Recently Massachusetts, in it's infinite thoughtfulness and wisdom, decided that kids in their schools would need to have permission slips signed by their parents in order to say the pledge of allegiance.
I think this is patently ridiculous, so I put the article on facebook.
Here are three responses from three very left of center folks, one a long ago friend who seems like a nice enough guy, the second an occasional poker player in my home game and the last guy someone I knew once in 6th grade.
"So what? We didn't say a pledge of allegiance. It's a stupid idea anyway. Being compelled to recite a text by rote like a drone which has the gall to mention "Liberty" is a joke."
"Why is this even a bad thing? I vividly remember being uncomfortable as an elementary school kid saying the pledge, because I didn't know exactly how I felt about God (still don't, really) and the way the pledge is worded felt like an ominous blood oath. If you're not feeling it, the recitation feels heavy. All the while, it does nothing to enhance the quality of education, reeks of faux-Patriotism/unnecessary religious overtones, and is a relic of days when we used to search under the bed for Communists among us."
"It's part of the state-worship programming juggernaut. I think they should cut-out the middle: "I pledge allegiance to... liberty and justice for all." At least we don't make kids salute anymore since the nazis copied us... (and then he posted a link to an article about the writer of the pledge. I knew about this guy, and he's pretty interesting.)
The first responder is reasonable, though misguided, as is the second, but the third one is pretty much in his own little world. He believes the United States should be dissolved and that anarchy is the way to go. Seriously, that's actually what he believes.
Whatever. I don't know these guys very well, but I felt compelled to respond.
Shortly after, I deleted my response, as deep down I do know them well enough to know that they are both too far gone to ever get why saying the pledge is important. When the hammer of truth comes down, things can get very nasty and very personal very quickly; so I'd much rather avoid that with these men that are in the end, fellow travelers just trying to get by.
But I was impressed enough with my own response to re-print it here.
Did it ever dawn on either of you that the main reason most Americans want to say the pledge of allegiance, and raise their kids to do so as well, is because we don't have to?
A permission slip to say the pledge, is very misguided.
If anything it will only serve to ostracize the kids whose parents are so full of decadent self loathing and so absent of faith and hope as to tell them that the pledge of allegiance is wrong or wrong headed.
And Frank, I know I sound like a broken record, but you can stop with the state-worship dogma shtick. I get what you are saying, but you couldn't be more off base on this.
We are free in this country, not because we worship the state - but because we answer to a higher power and a natural law that dictates that all men are CREATED equal. It is not men or government we pledge to, but to providence and the promise of liberty. The God given right to pursue happiness and be free. America is far and away the closest thing we have to making this fundamental truth a reality.
By the way, I really enjoyed the Bellamy article, though I've read most of the same on Wikipedia before - and I find it deliciously ironic that the pledge's less than ideal origins transformed into something that speaks plainly and earnestly to the love of freedom. Very much opposite of what Bellamy was trying to achieve if this article is to be entirely taken at it's word.
We are also certainly free to say no to liberty, to push for a totalitarian state or an anarchist's fantasy - but those who do, do so only because they are allowed to by the greatest country on God's green earth and the men and women who fight and die for them against the forces of evil across the globe.
They fight because they believe in faith and freedom. Not a dictator (Chavez, Castro) or a government (China) or because of fear (Iran, North Korea).
As an American exceptionalist, I was thrilled when my 5 year old came back 2 weeks into kindergarten with the pledge memorized - not because I want her to fall in line like a good little drone, but because I know she will grow to understand the meaning behind the words, and what makes them so powerful.
It's easy to be dismissive and guilt ridden about America when you grow up in it and reap the benefits. I have traveled to 29 countries and been knee deep in some of the worst poverty on the planet - my eyes have been opened to not only how good we have it (health, wealth and stuff) but how we are truly touched by God to be a beacon of hope to the downtrodden and oppressed.