Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), a socialist, was hired by a flag company in 1892 to write a 'pledge' to the American flag, which was to be used as part of a marketing campaign to sell more flags to America's public schools. The Pledge of Allegiance, as it came to be called, was accompanied by a peculiar salute, called the Bellamy salute, in which children were encouraged to raise their hands in a military salute style and then extend them outward at the phrase "to the flag" in a straight line toward the flag as the photos below demonstrate. Remember, these are AMERICAN school children saluting the AMERICAN flag. This practice was widespread and virtually universal in America's public school systems for fifty years...
Before the Nazis, and before the Italian fascists, American school children were performing this salute every weekday morning in classrooms all across America. In fact, it was imitated by many countries shortly thereafter, including our neighbour to the south -- Mexico -- which they still use today. European fascists also imitated Americans in the Bellamy salute, desiring to add to the pomp and pageantry of their nationalistic displays. It wasn't until 1942, after America's entry into World War II, that Congress retired the Bellamy salute by officially amending the US flag code to include the hand-over-heart gesture during the full recitation of the pledge. Keep in mind, this gesture demanded by the flag code was designed to get rid of something -- the Bellamy Salute -- which had become an embarrassment to the United States after its entry into World War II. The Bellamy Salute was then buried in history, omitted from official reference, and practically banned from the history books. The fact remains however, Americans invented the very gesture that later came to be strictly associated with 20th century European fascism. Of course when Americans did it, it did not carry the same meaning as with European fascists, but it was nevertheless a method used to indoctrinate American school children in the common practice of saluting a flag in a very militaristic way, which of course was designed to unify American school children after the horrors of the Civil War and Reconstruction. When it comes to Nazi-style gestures, we Americans have a distinct bragging right -- we did it first! Now you know THE REST of the story.
Now that I've shocked you a bit, I would like to change gears and talk about the Pledge of Allegiance itself. I'm not against pledges per se', as a pledge is nothing more than a promise based on honour. They are not the same as oaths as nothing is sworn. I took pledges when I joined the Knights of Columbus, and in every case it was just a promise based on my honour as a practical Catholic gentleman and nothing more. So the whole concept of a pledge doesn't bother me at all and that's not what I'm objecting to.
What I object to is not the pledge, but rather WHAT is being pledged, and TO WHAT OR WHOM it is being pledged. When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we are pledging just that -- our allegiance. We are pledging it to a flag, a system of government (the federal republic) and to the indivisibility of a political union. In a sense, we are promising to serve our flag and our government, in all things, to preserve its absolute unity without question. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?
The problem that I see here is that the Pledge of Allegiance is at its very core un-American. Think about it for a moment. What was the United States of America founded on? Rather than summarize, I'll let the founders speak for themselves. Let's take a look at what America's founders said America was founded on...
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. - Declaration of Independence, Adopted in Congress, July 4, 1776As you can see, America's founders made it very clear. The United States of America was founded on secession, the God-given right of any group of people to declare themselves independent and free when they have demonstrated they are capable of governing themselves and their larger imperial government no longer governs them fairly. It's a radical idea! but it is nevertheless the foundation of America, for if the founders were wrong, and established state governments do not have the right to declare themselves free, than we should fold this 'great experiment' and return our land to the Queen of England.
You see there is nothing more 'American' than asserting one's freedom as a people. For example, when the Southern states seceded from the United States federal government in 1860-1861, they were exercising their freedom as AMERICANS, because this was the very right the United States was founded on to begin with. The actions of the Federal government in response to this were reprehensible, and in every way a tyranny far worse than King George in 1776. The United States federal government had effectively become the very thing it hated -- the very thing the founders originally seceded from the British Empire over. It was probably the most tragic time in American history, but the miracle is that some 150 years later, many Americans still believe in the idea outline above in the Declaration of Independence.
So let me clarify this on a personal level. As an American I believe in the Declaration of Independence, and because I believe in the Declaration of Independence, I also believe established well-governed states have the God-given RIGHT to secede from larger imperial/federal governments. Therefore, I believe my home state of Missouri certainly has the right to secede from the United States of America, if indeed that is what the people want, and they demonstrate their ability to govern themselves reasonably. Since the State of Missouri has indeed demonstrated this for over 100 years now, I believe it most certainly can leave the United States at any time, depending entirely on the will of the people of Missouri. Yes, I believe that Missouri has the right to become its own country! That is probably the most 'American' thing I could ever say, and as an 'American' I stand by it, and assert it as nothing less than pure American patriotism!
