American Exceptionalism, Under God: Pledging Allegiance to the Homeland

Among the exceptional things about America is that, along with North Korea, we are one of a very few nations that have our schools begin the day with a pledge of allegiance.

Unlike North Korea, however, our pledge also includes a reference to God. We do enjoy pretending all of this is optional because of “rights,” just as we pretend that the reference to God is perfectly “OK” in a nation that claims it is secular.

(Fun Thing: Have your child substitute “Allah” for “God” in the pledge at school and see what happens!)

Under God

The pledge is a short expression of allegiance to the United States. Originally written in 1887, Congress formally adopted it as the official pledge in 1942 as the U.S. was entering WWII. On Flag Day 1954 the words “under God” were added, in time of the Cold War and McCarthyism.

In signing the words “under God” into law, President Dwight Eisenhower said:

“From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty… In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

The pledge is recited out loud, typically with one’s hand over one’s heart. Want an example of how the pledge is used as a vehicle for a whole range of “patriotic” indoctrination? Here.

The Right Not to Pledge

The most common place for reciting the pledge is in public schools. Teacher’s are not required, and in most cases do not, inform little kids they have a right to not participate.

Most schools’ policy does allow students who otherwise learn about their rights outside of class to refrain from participating as long as they don’t interfere with other kids from doing so, generally interpreted as not protesting or acting in an affirmative manner and just standing with their damn mouths shut. There is a wide dollop of leeway on what constitutes “disruptive behavior,” as seen recently in the fury over some people’s decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, another American ritual.

This is all more or less in line with the landmark 1943 Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, where the justices voted 6-3 on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to stand for the pledge on religious grounds. The Court held that expelling the students, as was done in a West Virginia school, violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Justice Robert Jackson, who wrote the opinion, didn’t believe the government, including school officials, was constitutionally allowed to use punishments to make people say things they don’t mean:

“To sustain the compulsory flag salute, we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individual’s right to speak his own mind left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not in his mind.”

Not every justice on the court agreed, however, Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote in dissent “freedom of religion did not allow individuals to break laws simply because of religious conscience… Otherwise each individual could set up his own censor against obedience to laws conscientiously deemed for the public good by those whose business it is to make laws.”

And an exceptional free nation certainly could not have citizens running amok acting on their consciences.

So How’s That Working Out for Ya?

In late October, only 73 years after the Supreme Court decision, word apparently has not yet reached Florida, because a middle schooler in Tampa was kicked out of the classroom after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mark Dawson was yelled at by his teacher and made to leave the classroom after he refused to stand for the daily pledge at the ironically-named Liberty Middle School. A school spokesperson quickly admitted the teacher didn’t know the school district’s policy — as well as the actual Constitution of these United States — allowed for Dawson’s behavior.

Or did they?

Florida state law actually requires students to get written permission from parents if they want to abstain from the pledge.

Although the Supreme Court holds that the Bill of Rights applies to minors, Florida says well, it sort of doesn’t. Florida state courts have upheld the local law by technically treating the matter as an issue of parental authority, as granted or withheld by the state legislature. The law operates under the assumption parents would make their kids stand for the pledge if they happened to be in the classroom at the time.

Florida’s actions have not yet been tested before the Supreme Court.

Do Other Countries Say Some Sort of Pledge of Allegiance in School?

Despite America being “the essential nation” who serves as that “shining city on the hill” (we do have a lot of those kinds of expressions, don’t we?), America more or less stands alone in sort-of, kind-of, compelling/pressuring kids into stating out loud in the presence of their peers allegiance to the nation.

North Korea also has its school kids say a daily pledge, but that’s a bad thing. The Guardian described the scene as:

“They are barely seven years old, but these glum-looking children are already being drafted into a tyrannical regime hell bent on waging nuclear war with the world. Standing in arrow-straight rows, their faces are hardly the picture of happiness as they are forced to pledge their allegiance to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and call him ‘father’.”

Yeah, yeah, I get it, different words, but basically the same idea: a stated pledge to a national symbol. Only kids in North Korea aren’t happy because, whatever, like the US, their country has nuclear weapons.

Fun Fact: South Korea has a pledge, too. But not Canada, Britain, France or the other democracies of Europe.

Exceptional Homeland!

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

15 thoughts on “American Exceptionalism, Under God: Pledging Allegiance to the Homeland”

  1. My son, our oldest, started kindergarten this year. During his second week, I was a few minutes late dropping him off, and my heart sunk as I heard the students follow the teacher’s lead: “I pledge allegence to the flag…” I guess I naively assumed this practice had fallen out of vogue. Silly me. I picked up my two year old as we walked to the car, and said “I hope you guys will question that asinine tradition someday.” She said “Mama, hug!” She gets it. :)

    1. I read something soon after 9/11, a woman identified as a pre-school teacher gushing about the “patriotism” of her class of 3-4 year olds reciting the Pledge and she was ever so proud of them.
      They’re old enough to join the army now.

