Monday, May 26, 2014

A New Pledge of Allegiance

Lemmie ask you something: when was the last time you said the Pledge of Allegiance?

I've had an uneasy relationship with the Pledge for a long time.  At first, I thought it was something meaningless that I mumbled out with the other kids every morning.  As I grew older, I became annoyed at the addition of "under God" and started, quietly, omitting it.  Watching my son's class recite it recently, I became sad about the Pledge.  It didn't feel right.  I couldn't sense any emotion in the crowd of parents and kids droning it out.

The problem with the Pledge is it's too impersonal.  It's been rewritten over and over by congress.  As much as I hate to agree with conservatives, it sounds like something made by a government: clunky, slow, and insipid.

I mean, listen to it.  You've got it memorized.  Recite it right now (in your head if you're embarrassed).  Go on!  The first half is:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation...
It's just saying the obvious.  We already know we're pledging allegiance.  We know you're pledging to the flag, because you're looking at it.  And we know you're not really pledging to the flag itself but the country it represents because we're not morons.  And really, one nation?  Duh.

The second half is:
Under God, indivisible, for liberty and justice for all.
My favorite part is "liberty and justice for all."  That rocks.  The indivisible is nice, because it means we stand together.  The Under God thing is just a silly holdover from the Cold War.

I had planned to write about creating a new Pledge.  Our Pledge has been rewritten every 30-50 years; it's due for an update.  Then I realized anything I wrote would be meaningful to me, but not to anyone else.  That's when I understood what the Real Problem is.

The Real Problem is our country means different things to different people; it's great for different reasons to different people.  Who am I (or any group of elected officials) to tell people what to say when they pledge allegiance to their country?

So, here's what I'm proposing: let everybody write their own Pledge.

Imagine this: around fifth or sixth grade (after the time the words "fart" and "poop" get huge laughs but before the hormones really kick in), there's a special assignment.  Every kid sits down and writes a list of what they think makes our country great.  They get into groups and edit it into a new Pledge of his or her own.  Then, once a day, one of them reads his or her Pledge to the class and everyone recites it.

They don't have to recite it.  After all, there's going to be a lot of kids who want to pledge their allegiance to Minecraft and Satan, who pledge to stop the Illuminati and kill all the Jews, who pledge to themselves.  However, they should pledge something.

Here's the one I'd use:
I pledge to serve the United States of America and the principles that made it great: freedom, equality, justice, and joy.
Still needs some work, but the point of this exercise is to think about what would make it work.

What would your Pledge be?

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