God (or lack thereof) is a very personal thing that should give all of us pause to consider, within the context of the pledge. But we don’t pause. We steamroll right past it. In the same way a hypnotist gives post-hypnotic suggestions by bypassing the critical thinking part of your brain. But if you don’t like it, I guess you can just pause while the others say “under Go.d. If I am pledging allegiance, I am only pledging my own allegiance and not yours.
“With liberty.” Freedom. The power to act, speak or think as one pleases. Like, say, if someone didn’t want to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth in front of his friends without thinking of the dangerous ramifications of blind, uncritical pledging. I believe that one of America’s greatest promises is freedom. That means freedom to pledge or not to pledge. Those that surround you may or may not like your decision, but they can’t honestly and accurately call you a traitor for exercising that freedom. Do we mean liberty or don’t we? There’s a flag code that tells you exactly what you must do around a flag or during the national anthem. These being just symbols of freedom, to limit freedom in order to protect the symbols seems like a paradox at best.
“And justice.” Fairness. Equity. Everyone treated equally. I won’t pretend that America is the only country that has treated its own unfairly. The history of humanity going back to the story in the bible of Cain and Abel would contradict that assertion. (And yes, I know, to some Cain and Abel would be considered a myth or allegory, but it came from somewhere, didn’t it?) So what if our "liberty" to express concern over a lack of "justice" in our common “one nation” is limited by those who don’t like seeing certain people protest at certain times? It seems like the people that make up the nation, that, in fact are the nation, should count for more than any symbol representing them. Don’t get it backwards.
“For all.” That means everyone. Not just me. And it also absolutely includes the person who isn’t feeling it today. It includes everyone who agrees on the ideals that make America what it can be. America isn’t a set border. It isn’t made up of a set ethnicity. Neither is it based on moral perfection. But hopefully it is based on a moral aspiration to be better, everyday, by listening to the concerns of all people and working toward a commonly beneficial resolution. Whether or not you can, currently, find common ground with them. We must aspire to be able to do so eventually. We all aspire together toward doing right. We will never get there but we should always be headed there.
The symbols, ceremonies and rituals aren’t this nation. The people are this nation.
Like your flag. Love your country.
Love your soldiers. Hate the wars.
Protect freedom of speech, yours and theirs.
Listen to each other.
We’re supposed to be family. Or do you just recite whatever anyone tells you without inspection? “One Nation.” Mean anything to you?