This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … the Pledge of Allegiance.
Another school year is about to begin, which means 180 days of kids being pressured into unthinkingly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Of all the time-wasting activities that take place in school (and oh boy, do we waste a lot of time there), nothing is more meaningless than the Pledge. It’s recited by rote and performed only out of peer – and authority figure – pressure.
I’ve been teaching for 24 years, and I always make the Pledge optional. Hell, I actually discourage it. I don’t make the kids stand up. I don’t even stand up. I refuse to be coerced into chanting a poorly written recruiting tool that makes it easier for this warmongering country to send soldiers to die in conflicts aimed not at protecting the country but at fattening big business coffers.
Not only is it subliminally coercive, it’s poorly written. It’s 31 words of empty phrases and flowery verbosity that pretty much amounts to: “I support the United States.” Let’s parse this 30-second meaningless chant.
I pledge allegiance: Just a flowery way of saying, “I will be loyal to …”
To the flag of the United States of America: You’re going to be loyal to a “flag”? A flag is a hunk of fabric. I might be fiercely loyal to my wife, the Pittsburgh Penguins or Honda cars, but a red, white and blue cloth rectangle? If you want me to profess my loyalty to the country, just say that. Leave textiles out of it.
And to the republic for which it stands: More wordiness. Just say “America” or”The United States.”
We could basically end the Pledge here. Just say, “I will be loyal to the United States.” Or, if you want to hip it up a bit for those crazy kids, maybe a “Yo U.S … I got your back, yo!” or “I’m down wit’ all things U.S.A., youknowwhatimsayin?”
One nation under God: When Middle Eastern masses praise Allah in unison at public events, many Americans see them as brainwashed zealots. But when American kids are bullied into professing their loyalty to a nation that the “real:” God for some reason favors over all others, why, that seems just about right to most Americans. Germany made kids praise the Fuhrer and they were controlling mindfuckers. America injects God into every kid’s school day and calls it patriotism.
Indivisible: Talk about word that doesn’t belong in the Pledge. Not divisible? I direct your attention to Fort Sumter, 1861 and the ensuing four years. And 600,000 deaths. And Presidents Lincoln and Davis. We were one Gettysburg away from having this country permanently split into two nations. Yes, split. As in “divided.”
With liberty: Ah yes, the promised liberty that is our birthright … unless your government arbitrarily deems you an “enemy combatant,” in which case your promised liberty can be removed without due process.
And justice for all: This might be the funniest line in the whole damn Pledge. Shouldn’t it read, “And justice … the level of which will depend on your income level, for the more money you have, the greater the chance you’ll have to beat the most iron-clad rap, and the poorer you are, the easier it will be for lying cops and dissembling prosecutors to pad their closed case files and conviction rates by railroading your impoverished, publicly defended ass right into prison.”
If you’re too naive to believe that’s how justice works in this country, I give you Exhibit A in the name of O.J. Simpson and Exhibit B in The Memphis Three. Seriously, do you think those three small-town Arkansas goobers, with all that shady evidence, would have spent one day behind bars if their names were Kennedy, Bush and Trump?
So, instead of asking kids to recite a 31-word joke, perhaps we could rewrite a more meaningful Pledge and call it something like the “Oath of Good Citizenship.” I’d sign on and join in in saying it every morning. Perhaps it could sound something like this.
I pledge to be a good citizen of the United States.
I will not commit treason.
I will pay my fair share of taxes.
I’ll take care of any kids I make.
I won’t break the law.
I will l pay my bills and will not amass unpayable debts.
I’ll drink and do drugs responsibly.
I’ll respect all religions, even atheism, and won’t try to force my religion into the public arena.
There, that about covers it, doesn’t it? Oh, sure, we could add some more, but I’m not sure our underperforming kids could memorize it. Let’s see, we could add:
I will understand that watching Fox News Channel means that I will be greatly entertained but not well informed.
I will not carry protest signs that say, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” (Yep, that’s a real one.)
I will not allow myself to become a 300+ behemoth by gorging on a nonstop diet of snack foods and 60-ounce sodas, thereby becoming a nuisance on airplanes, at sporting events and in the aisles of Walmart.
I will see the illogic in supporting two insanely expensive wars while at the same time screaming “No new taxes!” and “Balance the budget!”
I will not feel better about the wars, which I mostly ignore, by clapping for wounded troops at baseball games and slapping an “I support the troops” sticker on the back of my gas gorging Escalade.
Okay, so now I’ve gotten verbose, too. Let’s just go with the original “Oath of Good Citizenship.” If I’ve offended with this attack on the Pledge, I hope you’ll forgive me. If it makes you feel better, I’ll go directly to God with a heartfelt, original and very meaningful plea for forgiveness. Ahem … Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.