Friday, June 20, 2008

Screw the pledge and the flag it rode in on.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

US Supreme Court - West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)


Americans don't really care much for freedom and the evidence for that is strong. They don't like people who exercise that freedom or resist having it taken away from them. That's why the ACLU is the bogeyman of the authoritarians, secular and religious, and why people with various objections to being forced to say things they disagree with, or forced to swear oaths in support of symbols, or forced to assume postures indicating worship and adoration of secular idols have to resort to such organizations to avoid the nasty consequences of conscience. I hear far more anger directed at the ACLU than at the KKK and most often it's because the former is hard at work making sure you can still say what you like and not be forced to say things or to perform quasi religious rituals you do not like. The US is the sort of country where a candidate who doesn't assume the position of worship when singing the sacred song or pledging himself to worship a piece of cloth and the God/State it represents generates more furor than one who breaks the basic foundational laws that are the State.

Few things irk this authoritarian country more than such disobedience and the courts and laws that support its legitimacy. Obama is still paying a price for having a less than a passionate personal epiphany while singing the Anthem while even Liberal Air America host Ed Schultz decries the failure of most NBA players to look reverent, hands on heart in a Roman salute when the song is played.

We have no lack of impassioned orators swooning their way through speeches extolling those who died for the flag, as though the flag had anything to do with the liberties we, on occasion, call freedom, but in my opinion we have no free country when people are required to recite worshipful formulae, make sacred gestures and wear tokens of reverence.

That's why the furor continues in the case of the Minnesota school that has a policy of punishment for failure to stand up when illegally required to make a religious oath to a piece of cloth. Perhaps it's coincidental, but I've noticed a lot more of those Taiwanese car flags today and an unusual number of UNDER GOD bumper stickers. They weren't, at any rate, put there in support of three students who were suspended from a public school for sitting down while flag rituals were being conducted. If anything it's a protest against the audacity of the ACLU to write a letter to a Minnesota school board to remind some small minded pedants what freedom ( and the law) is all about.

Strangely enough even such strange bedfellows as Stop the recognize the policy as an infringement, if only as an infringement on freedom of religion. Many religions balk at the swearing of oaths. The question of whether they would recognize the rights of the non-religious to such protection hasn't been answered.

People on both sides of the flag idolatry issue have some strange opinions as to the antiquity of it all. Those who insist the pledge was written by a Socialist seem to forget that it was Eisenhower who in 1954 made it into a religious pledge and caused me to stop reciting it. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the hand on heart salute was adopted only in the 1940's and before that the Nazi salute was recommended. Our current anthem was signed into law as such in 1931 and putting religious messages on the money stems from the religious frenzy surrounding (and justifying) the Civil War. In fact religious frenzy and war go hand in hand and much of the current emotion stems from the confusion between the invasion of Iraq, obedience to the president and worship of the flag. It's not a coincidence. It's not fundamental to our Country's ideals. It's made up as we go along. It's all designed to foster unquestioning obedience and suppress objection. It's time we woke up to the truth.


Buffalo said...

An interesting and well written essay, Captain. It is also a hard one for me.

I believe in showing respect for our flag. I believe in reciting the pledge of allegiance. The "under god" part of the pledge bothers me naught even though I am a dyed in the wool atheist.

It bothers me when hats aren't removed when the flag comes by. It bothers me when people don't stand while the national anthem plays or the pledge is recited.

My mother in law prays over every meal. It aggravates the hell out of me. Yet every meal I remain silent, and don't start eating, until she has completed her ritual. It is her belief and I respect her right to believe as she does even though I vehemently disagree with her. In other words, I show respect.

Don't recite the pledge if you don't want to. Don't salute the flag if you don't want to. It is only good manners to stand silently while I observe those rituals.

Capt. Fogg said...

I want to point out that I do not and will not chastise anyone for whatever feelings they have about flags or flag ceremonies. Like any symbol, it means different things to different people and in a free country individual conscience is protected. That fact is important to me, symbols are not. It's the compulsion I object to and that the Supreme court objected to and I believe the constitution objects to. If I believe that it has been demeaned by war mongers, criminals and people who have tried to make it the flag of Christianity and conquest I have the right to feel that way and the need to speak up about it.

Even during the 1960's when it turned my stomach to see the horrors the flag was used to justify, I felt proud to see it flying on the moon. I hope I live to feel proud of it once again, but I will never submit to any requirement to swear religious oaths to anyone's god and I am grateful for a system of laws that protects that right. I will salute the Constitution gladly.