When the colonists broke off from the mother country, they did so in part in order to create a new kind of government - a nation of the people, by the people and for the people. The founders wrote a Constitution for a nation of laws, man-made laws to be administered by representatives elected by the people. This was a noble experiment, a departure from the traditional government model under God, the latter better known as the Divine Right of Kings. In other words, kings were presumed to know what God wanted, so kings ruled. This was a very good thing for kings, maybe not the best arrangement for the commoners. However, the United States of America started out and continues to function under a different kind of model. Despite the god-awful phrase under God that the Knights of Columbus (i.e., the Catholic Church) successfully pressured Congress to insert into the 19th century godless Pledge of Allegiance during the Communist-scare era of the 1950's, the U.S. remains a democratic Republic, not a nation ruled (or influenced or affected in any way) by a make-believe sky god. Few believers in this particular nation they claim is now under a god seem to recognize the contradiction between our revered “liberty and justice for all” and the concept of being “under God.” The inclusion of this “under God” business automatically precludes “liberty” for all who do not subscribe to a god concept.
For years, I wanted to see Dr. Michael Newdow's lawsuits succeed striking the under God phrase from the Eisenhower-era pledge, but now I want to see something more - I want the Pledge itself eliminated. I think it's an embarrassment - a mindless, ineffective and moronic ritual blah blah that does not encourage reflection or education about the Republican nature of our system of government. (Besides, not a soul has a clue about the meaning of under God. If we took the Pledge seriously, we would want to know which god we're under and in what specific ways are we under said god?)
But I do have a replacement that I believe would be thoughtful, effective and meaningful, namely, reading aloud sections of the Constitution, including the amendments. Pick a minute or less of reading and go with that - over time, everyone would be exposed to truly worthy ideas that mean a great deal.
I recall as a youngster reciting the Pledge of Allegiance everyday, in Catholic grade school. We held one arm out like little Nazis swearing allegiance to a flag. Since we had to do it, it was not a sincere or educational ritual. We just did what we were told to do and got done with it - it meant nothing and we learned nothing from doing it. Nor is this ritual sensible today, for children or adults. No more arm stretched - bad memories of that gesture. Now it is done ever so reverently with hand held over the heart symbolizing what - flag under god love?
I'm put off by all oaths, because anyone, loyal or otherwise, can recites a broad and vague oath. A terrorist can recite an oath as well as a Tea Bagger. For the former, it's a minor irritant; for the latter, it's a jingoistic way of convincing ourselves, as Mitt Romney put it the other day, God created the United States and God wants us to be number one.
Loyalty oaths are required for nearly all public officials these days, including those who are to serve president, in the Congress, as state legislatures, the judiciary, all state and local offices and so on. Naturalized citizens are required to pledge their allegiance to the United States to become citizens. (As if anyone who wants to live here and work here is going to say, No, actually, I prefer not to take oaths - I think they're kind of stupid.) So, too, must everyone seeking to join any branch of the military. The whole business of oath-taking is out of control. I should be grateful I did not have to take a loyalty oath to write this blog. (Ooops, I shouldn't be giving them ideas.)
The Puritans in 18th century New England required citizens to pledge support for the Commonwealth - and to report anyone who dared dissent from the ruling government. I'm going to guess that a person in that era who chose not to recite an annoying pledge was exiled - if he were fortunate.
Pledges do not bring out the best in us. They do not promote an understanding of, respect for or true allegiance to the nation. They are not a good fit with democracy - with government of the people and all that. Let's give the Pledge a rest. Next time your local club gathers, consider reading the First Amendment, instead of reciting a pledge, under or over any alleged god.