The Loyalty Oath, Redux
May 18, 2013

"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."

"Ich gelobe Treue auf die Fahne der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, auf die Republik, die eine Nation unter Gott ist, vereinigt durch Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit fur alle."

So which is it, the flag or the Republic? Why pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth? If you’re going to swear a loyalty oath shouldn’t it be to the nation, or to its laws or its Constitution? Really, pick one: the gaudy piece of cloth, or the real system of government. Otherwise you’re just bloviating. Sort of like what those people do who drive around with flags flapping on their cars. Most of them couldn’t pass a high school civics test. Oh, wait, high schools don’t teach that useless stuff anymore, do they?

Why ‘and’ flag and Republic ‘for which it stands’? Cut to the chase. The Republic is law and nation and history and Constitution. Flag is cloth. Flag is copout. Love the flag and you don’t have to do anything – you’ll be admired for your ‘patriotism’. Ah, but love the Republic? Yeah, for that you have to fight. You have to get off your ass and wade into the fray; you have to know what you’re actually fighting for; you have to know some real history, not the phonied-up stuff from the Tea Potty and the screeching Republican fakers. You have to actually work at it.

It’s much easier just to mindlessly recite the loyalty oath and look down your nose at those who object to it (that would be me) and smugly diddle your mind with your profound patriotism. That’s what the ‘flag’ reference is all about in the Pledge. It’s a way out for the ignorant, for the lazy, for the fakers.

And of course my old argument still stands, that the Pledge compels silence, compels conformity, and compels Christian religious belief, all of which would have the Founders rolling over in their graves, if not digging their way out and heading to Washington to kick the fat asses of the faux Tea Potty Republican patriots running around befouling the whole thing.

Oh, the German thing up top? Yeah, switch out the States for the Reich and that would have fit well in Hitler’s Germany, don’t ya think? Dolfy was big on loyalty oaths.

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Pledge of Allegiance is UnAmerican
May 9, 2012

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.

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Libertarian Fish Killers
January 10, 2012

As much as I dislike President Obama, the politician, I can’t countenance one of these Republicans getting in. Nor can I understand why anyone would find them attractive or qualified for the office. I suppose with the intense polarization it’s to be expected, and with the weak press, and the weak-minded electorate, what can you do?

The right have sold too many people on the nostrum that government is the problem, and the left hasn’t come back with an answer that resonates. Somehow the right think that they’ll be able to manage everything that needs managing in the country without any sort of central government. They don’t want to pay taxes, but they expect everything to run smoothly, they expect things to get fixed when broken, and they expect to be safe in their homes and persons, all apparently for free. They denigrate struggling teachers and worship multimillionaire basketball players. They ignore critical issues like infrastructure, the environment, education, and the like, and focus laserlike on trivia such  as including the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance, as if saying the pledge, with or without those words, will magically ensure the success of the United States and guarantee them a safe and wealthy life. They don’t want politics and reasoned compromise, they don’t want intelligent thought and reflection, they don’t want realism. They want magic. They want voodoo. They want to dance around a fire in their cave to propitiate their gods, occasionally throwing a virgin on the coals to make things right with the heavens.

Yesterday, during a radio interview in New Hampshire, some woman rattled on and on that government has gotten too big, had no right to tell her how to live, and that she should be able to do whatever she wanted. She of course extended that to everybody, but gave not one bit of thought to community, to the idea that if she just did whatever she wanted, how would people react when her actions impinged on their freedom to do whatever they wanted. That seems never to occur to these so-called libertarians. They don’t want to pay for government, they don’t want courts, they don’t want a political process, they just want to do what they want to do. And the irony is that they pretty much already can do whatever they want to do, except when their actions infringe on the common good of the community. You want to build on wetlands, filling them in so you can build your house? If you do that, you contribute to the destruction of offshore fisheries because the young fish are hatched and grow in those wetlands. So if everybody fills in the wetlands, the fishery dies, and the fishermen, who may be your neighbors, or may live and operate their boats a long way from where you live, lose their livelihoods, and the ecosystem is disturbed when the fish that depend on the fish you exterminated are deprived of their food source. But the right object to government agencies and government scientists putting facts in the way of narcissism, ego, and greed.

The right want to eliminate government agencies like the FDA, but when some company that the FDA now regulates no longer faces oversight puts poison in a bottle and kills your kid, what are you going to do? Shoot somebody? Go to court, putting your thousand dollars in savings against a megacorporation that doesn’t give a damn about you or your kid because nobody holds them accountable? They’ll crush you with their suites of million-dollar lawyers and they won’t even notice the cost.

Don’t want the EPA? You’d rather breathe coal-soaked air, drink water full of the byproducts of gas fracking, visit oil wells in national parks, see the Grand Canyon honeycombed with uranium mines, watch rivers become so polluted that they catch fire like the Cuyahoga did before the Clean Air Act (signed by Nixon, by the way)? That’s your vision of a better America?

Government is not perfect, and it is at the moment broken in large part because rich people like the Koch Brothers want it broken, which is why they finance the Tea Party and encourage the sort of mindless libertarianism that runs rampant today in Congress and on the right generally. When you see the big money boys supporting the minimalization of government you had better start asking yourself why. It’s nothing high-minded, you can count on that. They just want to do what they want to do without anyone calling them to account or holding them responsible for their actions. They don’t want government. They want to rule. And they’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars to get their way.

Your dollars, by the way. Not only do you support their actions when you buy their products, you pay their taxes for them because they cut deals with politicians that allow them to pay either nothing or a pittance in taxes. You make up for what they don’t pay. How’s that for doing what you want to do without government interference?

You cannot make government good by eliminating government.

If you want to live in a country of three hundred and fifty million people, and live in peace and follow your bliss or your dream or whatever it is that you want to do, you have to come to terms with the idea that governance is required, and that such governance is complex and complicated and messy, and that it requires your thoughtful, educated attention. To want to have everything your way is childish, it is ignorant, it is thoughtless. But if you insist then it is best you go live alone somewhere, perhaps up in the northern wilds of Canada, if they’ll have you, and while you’re there perhaps you can breathe in the methane and other greenhouse gasses releasing from the melting permafrost, courtesy of the mindless politicians on the right, the deregulators, the obstructionists, the whores of uncontrolled capitalists, in the Republican Tea Party who insist there’s no such thing as global warming and we certainly don’t want the government interfering even if there is such a thing.

Don’t bother sending a post card home.

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Casino Wins, Citizens Sell Town, Pledge Allegiance
July 29, 2007

Only 3,722 of Middleborough’s 20,000 residents bothered to show up to vote on the casino proposal quickly hacked together by the town leaders and the Wampanoag Indians, both sides fuddled by greed for imagined gold.

The vote was about two to one in favor of selling out the town.

Oh, well. Better them than screwing over Cape Cod anymore than it already has been by developers and business interests.

But one of the really interesting parts came after the voters spent the morning listening to feel-good rock from James Taylor, the Eagles, and the Allman Brothers. From today’s Globe:

And then, when the clock struck 11,  town moderator James Thomas took the stage, banged his gavel, and instructed everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Was that the Pledge to the Dollar, or the Pledge to the Flag?

What if someone, anyone, had objected to being ordered to take this public loyalty oath to god and country?

Was there not one free voice in that crowd? Was there no one who would stand up and say “No, I will not pledge loyalty to a god I do not believe in, nor to a piece of cloth that has been turned into a symbol of death, destruction, chaos, and oppression around the world.”

I guess not.

He probably would have been arrested and hauled off to a star chamber interrogation run by officials who understand nothing of what it means to be a real American.