Month: August 2016

Solemn promises

It’s time for another dirty little secret: I hate The Pledge of Allegiance. For whatever reason, it’s always felt wrong to me. As the country has begun the descent into chaos these last twenty years, it’s felt more and more wrong every time I’ve been at a gathering where it is said. I’ve slowly stopped saying it. I’ll usually stand, but I don’t recite the words any more if I can do so without attracting too much attention. God forbid someone question my patriotism! It’s curious that in a country where so few people under fifty know how many branches of government we have, or what the Constitution even says, that people will question your patriotism for such a small thing. That’s where we are though.

The Pledge always felt a touch un-American to me. I never could quite put my finger on it, but it always sounded a bit more communist than republican (as in republicanism, not the Republican Party) to me. With a little research, I found out why (hat-tip It was written by a socialist minister named Francis Bellamy in August of 1892 with the thought that it could be used by citizens in any country. So it’s not really even an American thing. According to Wikipedia, Bellamy “championed the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.” It’s the whole “Jesus was a communist” theory that you can hear preached in so many churches these days. Of course they don’t use the “c” word. Communist is one of those words that we aren’t supposed to bandy about anymore. Communism was defeated in 1989. It’s all over folks; nothing to see here. Move along. It would take more space than we have here to debate whether or not Christ was a communist, so I’ll save that one for another day. It’s pretty safe to say that any compassionate person cannot be a communist however. Since Christ is closely associated with compassion, let’s assume for a moment that he was not a communist. Most people have little idea that the first European system of economics attempted in North America was indeed communism. Many of the settlers at Jamestown in the 17th century starved to death trying the whole “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” thing. They found when there was no incentive for someone to strive for success that everyone suffers. That’s yet another history lesson we don’t have space for. Look it up. Starvation and cannibalism are the end results of communism whether you’re in Jamestown, VA or Kangwon, North Korea.

Back to the pledge… A pledge is a solemn promise. I take my solemn promises pretty seriously. In fact, I don’t make many. I definitely don’t make solemn promises that are poorly worded, or given to inanimate objects that can be hijacked by lesser men (and women, Hillary fans) than I. The cool thing about the Constitution is that it’s simple, it’s written down, and you know exactly what it says. It’s also difficult to change. I can pledge allegiance to something like that. It’s an idea with which one can agree or disagree. It is not a symbol. Symbols are tricky. They can change with the times. They can be used by one group for one thing, and another for another thing. What means hatred to one group can mean love and acceptance to another. A star to a Satanist is something nefarious. To my children, it’s just something pretty in the sky. We live in epic times. All the tumult can lead you to think about a lot of things: pledges, solemn promises, what really matters, and what does not. This study on The Pledge of Allegiance led me to think about the epic movie, Braveheart. During his interrogation and right before his torture and death, William Wallace is asked about his king. “Never in my life did I swear allegiance to him,” he replies. His interrogator answers back, “It matters not, he is your king.” Stories like that are popular because they speak to fundamental truths. Every red blooded American watching that scene was moved with compassion for the brave heart about to be sent to death. He was acting with treason towards a corrupt and unjust crown to which he’d never sworn allegiance. He never made a solemn promise to his evil king. That’s one of the reasons we live in a republic and not a monarchy. Men are corruptible. Truth is not. People that swear allegiance to a man or a flag can easily be led astray. People that swear allegiance to an idea can walk to the gallows with a clear conscience. Flags can be hijacked. Truth cannot. For that reason, you should think carefully about the solemn promises you make, and go with your gut. People who are not socialists ought not say socialistic prayers.