Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Pledge Project: The Next Campaign

I am relatively content with the results of tonight's election. Obama was elected President. The Supreme Court will get some decent judges to replace other judges who have served so well for so long - as will the appeals court system. We will have a President who is intelligent, who knows how to think, and who knows the importance of listening in particular to those who disagree with him.

Elizabeth Dole was defeated.

California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, it will seem, will pass, unfortunately. Though my interest has not been in the issue of gay marriage. My interest has been in the issue of doing harm to others for no better reason than 'my God values the harm that I do'."

So, this election is over, it is time to start working on the next campaign.

If it was the intention of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hold onto the decision on "under God" until after the election, then . . . well . . . it is now after the election, and it has been 11 months since they took oral arguments.

They have got to release that decision shortly.

We all saw that, with the Kay Hagan campaign, the nearly universal assumption that atheists are evil and the lowest and most despicable thing a candidate can do is to accuse a challenger of atheism. Even within the press, nobody paused to ask the question, "What if she was an atheist? Is it wrong for an atheist to seek public office?"

And so, under an Obama presidency, officially, we will continue to see an endorsement and a continuation of the practice of teaching anti-atheist bigotry to young children on a massive scale.

It is assumed that the answer to the question is, "Yes".

It is virtually certain that every politician will condemn the decision and use it as an example of "activist judges" who pay no attention to the Constitution, but who abuse their power to force their views on the rest of the country.

I have written earlier about how Obama cannot defend us. With some luck, he will say something about atheist being Americans who, by right, should be treated as such. However, he will not . . . he cannot . . . declare that this includes a right not have a pledge that says, "those who do not support a nation under God are not good Americans" or a motto that says "if you do not trust in God then you are not one of us." He will not be so foolish as to sacrifice the rest of his agenda on this issue.

The press is going to want to attack us or, at best, ignore us.

The reason that they will defend it is because the press is interested in ratings and subscriptions. A person makes money in the news business by telling people what they want to hear, not by questioning that which they have already made their mind up about.

Any major news source that suggests that the 9th Circuit Court case is correct will be branded "liberal media" and can expect to lose a significant share of their business. So, they will tell the people what the people want to hear. Or, at least, they will not do anything that will risk a large number of viewers or readers getting angry at them and going elsewhere for their news.

However, the Press is going to look for some way to "give both sides of the debate," as is their custom. So, they will be looking for people to speak on the issue of removing "under God" from the Pledge and to speak against the national motto. There are not a lot of people who fit that bill. So, if you make yourself visible quickly on the issue, you may be able to get a larger audience than you would otherwise expect. The Press will not be friendly to this view and will try to confirm their audience's biases, but they will allow the view to be presented.

The only place where anybody is going to hear a contrary opinion is from us. And the only way that they will hear it is if we speak up – and speak in a way that it gets through the cultural bubble that people build around themselves. They will not hear us if we mumble among ourselves about how the court is right and the people who criticize it are wrong. They will only hear us if we present our view to them.

Here are some options – some of them difficult, some easy.

(1) Write to whatever secular organization you belong to and ask the leadership what they plan to do once this decision is released. If they have any type of advertisement or activist campaign planned, ask how you can contribute to it.

(2) Write a 600-word essay explaining why it is wrong to have “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and be prepared to submit it as a guest editorial the instant the news of the decision hits the airwaves.

(3) Prepare a video for YouTube and Google that explains why it is wrong to have “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

(4) Prepare to attend an event that typically begins with the Pledge of Allegiance – such as a town hall meeting – where public input is permitted, and prepare to speak on the discriminatory nature of the government involving itself in a pledge of allegiance to a nation "under God" or posting a sign that says "In God We Trust."

(5) Prepare to go to a meeting where the Pledge of Allegiance is a part of the ritual, where the public typically is not invited to attend, and hand out a leaflet that explains how it is prejudicial and discriminatory for the government to have its citizens pledge to view Americans who do not support a nation "under God" as anti-American.

(6) At the risk of sounding self-serving . . . have a few copies of the book I wrote and self-published called "A Perspective on the Pledge" handy to hand out to anybody who might actually take the time to read it.

(7) Prepare and practice what you are going to say to family, friends, c-workers, and fellow club or organization members in opposition to "under God" in the pledge. Practice it, rehearse it, make yourself comfortable with it that you will not be intimidated into silence when the topic comes up in conversation, as it certainly will.

(8) Get ready to enter online forum discussions and to respond with comments to news articles on the subject.

(9) Do what the people involved in the Atheist Bus campaigns in England and now Australia have done – figure out what you need to do to advertise in your region on radio and television, create an advertisement, and start collecting money for it.

(10) Show up and talk to your legislative leaders at any public location they make available. Do not send them a letter that a staff reader will read and delete or throw out. Speak out, in public, where you have an audience, and back them into a moral corner.

"Candidate, what would you say if somebody proposed putting a sign up in the legislative chambers that said that Jews are not true Americans, or that 'If you are a Muslim, than we don’t think you belong with us.'?"

"Candidate, what would you say to a proposal to teach children that if somebody is a Jew than that person is no better than a rebel, a tyrant, or a perpetrator of injustice?"

By the way, I have to add, it makes no sense to simply repeat arguments that have failed to persuade people for the past 50 years. Repeating a failure over and over again in the hopes that it will magically become a success is irrational.

If you say that "under God" should not be in the Pledge because it violates the doctrine of separation of church and state, history shows that you might as well be talking to the wind.

You are going to have to go back a step and explain why separation of church and state is a good idea. The reason people put 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance was to create a country where the bulk of the country learned at a young age – learned at an emotional level, not at the level of reason – that not supporting a nation 'under God' is anti-American.

It has succeeded. That is where we are now. Pretending that we live in a country where the separation of church and state still has value and where "atheism" is not considered simply an alternate spelling of "anti-Americanism" is as foolish as thinking that we live in a world with angels and ghosts.

Yet, in spite of the fact that the government's campaign of anti-atheist propaganda has substantially succeeded. They have created a country in which a substantial portion of the population believes on a gut emotional level that "those who do not support a nation under God are as anti-American as those who support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all" and "those who do not trust in God are not one of us."

Yet, it is still the case that most people also harbor lingering traces of respect for fairness and justice. So, it is up to us to get people to face the cognitive dissonance of, "How can you call yourself a fair and just person when you are willing to embrace practices that treat others unfairly and unjustly?"

If we do not say anything, then nothing will be said. And if the bulk of the population hears what sounds like universal agreement that, of course 'under God' belongs in the pledge and anybody who says otherwise is an anti-American atheist sympathizer (which, of course, is redundant), then this is what they believe. This is what the children will believe – unless and until they are exposed to somebody saying that maybe that view is not right.


BobCMU76 said...

When reciting the Pledge, I say

One Nation,
Of Laws, not men

Alonzo Fyfe said...

It does not matter what somebody may say when they say the Pledge. It matters what children are being taught - young children, who learn their bigotry at a deep and emotional level.

Mumbling some alternative phrase under one's breath does nothing to prevent the teaching of bigotry to children.