  2. I use to go to battle every year with my home-room teachers over the pledge. The pinnacle of this little jihad came on the first day of 12th grade when my home-room teacher actually did send me to the principle’s office. I came back about ten minutes later with the vice principle and got to watch him serve her a heaping helping of crow. It’s one of my fondest school memories. This was Pennsylvania, of coarse, and it was public school. I did the same thing in a Catholic middle school to protest the Iraq War and they nearly called in a f**king exorcist.

    1. I read somewhere the federal government gathers data about problem children like that. So, I suppose now it’s best to just smile, pretend you have no character or content, only a desire to pursue top grades…

      *Big Brother Is Watching You!*

      And yea, I opposed Iraq War also, though I had help to know to oppose it. I had Antiwar and Chronicles :p

  3. I composed short prayer for my children to say while still participating in the same outward motions; i.e. standing with hand over heart.
    Their teachers were very supportive. It is a Catholic school in a traditional-leaning area, but I am not sure what the reaction would have been in the county schools.

  4. A teacher in Bloomington, Illinois taught me, about a week after getting off the Train They Call The City of New Orleans, told me to “look it up” when I asked what “pledge” and “allegiance” meant. So I did. Guess who stopped saying it.

    That “father” crap that is used against North Koreans sounds a lot like one translation of “sah bum neem” which also means Teacher or Master. When somebody says, “oh, they teach Tae Kwon Do in schools there” well, that’s true.
    The term for “martial arts school” is the same for “school” and being in as much of a state of good health as possible is central to their culture and faith.

    When I studied Tae Kwon the flag ceremony was done not only to the flag of the US but also the Korean flag and to the teacher. As a point of respect instead of allegiance. Or at least that was explained to me.

    The other part in that is the continuous worship of the Founding Fathers we have to endure hearing, meaning less than a hundred White Guys who were exiled aristocrats out of 4 MILLION people counted in the first census. With a large contingent of Slavers. That means they were too lazy to pick their own sugar tobacco and hemp (cotton wasn’t a big cash crop until the invention of the cotton gin.) And so, they were rich and had other people do the real work of creating THEIR wealth.

    Neither George Washington nor Tom Jefferson or for matter any of them could stand in for my actual Human Father nor for God. The other OTHER use of Father to describe religious authority, not established under the Constitution, and without anything resembling a Vote. The vast majority of people in America weren’t allowed to vote at the time. So a tiny minority of Dead Rich Bitches are consulted (by what “medium”?) every time the Constitution disagrees with some nut-job politician who is convinced that the Original Intent of the Founding Fathers and of course a shout out for a sterilized, whitened perception of what God might be, are the only valid concerns in any Push Poor People Around Session. Like Supreme Court and Congressional sessions.

    We might as well be saying a modified version of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘our fathers who are all dead and art in poorly maintained cemeteries and couldn’t possible speak for all or even any others.”

    They were miserable bastards who obviously feared real democracy, the truth manifested in the fact they kept the majority from voting in the first place.

    1. Do us all a favor and move to Mexico. We have all the traitors we can stand. Where did you get your education? Libtard HS and Douche Bag U.? One is right to fear “real democracy” as you call it because it’s otherwise known as Communism. This country was founded as a republic BTW, not a “democracy” . Something you obviously are unaware of since you were too busy being a drama queen to get educated.

  5. Interesting comment: “Try saying ‘Allah’ instead of ‘God’ and see where it gets you.” Well, I live in France, and I don’t say ‘God’ either, I say, ‘Dieu’. In Germany I said, ‘Gott’. The ancient Hebrews said, ‘Ja-we’, from which the Arabic word, ‘Allah’ is derived. God is God; the name doesn’t matter.

  6. Just got a notification from disqus about some cat named yeppers who apparently has a big issue with people who aren’t White Anglo Saxon and whatever church he attends. Too bad it didn’t make it through the screening process.

    You know, like my assertion that freedom of speech is a really good way to spot people who are extra stupid or extra hateful. Usually the two go hand in hand.
    But those who don’t mach mit der Sieg Heil am der Amerikanisch rag errrr ‘flag’ must be a) Mexican and b) traitors and c) a part of the international jewish/communist/whateverist conspiracy to make people think the’re actually equal to the American Plantation Elite.

    Dude is like, extra hate filled. And he seems to think that for 12,000 years the Americas were vacant and that American History starts with the Roanoke and Jamestown Illegal Alien Camps.

    A classic lesson in how to NOT write. But it’s important to not censor the Fascists no matter what banner they use to cloak their childish rage.

    Derek Black used to write the same kind of Fragile-Ego trash and his Daddy still does for Stormfront.

    You know, if somebody has trouble with the FACT that people are equal no matter what their skin color, (s)he should Take It Up With God, since one of the lucid things Jefferson said was “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” which was really cool but in the same document describes Native Americans as “savages” and slaves who were emancipated by the British as “Domestic Insurrection” and in all that he himself took pleasure in not only using unlawfully captured human beings as property but also raping them. So did George Washington.

    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured
    to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian
    Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction
    of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    The bitching and moaning about the Loyalist (Tories) British having treaties with Native tribes is kind of really nasty hypocrisy as there were similar treaties on the “patriot” side.

