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  • Writer's picturePoetic PIXELS

Pledge of Contradictions

Yesterday my daughter came home reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Problem? - she is 5 years old. This is my child whose mental and psychological capacity I am very familiar with. The Pledge embodies ideas that conflict with our reality. I became concerned and wanted to see how much of what she was singing she understood?

The short version of our exchange involved us as a family, discussing the context and words used in the pledge, asking if she understood what it all meant and encouraging her that if she wanted to recite the Pledge, to ask her teacher to help her understand this ol' Pledge of Allegiance.

Understanding that she had memorized the words in the pledge much like the lyrics of a nursery rhyme, I didnt want to go super anti-pledge on her. She is innocent - all the kids in her class are singing it, its kinds catchy.. My daughter is a curious kid. VERY inquisitive. So I armed her with some tools (questions) and sent her back to school. I realize that honesty is key when dealing with children. It helps them establish trust. Part of being honest and helping them develop the necessary skill of critical thinking sometimes treads on the fringes of disenchantment. When information is structurally inspected and analysed we are often faced with an uncomfortable truth. We have a rule in our house - we do not lie to each other. We intend to honor that rule.

Outside of the controversial history/inception and the salute that accompanies the pledge, I was concerned that she could memorize and recite clearly, words of the pledge and not know what any of them mean. There is a something uncanny that accompanies the pledge in that one is to stand, turn and face the flag. Perform a 'salute' while reciting the pledge. Done in synchronized uniformity faithfully - daily, (typically at the same time) this becomes ritual. A ritual performed without question. The ritual becomes the habit, the habit becomes the principle and the principle becomes the belief. Beliefs are defended while truth is lived.

Its worth considering the historical design and intent of the pledge with its incorporation into grade schools. For shame that during an era where patriotic moral was down, our govt would adopt a pledge and aim it at considerably young and influential children. The goal? Bring about more patriotic people through repetitive recitation of the pledge. The method? Target primary schools.

This approach has a clear connection to indoctrination. Conditioning children in schools combined with a very narrow world view ultimately produces chauvinism.

I've done my best to protect my children from violence, dogma, hatred and injustice, but the world is a cruel and complex place.

I looked around online trying to find information about the schools policy and perhaps their stance on the matter. I was provided a link to the OSUD Board policy stating in AR 6115 - Ceremonies and Observations - "Each school shall conduct patriotic exercises daily. These patriotic exercises shall consist of the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and may also include instruction that promotes understanding of the concepts of "pledge," "allegiance," "republic," and "indivisible" and understanding of the importance of the pledge as an expression of patriotism, love of country, and pride in the United States. (Education Code 52720, 52730)."

I came across the schools mission statement and adherence to the 4 C's of education. Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication. The one that jumped out was CRITICAL THINKING! Why not use this Core Standard with the Pledge? Does critical thinking here challenge the assumptions of ones understanding of patriotism? Does it rock the boat of status quo? Does analysis of the words force us to reevaluate their palpable meaning? Does the god reference imply a religious belief? Does the truth that the pledge was forged against the backdrop of oppression, exploitation and inhumanity mean anything? Or is it just a silly pledge and not that important?

I scrutinize the language used in the pledge because it conjures strong inferences that we ought to be loyal and committed to a symbol (flag). And have that commitment be to a spurious symbol of unity that presents a false sense of hope and well-being. I scrutinize the pledge because it reminds us that we have been robbed of our sovereignty. It forces religion on us the same way the dollar has and in doing so, contradicts the very meaning of 'indivisible'. Liberty is imaginary and justice is for sale!

While writing this piece I was struck by the fact of just how complex and contradictory ideology is. Particularly Western ideology. See, the Pledge of Allegiance was drafted with a goal in mind not the people. This we ascribe to agenda. It speaks to conviction as if all Americans share the same reality. This is simply not true.

Millions of people inhabit the US who are descendants of historically oppressed and marginalized people. This can cultivate an indifference to blind patriotism. Allegiance is hard to forge in this space.

Many people see the flag as a beacon of imperialism. As time passes, history tries to restructure the mental framework surrounding our ideas of monoculturalism but the inescapable truth is a fascist one.

Just how far have we fallen from a Republic, in the truest sense of the word? When politics allows corporate interest to exceed the well being of the people, we have put in place an oligarch - not a republic.

One nation under god, asserts a national principle belief in one god. If the US is to be a melting pot of all people holding different religious beliefs, how can we truly be indivisible. When religious identification tends to be based on dogmatic ideology - dividing the country over theology!

Liberty is an illusion and Justice for the wealthy.

I conversed with the school and was told that this is standard school policy that patriotic exercise is conducted as an expression of patriotism, love of country, and pride in the United States of America?? Obviously this provoked further confusion and concern. I guess I just wants prepared to hear my young daughter come home singing this pledge.

How old was I when I was conditioned to say the pledge and groomed to hold other nationalistic ideologies?

I digress~

I still hold that young children are not of the capacity to fully understand and agree with the pledge. By socialization or conforming repetitious habit, they may recite words they do not comprehend. Yet children do not set the policy or write the rules. Nor was the pledge written with young children in mind.

Its intent is to 'create' the sense or idea of patriotism. But this is not natural. While one may come to be a patriot or hold nationalistic beliefs based on experience, reciting the pledge does not and could never make one more or less patriotic.

Conditioned patriotism is manipulative and feels forced. Much like indoctrination and therefore wrong. We are taking a very bold and direct pledge and trying to interpret it to have all sorts of subjective meanings based on feeling. Directing such strong language based on a political zeitgeist of the late 1800's at young children who have just begun to experience the world is strange to me.

I was told in an email communication with the Principle, that "5 year old are smart enough to understand that Liberty means freedom and Justice means fair." Hmm...? To assume that we all live in the same America and that we all experience the same realities (racial, political, economic, financial and educational) is foolish.

In doing so, we've taken words like Liberty and Justice and used them to advance an ideology that is noble yet contradictory. This contradiction is observable is everyday current affairs and experiences. As parents we have a responsibility to help our kids understand what Freedom is and when it is being abused. What Justice is and when it is being denied.

A pledge will not achieve this.

“Liberty and justice for all” has driven our nation to systematically seek to free an ever growing number of repressed people, both inside and outside our country. The powerful contrast between that ideal and our day-to-day reality is what drove the end of slavery, the vote for women, the condemnations of missteps like the internment of Japanese people ect. The fight for these freedoms would have been fought with no allegiance to any flag because they are inherent to the human experience.

“Liberty and justice for all” has not closed the disparities of racial, social or economic marginalization. And no pledge could ever counter these and other problems.

"Liberty and justice" are not things to be owned, given, imposed or pledged!

They are inside each and all of us, speaking softly whenever we experience beauty or ugliness, hear truth or falsehoods, feel love or hate, or distinguish right from wrong, gently guiding us to choose between them.

As a human being sharing this planet with all beings, it is to these - and not to the prescriptions of any ideology - I pledge my allegiance!



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