The Pledge of Allegiance

Gene Healy at Cato has written an article called What’s Conservative About the Pledge of Allegiance? In it, he criticizes conservatives who posture about preserving this glorious tradition, and reminds them of the nationalistic socialism of the Pledge’s creator, Francis Bellamy. But, I doubt this will affect those who love the Pledge, because they don’t really care about its origins. What they care about is the symbolism of the flag and the appropriateness of
indoctrinating youth by coercing them to profess allegiance repeatedly until they actually believe they have some obligation to the state. Fortunately, this doesn’t really work.

The recent Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow case, which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, is not about the entire Pledge, but the question of whether the “Under God” phrase constitutes a First Amendment Establishment Clause violation. It seems to me that pressuring children to say “Under God” or be isolated and disfavored by the teacher and peers does violate the Establishment Clause at least as much as other things that have been found in violation. It’s worth noting that “Under God” wasn’t in the original pledge, and was added in 1954 as an attempt to distinguish the U.S. from atheistic communism.

But, I’m not just annoyed by “Under God.” The entire pledge should go.

I always found it stupid to pledge allegiance to a flag; especially since the pledge is to the flag and to the republic for which it stands. I understood that it’s symbolic, but I always thought it was odd that millions of children were pledging something every day without knowing what it meant. What exactly is one promising when one pledges allegiance to the flag? What constitutes a violation of that pledge?

I love the founding principles of the U.S. These include individual liberty and the idea that the government doesn’t rule subjects who owe it allegiance; but rather the government exists to serve the people; and when they think it errs, the people should correct it, not stupidly cheer it on. I always found it ironic that people who really love these principles would hate the idea of a government pressuring its citizens to pledge allegiance to it, rather than encouraging them to support it when they approve of it and denounce it when they disapprove. It’s interesting that the original pledge was performed with a gesture similar to a Nazi salute, and only changed to the hand-on-heart form
after the rise of actual Nazism.

I think genuine American patriots should not only disapprove of the Pledge, but of the entire notion of government schools. But, that’s a post for another day.


I was born Jewish. My parents were Jewish. But, from a young age I resisted a Jewish identity. I rejected the mysticism of religious belief; the seemingly mindless rituals; the unearned guilt; the collectivism. I was outraged by being (briefly) forced to attend hebrew school, and offended friends of my family with criticisms of Judaism and Israeli policies.

I’ve often said that I don’t really consider myself to be Jewish…unless there is an anti-semite in the room. I might not agree with all of Judaism, but I know which side of the Jew/Anti-Semite battle I belong on.

I’ve always found anti-semitism difficult to understand. Why would people hate me, and the wonderful Jewish people that I know? It just made no sense. I understood that unsuccessful leaders wanted scapegoats, and that many people resented that Jews kept separate (resisting inter-marriage, conversion, local customs, etc.). But that didn’t explain the persistent hatred of Jews for thousands of years. I had a sense that it was because Jews were often successful where others were not; that Jews pursued the “Western” values of knowledge, justice, human rights, before these gained popularity in the West. I’ve heard many theories, but none have been entirely satisfactory. I still don’t understand anti-semitism, but I think it’s about more than reasons to hate Jews. It’s about real problems with many people’s values.

And now, anti-semitism really seems to be on the rise again.

All of this is just an introduction to my encouragement for you to read Natan Sharansky’s powerful examination of this question.

(Thanks to The World for the pointer.)