Much is being made in my town of a selectman failing to open a meeting of the Board of Selectmen with the Pledge of Allegiance, a policy that is only a little over two years old.
Her oversight was not principled. She was chairing the meeting and running late and decided to skip the pledge. Her only previous demurral regarding the pledge was that she was not comfortable with the phrase ‘under God’ and wouldn’t be saying those two words.
But for skipping the pledge at the meeting she chaired she has been vilified publicly and privately, and subjected to hate mail, death threats, and who knows what else. She was essentially browbeaten into making a public apology, an action strongly reminiscent of the public ‘confessions’ of dissenters and other miscreants under various communist regimes.
This town, Falmouth, Massachusetts, makes a big deal of its public service committee called ‘No Place For Hate’. Apparently some kinds of hate are okay here.
I wish she had taken a principled stand and refused to speak the pledge or to stand for it when others babbled it.
The Pledge of Allegiance is a piece of unAmerican jingoism. More than that, it is a quasi-religious loyalty oath. It has no place in a diverse democracy of free citizens.
No one – no one – should be compelled by the state, by the law, by public peer pressure, or by petty public officials, as in Falmouth, to recite a public loyalty oath, nor to respect an oath that compels religious observance. Not in the United States.
Perhaps in petty dictatorships. Perhaps in fascist or communist states. Perhaps in authoritarian religious hierarchies among Christians, or Muslims, or Jews. Perhaps in the right-wing theocratic wet-dream nation the religious fundogelicals and the Tea Party desperately seek to create. But not here. Not here where dissent and the freedom of speech and thought were once among our highest values.
The Pledge is no more a sign of genuine patriotism than the flag lapel pins our Congressmen wear, or the flags being beaten up when attached to private cars wheeling around town, or the hateful, self-serving spewings of right-wing mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk over the publicly-owned broadcast spectrum. After all, no terrorist worth his salt would refuse to speak in public, loudly and proudly, the American pledge of allegiance if it served his purposes.
When authorities call for the Pledge to be spoken, you can stand up for conformism and thought control and incipient tyranny, or you can sit down for democracy, freedom, and a nation of law and fact-based reason.