Unpopular Opinion: I Don’t Believe in The Pledge of Allegiance

I recently saw a little FaceBook post making the rounds among some of my family members. A simple image of a US flag with a caption bemoaning the fact that the morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is increasingly uncommon.

Now this normally would have simply passed me by in the normal daily current of slightly disagreeable but not-worth-arguing-over traditionalist conservative social media, but something about this particular sentiment really stuck with me.

I recited the Pledge when I was a child. I put my hand over my heart and said the words while facing the flag. It was what I was supposed to do, what a good patriot should do, and I felt like a responsible little citizen when I did it.

But of course I didn’t really understand. No kid does. They do what they think they are supposed to do and ingrain the behavior and hardly think twice about it.

But as an adult, I have developed a rather severe anti-authoritarian streak. Not an anti-authority streak mind you, or an anti-order streak, but an anti-authoritarian streak. I believe a well administered and regulated society works best. I respect the rule of law and even when I disagree with them, I respect the benefit that deference to authority figures brings to the administration of a society. But order, civic discipline, and deference to authority, are means, not ends. They are tools. What I cannot abide are gratuitous displays of authority. Authority wielded for authority’s sake alone.

And as an adult, loyalty pledges strike me as incredibly authoritarian.

If my employer asked me to sign a loyalty pledge to the company, to serve the company and never do anything to wrong the company, I would feel extremely uneasy and obviously wouldn’t agree to do it. If I were, say, a politician and my party asked me to pledge loyalty to the party, I would feel uneasy and would not do it. It’s hard to explain exactly why, but it does not sit well with me. To put it simplistically, it gives me the creeps, it triggers some primal thing in me that warns me something is wrong with the scenario.

And it is the same with being asked to stand as a group, salute a national symbol, and recite an allegiance pledge to a nation.

Perhaps it has to do with this basic notion of unconditional positive regard: the idea that there is something to which you hold a positive and supportive disposition no matter what, regardless of circumstance. A loyalty pledge asks exactly that of you, to agree to grant a particular person or organization or institution your unconditional positive regard, at least in action and word, and preferably in thought too.

And while I am willing to grant plenty of things in this world conditional positive regard, unconditional positive regard is a much dearer thing to ask of me. In fact I dare say it exists in this space right along side my basic pride as something that will not be given no matter what, integral to my core identity. There are those who will say that Children are perhaps the one great exception to such a reservation, but speaking only personally for myself (as someone who has no children) it is hard for me to imagine even my children having no possible barrier that would lose them my positive regard, even for my offspring I have to imagine my loyalty and allegiance would have some conditions, albeit exceedingly generous ones.

Asking me to give that up, to pledge loyalty, devotion, allegiance, to a large nebulous entity like a nation, its just not something I can do. In fact I dare say that such allegiance is the sign of a bad citizen, not a good one. If you want what’s best for a nation, make your support and approval, your allegiance, conditional. You will serve the nation well and do your part, but only so long as it respects you and does it’s part for you. The nation must always exist in a constant state of earning the good will of it’s citizens, deserving allegiance and loyalty through continued excellence, not securing that good will through repeat recitation of pledges from childhood on. That practice is just…..

 

Gross.

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Patriotism: The Religion of the State

A Tour of Washington DC and the National Mall

 

 

I recently had the good fortune to visit our Capital and spend a day touring the National Mall. It was an excellent trip, particularly the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I would highly recommend anyone who has the means make the trip at some point. But as I toured the National Mall and surrounding areas, something struck me, something that I had been ambiently aware of before, but never so directly confronted with.

Patriotism is a religion.

Now I have a deep interest in and respect for US history, and I understand the sort of reverence before history that can be felt at certain sites or at memorials for great historical figures, but when touring DC I was struck by just how eerily religious a lot of the imagery was.