    But, yeah, Jefferson DID say that all men are created equal By God. Even if he didn’t practice what he preached. Politicians are like that.

    And yeppers makes it an immigrant issue too, but then there’s this from the same document… which shows that the Continental Congress and their accomplices were moving people into native territories by Illegal immigration specifically designed to break all treaties and just TAKE American Indians away from OUR land, like in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. David Crockett was an anchor baby and Daniel Boone was an invader.

    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands

    1. but we’re supposed to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth because Jefferson and Washington said we have to. Even though they were long dead before the pledge was even written.

  7. The line about pledging allegiance to The Republic means, thoroughly, blind obedience to whatever jackass temporary government is in place. Which, since a month and a half after I was born, EVERY one has had a stench about it.

    No matter the opinion polls or the actual vote counts, there’s always an adversarial relationship between the Government and at least half the citizens. But with the phrases of the Pledge being so absolute, there would be a conflict, if we disagree with any decision of the Government we’re oath-breakers.

    Making little kids or not-very-educated older folks say the oath is a cruel deception. So many people who don’t know or care about the primal nature of oaths are sucked into promising something that can’t be upheld.

    Catholic kids (and adult converts) have Catechism and Confirmation before taking the sacraments of confession and communion. The confirmation part is where the priesthood test the kids/converts to assure they actually know what the hell they’re getting into.

    Jewish kids and proselytes have the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, exactly the same oath Moses had the Israelites swear, that they would keep every statute of the Law or be judged as violators of the whole Law, an oath they know in advance is impossible for anybody to actually keep. They have to know it or no Mitzvah.

    Why not have a secular version of Hebrew School or Catechism for the kids BEFORE letting them or forcing them to say the Pledge?

  8. The Pledge of Allegiance to one national flag (and that’s all it is and all it’s ever been) was primarily introduced to get Southerners on board to become willing participants to fight and die to further expand the new American empire. While forever dismissing from their own minds that they, themselves, had recently lost their independence and way of life to US military aggression.

    1. And the Klan and other derivatives of human bondage and especially the Confederacy, before they became the Klan, are the most pervasive terrorist group in the world. As the confederacy they directly killed 300,000 US Soldiers and by deceiving their own troops, they’re responsible for the 200,000 confederate soldiers killed. All because the Plantation Aristocracy were too damn lazy to pick their own damn cotton.

      And such monumental cheapskates they didn’t even want to pay exploitation wages, free labor was more their style. And their fortunes were “earned” by the slaves, so anything the slaves got in food and housing or whatever other bull-poo-poo the Sons of the Confederacy and Heritage Foundation and other Klan front groups want to use to justify slavery on the falsehood (fancy words for Lying) that they were “cared for” by their benevolent masters. The Texas history books put it like that, “the slaves were rarely mistreated”

      The quintessential Unreconstructed Rebel Bedford-Forrest “save your confederacy money, the south shall rise again” while serving in the confederate army had his men slaughter US prisoners of war at Ft Pillow Mississippi because they were freed slaves. He’s commemorated on every military base I’ve visited by a main road being named Forrest Road.

      A vicious murdering terrorist punk like him gets honored by the US army.

      Incidentally, my great-great uncle Clay Nation fought for the Confederacy and died in 1945. Took a yankee minie ball right upside his head and tore off a chunk of skull. near the end of the war. He, like so many rebel, was a child soldier, he enlisted when he was still 13.
      Doctor told him “Nation, that wound will kill you” and sure enough, 80 years later, it did.

      That’s the Glory of the South for your dining pleasure. For dessert I’ll serve up this, even though I never met him, my father and his twin brother did. He hated blacks and blamed them for the war..

      A lot of people in the south do. First because they were so ungrateful for their chains and other forms of human degradations that they would actually try and often succeeded in escape. Those who didn’t make it were literally “hounded” like the beasts of the fields, and often killed for the “crime” of wanting freedom in a nation that proudly boasts itself, today the same as them, and denying that freedom to the people from whom they gained every penny they claim, to this day, as the fruit of their own industry. That’s why every year I burn the confederate flag. And you can bet your hindquarters I’ll be doing it on inauguration day. The Klan and their derivatives, have with their unceasing Hatred, torn and still do tear apart white society, Hatred is like that.

      It’s a self inflicted wound from which america isn’t going to have healed anytime soon. We’ve got a minority-of-the-vote “leader” who owes many if not most of the votes he got to the Klan.

      When Liberals criticize him for saying that, he gets all pissy and threatens lawsuits. So much for him being against frivolous litigation, but that’s beside the point. When the Klan supported him, openly, he didn’t say anyhing at all about it until the Saturday before the Election.

      And that was a mere whisper. But, yeah, we’re stuck with institutional racism as a governing principle after all these years. Maybe he’ll break honest and actually sue the Stormfront all-white Pity Party for slander and libel. He doesn’t hesitate to sue in almost all other incidents of somebody taking his Royal Name in vain.

      I’m not actually counting on it. But it is a nice thought.

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