...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
      ( 3:30 PM )
The Supreme Court Pledges its Allegiance

Well, it appears that SCOTUS is set to hear the Ninth Circuit Court case about the "under God" words in the Pledge of Allegiance. But from this article, and from this one as well, it appears they may be specifically planning to rule on the technicality of whether the father even had a legal standing to bring the case in the first place, rather than the substance of the "under God" issue. Also of note, Antonin Scalia has recused himself because of the obviously prejudiced remarks he made earlier this year in a speech where he denounced the Ninth Circuit Court's decision.

So without Scalia, there is a real possibility the Court could rule that the "under God" phrase should be taken out. I personally think that either way it goes will be bad for the Democratic candidate next year. If the Court waits until the June deadline to rule, that will make it especially worse. Either way it is set to be a press bonanza for the GOP conservative right. A ruling for the phrase will set them up as announcing the government being rightfully under a Christian God, and a ruling against the phrase will unleash the dogs of war and the conservative right will pummel democrats and liberals as godless and inhumane. While in my heart of hearts, I hope the court will not uphold the phrase that was not part of the original pledge, I tend to agree with other liberals on this issue: let it lie. It's not a big enough issue for us to chance the presidency over. It does bring up a broader issue though, that I think is important for all parents and people interested in the education of our children.

That there is a "Pledge of Allegiance" at all in our public schools strikes me as a little creepy. And before you go and label me unpatriotic and all that, let's just look at this from a bigger picture. I have several thoughts on this issue:

1. I am not aware of any other free, democratic society that imposes this sort of Pledge or Loyalty Oath on its children. Dictatorships and Theocratic monarchies indeed do impose indoctrination upon their citizens. But a nation that is supposed to be (in theory) run by the people? Does anyone know if other democratic countries impose a pledge? This practice seems more to me like a forced genuflection and not a true representation of what this country is meant to stand for. That being said, public school itself is mostly for indoctrination, so the pledge isn't exactly a non-sequitur there.

2. Why must the children pledge to a flag? If you're going to have an oath of loyalty that children must say, why not to the Constitution? Or better yet, to the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." The latter seems much closer to a declaration of what this country stands for (and it even has a nod to the Creator, which might satisfy the conservative right). It also puts the rights of humanity at the forefront of the saying, rather than a symbol (the flag). It is loyalty to a nation-state or some other form of theocratic government that has been the cause of so much trouble and strife in our history - putting the rights of humanity at the forefront of our minds can only serve to give us pause when we are urged to heed the call to state-sponsored war.

3. Saying that the pledge is "voluntary" for children belies the fact that it is in practice required in most school districts and that the child must face terrible peer and teacher pressure if he or she chooses to opt out of the pledge to a flag. It is unrealistic to assume that the "volunteerism" of the pledge of allegiance is anything but coordinated social pressure to do what the state wants you to do.

4. The "Under God" phrase was added in 1954, during the McCarthy era of rooting out all the "godless Communists" that were subverting our pure and good American society. (The pledge itself wasn't even officially recognized by the government until 1924, so this is not exactly a founding fathers kind of thing) The "under God" phrase was NOT part of the original pledge and the law that Congress passed putting it into a pledge that was at the time required in public schools itself was unconstitutional. It reminds this blogger of times very close to home right now when our civil rights are being conveniently put aside in the name of "protecting us" from outside evil that has crept into our midst. Whatever your view on what the Constitutional framers intended by the "separation" clause, having a pledge that requires a child to acknowledge a God in a public school in relation to the symbol of the nation-state is the establishment of a religion.

Now, if the Supreme Court were to declare that the "god" in the pledge is only a symbol, that it does not refer to the "God" (ie, the Christian God), then what is the point of it being in there in the first place? The conservative right would not stand for that interpretation either.

The founding fathers recognized non-Christian beliefs and did in fact write about the need to equally protect the rights of those believers. Most of them were deists who did not believe what today's Christian Conservative Right movement believes, and I don't believe they would agree with the not-subtle slide this country is making towards a theocracy.

The pledge itself is dumb, in my estimation. Kids don't pay attention to what they're saying, it's a very ill-conceived form of indoctrination into patriotism, and there is no true allowance for kids who do not wish to participate. It has nothing to do with a person's loyality, it requires a fidelity to one version of what this country is to its citizens, and it puts an emphasis on a symbol that means nothing more than the representation of the separate parts of this nation (states) that have chosen to come together to govern themselves. It does not belong in our public schools.

That being said, don't make a big deal out of it now - this isn't the time, we have bigger fish to fry in the next 13 months.

P.S. In better news, the Supreme Court has chosen to not take up Bush's attempt to imprison doctors who discuss the benefits of medical marijuana with their patients in states where it is legal. Chalk one up to the good side!

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