The first memorial to really catch my eye in this way was the monument to General George Meade, the Union General of the Civil War, which is just a short walk from the Capitol Building. As I looked upon the monument, it struck me: “That is a saint.” With his regal posture and golden halo, he is portrayed almost identically to the way Saints are typically portrayed in Catholic iconography.

Saints

Left to Right: Saint Francis of Assisi, General George Meade, Saint Patrick of Ireland

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Gen. Meade

And while not particularly associated with Saints, the large structures over either shoulder holding the halo aloft are quite reminiscent of wings are they not? These similarities seemed to striking to be coincidence.

Later in the day I made my way to the Lincoln Memorial. Of course I have seen numerous picture of the memorial before, but I immediately recognized what I was seeing, something I had never realized until I stood at the foot of the memorial in person. “That is Zeus at Olympia.”

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia no longer exists, but we have several descriptions of it from contemporaries and a few renderings from coinage at the time, enough for artists to have created reasonably accurate images of what was once a wonder of the Greek world. The likeness to the Lincoln Memorial is pronounced. The way he is entroned, the massive size, event the fact that both Lincoln and Zeus sat in column lined rooms in Greek style temples atop a hill.

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Left to Right: Lincoln Memorial, Zeus at Olympia

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Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Perhaps most convincing at all, the statue of Zeus had a reflecting pool at it’s feet, and while the Lincoln Memorial does not have a reflecting pool inside at Lincoln’s feet, before the entrance to the Memorial, at the foot of the steps, is an enormous reflecting pool. That cannot be coincidence.

 

 

So as I sat on the grass at the National Mall, contemplating all of this, and wondering if this was all mere coincidence, my attention was drawn to the pleasant shade I was sitting Obelisk dictionary jpgin. The shade of course cast by the largest and most iconic of all of the monuments at the National Mall: The Washington Monument, at the feet of which I sat. Of course, the largest and grandest of all monuments at the Capital is the world’s largest Obelisk.

The Obelisk is one of the most ancient and prevalent religious symbols in the world. Most associated in antiquity with Egypt, these structures were almost always of a religious nature. In Rome they also serve as religious monuments, with the most famous of all being the Lateran Obelisk marking the location of Emperor Constantine I’s baptism.

Obelisk

Left to Right: Washington Monument, Lateran Obelisk

I propose that it is no accident that many of our shrines and memorials to our Patriarchs have a pronounced religious flavor to them. Is Patriotism not the religion of the State? Does it not have its Holy Texts? Does it not have its symbols and icons that are to be treated with great reverence and care? Does patriotism not have its own hymns and parables and holy days and rites of observance? Much like religion, does not expressing a different form of patriotism as the rest of your community instantly mark you as an outsider and lower your social cachet?

I am not a religious person, nor am I a patriotic person. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the history of our nation and for the many fantastic qualities that make the USA influential, prosperous, and admirable. However, I have no inherent or innate deference to my national identity. I have no ideological predisposition to think of my own nation as best or our actions as righteous or our laws and founders as being somehow sacred and above reproach.

Shrines and memorials to influential and important figures of the past are all well and good. A humble place to take a moment to learn and reflect on the great works of those who came before is certainly important and worthwhile. Ostentatious quasi-religious monuments however, are gaudy. I can only speak for myself, but I must imagine that if I were a Founding Father, if I had fought a war against monarchs and helped establish a secular government, and somehow were able to leap forward in time to find Saintly effigies of myself, towering sculptures of me enthroned, or enormous Obelisks erected in my honor, that would make me profoundly uncomfortable and would think these people had somehow missed the point.

Abortion and the Ancient Law

In today’s video I discuss how the conspicuous silence of the Bible on the topic of Abortion can be reasonably interpreted as an *acceptance or perhaps even tacit endorsement of the practice*.

I an fully aware that this idea might rub some people the wrong way, it is a Point of Contention after all, but I ask that you please set ideology aside for only a moment and earnestly consider the case being made on it’s own merits, and I look forward to hearing what you think.