Ah, the Pledge of Allegiance: written in 1892 by socialist Baptist minister Francis Bellamy to encourage unquestioning devotion to the Almighty American State preserved at gunpoint by Abraham Lincoln on the corpses of 620,000 Americans (“indivisible”– take that, you unrepentant, disloyal, un-American secessionists!). Bellamy worked with the National Education Association (!) to have the pledge said in all public schools, partly in an effort to undermine the authority of Catholic parochial schools, which dangerously taught devotion to God above State.
If the Pledge’s origins do not trouble you, take a look at the salute that American school children originally rendered to the flag—that is, until World War II, when the similarity to the Nazi “Sieg Heil!” salute made Franklin Roosevelt a tad bit uncomfortable. Of course, the similarity between the salutes is not coincidental, the intent of both rituals being to elevate the State above the individual.
As this Fourth of July approaches, I would like to see more Americans of the traditionalist/localist/ conservative variety reconsider the supposedly patriotic ritual of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance—at school, before city council meetings, at Boy Scout jamborees, etc. The Pledge is nationalistic, not patriotic, encouraging unquestioning loyalty to the State and precluding the basic natural right of revolution upon which the American states asserted their independence and upon which the American confederacy was formed.
My criticism of the Pledge, of course, is not to be confused with that leveled by modern-day secularists who object to the phrase “under God” (added in 1954 after an effort spear-headed by the well-intentioned Knights of Columbus). So, I say to those whose thinking on such issues does not go deeper than FoxNews reporting, please, do not attack me in a kneejerk fashion, but hear me out!
Though I object to the specific wording—and indeed the primary intent—of the Pledge, I value such ritualistic expressions of shared belief as essential to cementing communities. I therefore propose a new pledge, one to liberty, to replace the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings, in whose defense I will risk my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor, and in whose service government must always remain. May God protect liberty in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania* and across America.
*insert one’s home state, or in a gathering of people from more than one state, insert “in my home state”
Attentive readers will, of course, recognize the phraseology borrowed from the Declaration of Independence. There is also a whiff of Patrick Henry in the description of liberty at the beginning of the Pledge, and a nod to localism/states’ right at the conclusion.
I welcome the input of readers of The Imaginative Conservative as to the quality of my proposed new Pledge. Fire away!
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.