Monday, June 02, 2008

The Pledge Project: A Military Response

The Pledge Project: A Military Response

In looking over disputes about the merits of saying or not saying the Pledge of Allegiance virtually always (if not always) contains some claim about how those who do not say the Pledge do not respect those who fought and died for our freedoms.

I have mentioned the standard legal argument - that the right to freedom of speech gives people the right not to show respect for those who fought or died for our freedoms.

I am challenging the claim that not saying the pledge shows a lack of respect for such people. In fact, the pledge itself insults some of those soldiers.

One of the saddest absurdities involved in putting the words 'under God' as they are in the Pledge of Allegiance is how it has brought even military personal to virtually spit on the graves of some of the people who have fought for our freedoms - and to demand that others do the same thing.

To compound the absurdity, whenever military personnel and the defenders of military personnel stand up to insist on spitting of the graves of some who have served this country, they claim that they are promoting the virtue of 'respect'.


The Pledge of Allegiance is meant to show and to teach disrespect for those who do not support liberty and justice for all – to claim and to teach that those are bad people and cannot be good Amerians.

The Pledge of Allegiance is meant to show and to teach disrespect for any who would support rebellion – to claim and to teach that such people cannot be thought of as good Americans,

When Congress added the words ‘under God’ it was done to show and to teach the same disrespect for people who do not support ‘one nation under God.’ In doing so, it virtually spits on the grave of those military personnel who fought for your freedoms and for mine, but who did so even though they did not believe in God.

Remove ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance, and you show respect for a of those who have fought for our freedom – rather than continuing the practice of showing respect for only some of them, while virtually spitting on the rest.

Am I saying that the only way to show respect to all who have fought for our freedoms is to remove all mention of God from the public square? Demagogues and bigots would want you to think so.

I propose that we deal with the issue the same way the founding fathers did when they created the Constitution. They created an oath for public office that did not mention God. Yet, as George Washington showed, anybody sworn in to public office is free to bring with him or her whatever religious affirmation suits his or her beliefs. Washington voluntarily added the phrase, ‘so help me God’ to the end of his oath of office.

Similarly, citizens are free to add a religious affirmation whenever they take the Pledge of Allegiance, the way George Washington did. In doing so, they bring their God into the pubic square. However, the government’s position remains one in which a citizen who does not support ‘one nation under God’ is given equal respect to those who do not. The government’s official position becomes one that shows respect for all, and not respect for some while showing disrespect for the rest.

I do not see any reason to oppose this suggestion. It honors the founding fathers by dealing with the issue the same way they did. It allows individuals to bring their own religious beliefs into the public square in accordance with their different beliefs. It shows disrespect towards none.

The only reason that I can think of for keeping the current system has nothing to do with showing respect. It has to do with a desire that some people have to show and to teach as much disrespect towards others who do not share their religious beliefs as they can get away with.

This includes disrespect<.i> for some who have fought, and some who have died, to protect our freedoms.

That is a lesson that this government, or any government, has no legitimate reason to reach.

As I said, the saddest part of this is that inserting ‘under God’ in the Pledge even has military personnel turning against their brothers in arms, insisting that civic ceremonies and public schools teach the disrespect of those who have fought beside them in battle.

I think they do this out of ignorance. Soldiers do carry with them into the military the same weaknesses and prejudices that they had as civilians. Soldiers are still human beings with human weaknesses. They have the human weakness of accepting without question things that they have been taught never to question. When they have been taught that respect requires disrespect for some of their brothers in arms, it is easy to accept this without question, until somebody stands up and questions it.

That time has come. The Pledge of Allegiance as it currently stands shows the same disrespect for a soldier who does not support ‘one nation under God’ as it does for a soldier who does not support union, or who does not support liberty and justice for all. There is no greater measure of disrespect that one can show to an American soldier than to accuse him of being comparable to a defender of tyranny and injustice. Yet, the government shows and teaches this level of disrespect to all of its defenders who do not believe in God.

It is no longer possible to claim ignorance of this insult against fellow soldiers. You now know. Now it is time to show how you really feel about a government and its people showing respect rather than disrespect towards all of those who have fought, and in some cases died, for our freedoms.

This issue is very much about respect for those who have fought to protect our freedoms. It is about respect for all of those who have honorably served, and it is about disrespect towards none. Do you truly think that the people who helped to defend this country and our freedoms deserve your respect? Then you cannot tolerate a government that compares many of those people to those who would support tyranny and injustice, and which uses its power to teach this insult to as many children as possible.

I want to quickly add that this is not a proposal that it is wrong to make legal/constitutional arguments against ‘under God’. Quite the opposite, the legal arguments are very important. I am proposing that we end the practice of focusing exclusively on legal arguments, and that we add moral arguments that support the same position. The two reinforce each other.

When we give legal arguments only, without the moral arguments to back it up, we give the impression that we are people willing and eager to defend unjust and immoral laws just because the law demands injustice and immorality. We need to show that we are not only interested in upholding the law and the Constitution independent of the law’s morality or justice. We need to show that we are upholding moral and just law, by showing why the law is moral and just.


Anonymous said...

Good Morning, I like your Pledge project. Perhaps the following will provide an argument for which the "regligious" may not have an satisfactory answer.

The Treaty of Tripoli , written during the administration of President George Washington, signed by President John Adams and unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797, states the following:

"The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Anonymous said...

Actually this never seems to bother them. I assume that's because it's a completely unknown treaty, and such a short line, and as such falls into the realm of meaningless trivia. Or perhaps it's because people expect politicians to lie and this line is viewed as just another political convenience. In any case, they basically always just brush it away and ignore it when it's brought up.

Anonymous said...

eneasz - Their is a relutctance to call it like it is. Its not just a matter of politicians lieing, its a matter that the United States has always felt that it could lie to the rest of the world and do it with impunity.

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world treats "promises", "commitments", "oaths" etc. made by the United States as "trivial" and "not to be believed"? Back in the 50's and 60's the "joke" was that the USSR engaged in all types of "lieing" about their inventions, human rights, etc. What is now being practiced by the US makes the USSR practices of the 50s appear insignificant.

If the American people are conditioned to accept the lies of their politicians, they are also econditioned to accept the lies from the pulput.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I feel the same way. But I suspect it's the other way around - people are conditioned to accept hypocracy and lies by religion, and this extends into politics. My opinions are pretty biased against religion in general.