Now that I've explained myself, let's revisit the Pledge of Allegiance. The text as it currently exists is as follows...
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.
I have underlined the parts I find objectionable. The United States federal government is indeed a republic, but it doesn't have to be, and Americans can be just as "free," with their civil rights protected, under some other form of Union governance. A republic is not synonymous with freedom and civil rights. Just ask our good friends over in the United KINGDOM, who still live under a queen in a parliamentary monarchy. Contrary to popular opinion, the queen is not just a figurehead. She actually does have some power, but like a good monarch, she exercises it very discretely, allowing the people to essentially govern themselves through a parliamentary system. There are also smaller forms of government that operate just as well as a republic if not better. There is of course the direct democracy system of town halls and caucuses. Who is to say that someday a new and better form of government might be created. I have a real problem pledging my allegiance to a particular system of government, which has not only proved to be unstable, but even tyrannical at times, when in fact there is nothing about being an 'American' that requires me to do so. As a Catholic Christian, the only system of government that I pledge my allegiance to is the absolute monarchy of Christ the King. Because of that, I submit to the federal republic, by obeying its laws, but only because my King tells me too. Indeed, if my King ever said otherwise, I would rebel, and become just as much an enemy of the republic as there ever was. Thankfully for all of us, the King of kings tells us to submit to the ruling authorities, and so I do. Does this make me un-American? I don't think so.
It is also erroneous to refer to the United States as 'one nation.' We are not. Let's go through some definitions here. A state is a local government. It can be a country when independent, or a province when under the authority of a higher government. In the case of America, there are 50 states. Each one has the potential to be an independent country, if indeed that is what the people therein want. (I couldn't be more 'American' in saying this.) Then you have the word 'nation' which is actually a much more abstract term. It refers to a large group of people (millions) who are united by language and culture. In the United States, there are in fact about nine to ten such groups of nations. In my home state of Missouri, I happen to live where two such nations intersect, the Heartland of the American Midwest, and Dixieland of the American Southeast. Both peoples are defined by language accent and culture, and they have many similarities, but they are not the same. I also used to live in the American Southwest, where I can attest to a very different nation of people, who are united by a different language (Spanglish) and culture (Mex-American). Now that in itself is not enough to separate our political ties, and we all remain under one political authority, but we are certainly NOT one nation. We are multiple nations of peoples, united under the one political authority of the United States federal government. This leads me to the final definition. What is this political authority that unites us called? It is called a UNION. That is what the United States is. It is a political and economic UNION, similar to the European Union, but much older and more defined. Every year the President of the United States delivers a 'State of the Union' address, not a 'State of the Nation' address, as the bungling nitwits in the mainstream media have frequently called it. If the words of the Pledge were changed to say "one union under God," instead of "one nation under God," I would have no objection to that line. This is because it would be factually correct and simultaneously respect our national divisions based on language and culture. Believe me, if it's un-American for me to say this, than the America I once knew, and grew up in, no longer exists.
The last word I have a problem with in the Pledge is of course 'indivisible' because this is nothing short of political propaganda designed to crush the will of any child who would dare dream of political independence. If the United States is truly 'indivisible' than indeed the Declaration of Independence is dead. The portion I cited above is worthless, and America has simply joined the league of other world empires that keeps its people prisoner by force. If this is the case, than I don't care if you call me 'un-American' because the word 'American' really doesn't mean anything any more.
Perhaps if the Pledge of Allegiance were re-written as follows, I might be able to recite it again...
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
one Union under God,
With Liberty and Justice for all.
I have no technical or moral issues with this version of the Pledge, but until it is rewritten as so, I am compelled to keep my lips still and my voice silent. I will stand for the American flag, and I will place my hand over my heart to show my affection and respect, but I can no longer say the words of the Pledge. Indeed I haven't said them in a very long time. My conscience forbids me from doing so, and I think it is reprehensible that our public schools still compel our children to recite this Pledge at all, especially in its current form.