Maybe it's because Independence Day is upon us that the Pledge of Allegiance memes are once again making the rounds on Facebook. Perhaps you've seen one of them in your own news feed.
One version reads:
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL! MY GENERATION GREW UP RECITING THIS EVERY MORNING IN SCHOOL WITH MY HAND ON MY HEART. THEY NO LONGER DO THAT FOR FEAR OF OFFENDING SOMEONE. LET'S SEE HOW MANY AMERICANS WILL RE-POST.
Another version replaces the actual pledge with an illustration of schoolchildren saluting the flag. The caption reads, "We no longer do this for . . . fear . . . of offending someone!!! Let's see how many Americans will re-post this."
I want to go on record as saying that I find these memes aggravating. (Can we say excessive capitalization and exclamation points? Garbled syntax? And what's up with that very weird use of ellipses?) I also find them dishonest.
A whopping thirty-six states require public schools to lead recitation of the pledge. Another six states give schools the option of requiring it. Clearly, it's absurd to claim that "we no longer do" the pledge. Further, many who have objected to the pledge being used in public schools (which isn't quite the same as being offended by it) have done so because of the phrase "under God," which wasn't part of the original pledge at all. It was added in 1954, sixty-two years after the original pledge was written, during the fear-mongering era of McCarthyism, when invoking God was a handy way for those with political ambitions to prove they were hard on Communism. My own father grew up saying the pledge without the "under God" insertion. Anyone who is advocating a true return to tradition would more sensibly call for a return to the secular version of the pledge.
Because we are unschoolers, my children do not say the pledge of allegiance at school. And, unlike some homeschoolers, they don't line up and say it at home. (Some homeschoolers also pledge allegiance to a Christian flag, as depicted in the documentary Jesus Camp, but that is another story.) Personally, my husband and I are not fans of forcing kids to pledge allegiance to anything. Those who have spent time with us know that we are kooky in that way. As part of living in our house, our children are, however, part of an ongoing conversation about the history of this great country and the Bill of Rights and the real meaning of democracy and freedom and standing up for one's convictions even when it makes one very unpopular. I have, for the record, never known one of my children to respond to someone of a different opinion by telling that person to get the f*** out of the country, like the friend-of-a-friend who defended one of those Facebook memes.
And, just in case those circulating the memes didn't know, the pledge's author, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist.