Student pledging to the flag, 1899.I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about the Pledge of Allegiance that turns people’s brains into mush and sends grown adults into raging fits of childishness. But it does. An example of this phenomenon is that of a Maryland child who dared not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. The Washington Post reports on this stupid and juvenile event (WebCite cached article):

The mother of a 13-year-old Montgomery County middle school student is demanding an apology from a teacher who had school police escort the youngster from a classroom for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Yes, folks … as unbelievable as it sounds, a child failing to say the Pledge was sufficiently horrific to invoke police intervention! The WaPo goes on:

The incident began on a Wednesday in late January, when the girl did not stand for the pledge. Her teacher yelled at her, demanded that she stand and then sent her to the office for her defiance, Quereshi said. The school system confirmed the sequence of events.

The next morning, the girl again refused to stand for the pledge. This time, the teacher called two school police officers to the classroom to escort the girl to the office. …

The unidentified student was mocked by other children in her class and has been too traumatized to return to Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, according to Ajmel Quereshi, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is representing the family.

A school spokesman said Tuesday that the teacher’s actions were a clear violation of the school’s regulations, which are based on state law. The teacher, who also has not been identified by either side, will have to apologize to the student, spokesman Dana Tofig said.

An apology is not forthcoming, however, because the school will not allow one to be offered except on its own terms:

Quereshi said that as of Tuesday afternoon, no one from the school had contacted the girl or her family to resolve the issue. The teen’s mother tried to schedule a meeting with school officials but was told they would not meet with her if she wanted to bring a lawyer, Quereshi said.

While many Americans believe that reciting the Pledge is mandatory in schools, the truth is, that it is not. The WaPo article explains this:

The [United States] Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students cannot be forced to salute the flag. Maryland law explicitly allows any student or teacher to be excused from participating in the pledge, according to the ACLU.

This is reflected in the school district’s own policy:

The Montgomery school system’s student handbook contains a section about “Patriotic Exercises” that reads: “You cannot be required to say a pledge, sing an anthem, or take part in patriotic exercises. No one will be permitted to intentionally embarrass you if you choose not to participate.”

So no, this child did not have to say the Pledge, nor even stand while others said it, nor anything of the sort. She could not be chastised for it, and other students cannot ridicule her for it, either. Nonetheless, at least one teacher, and perhaps some administrators, and school police officers believed otherwise. The Supreme Court case in question, by the way, is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). No American — not even school children! — can ever be compelled to profess loyalty or salute a flag or anything else of that sort. It’s not permissible.

Of course, lots of people (mostly religionists) get all up in arms about the Pledge, because — since 1954 — it has contained two words they prize above anything else: “Under God.” Thus, for them, the Pledge is intertwined with their religious beliefs, and this means that anyone’s refusal to say it, is a serious and real threat to them. (Because to a religionist, a threat to their beliefs is inseparable from, and thus equivalent to, a threat to their person.) There was a famous case of atheist Michael Newdow suing in federal court to get these two words removed from it … which was unsuccessful because he was found not to have standing to sue for this. The rage that was spewed in his direction over this suit was palpable.

My own problem with the Pledge, however, is not in those two words “Under God.” My problem with it is that it is a “pledge of allegiance” and is therefore inherently un-American.

You read that right: It is decidedly un-American to “pledge allegiance” to a flag, or to anything else.

Allow me to explain: The concept of “allegiance” is basically a medieval and feudal one; the word itself comes from “liege,” which was the duty of an underling to his overlord (or “liege-lord,” i.e. the “lord” to whom the underling owes his “liege”). Oaths of allegiance were sworn by those underlings to their lords, and were solemn promises of payment and service, and the saying of such an oath was the foundation of whatever rights the person had. The entire concept of “allegiance,” therefore, is at the heart of a feudal system.

The United States, however, is not a feudal state. Americans are not serfs who owe service to any lord. We are, instead, citizens of a representative republic. Moreover, our status as citizens is not predicated upon saying an oath of allegiance, but on the Constitution and the rule of law. No citizen of a constitutional representative republic owes “allegiance” to anyone or anything … ever. Not to the country, not to the president, not to the flag, not to anyone.

Thus, forcing school children, or anyone else, to say the Pledge of Allegiance is a throwback to the European Middle Ages and the feudal order of that time. It is not appropriate for any citizen of the United States — young, old, or in-between — to be forced to pledge his/her allegiance to anything, in order to have his/her rights as a citizen. (Yes, some oaths are required by various offices that one may take; the President, for example, must take a Constitutionally-mandated oath. But oaths of office are a different matter.) The sooner we jettison the Pledge of Allegiance to the dustbin of history … on the grounds of it being an inappropriate medieval anachronism, not based on whether or not it’s religious … the better off the US will be. We are not serfs, and should never be forced to act like serfs. Ever.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist blog.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.