Friday, July 04, 2008

The Pledge Project: Patrotism and Respect

I am going to break protocol with this blog and spend a posting discussing strategy, regarding the status of 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto.

The people who want to keep these references are going to market their position by branding opposition of these terms under the word 'offense'. The position that they are going to sell is that atheists react to the word 'God' the way that vampires react to the sight of a cross. It causes us to cringe and hiss and to fly away in fear. That is why we want the word 'God' removed from all public buildings and public ceremonies.

Of course, under that term those who want the word 'God' inserted into these civic ceremonies have as little reason to do so as one would have to put away a cross in the presence of a vampire. Doing so is very dangerous. Furthermore, it is obvious that vampires (or atheists) do not deserve such consideration. After all, we have to remember what kind of people we are dealing with here – people who have rejected God and given themselves over to dark forces.

Two other key terms that are association with the Pledge and the Motto are "Patriotism" and "Respect". Saying the Pledge and displaying the national motto are ways in which a person shows respect for the country and for all of those who have fought to protect it.

We must recite the Pledge in schools to teach patriotism and respect. We must start civic ceremonies with the Pledge to teach patriotism and respect.

We must post "In God We Trust" in our civic buildings to show patriotism and respect. It is, after all, our national motto, so refusing to display it is the same as being ashamed of one's country. It is the opposite of patriotism and respect.

Or so the sayings go.

These three terms – 'offense' on the other hand, versus 'patriotism' and 'respect' – are what shapes most peoples' understanding of 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'. Given these associations, the vast majority of the people favor keeping 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'.

There is this issue of 'separation of church and state'. However, this is just some slogan that the vampire-atheist has invented to try to get good Christians to remove the offensive word 'God' from the public square. For the past 40 years, fundamentalists and evangelicals have been hard at work convincing the people that no such "separation of church and state" exists. So, it does not provide a good reason to concede to the requests of the vampire-atheists 'offended' by the mention of God in public.

Now, I want to suggest a new strategy.

This strategy begins by taking "patriotism" and "respect" as given values. These are good things.

Of course, these are not absolute goods. The Nazi soldier was hyper-patriotic and full of respect for his country and its leader. The patriot cannot be somebody who will support his country without any regard to the moral quality of its actions. A patriot should be somebody who is proud of his country, including the moral quality of its actions, and strive to make a country worthy of pride and respect. These must be considered patriotic acts. A patriot will not only defend his country, but he will work to make his country constantly worthy of that sacrifice.

Taking these two values as a given, in questioning the use of the Pledge of Allegiance at a civic ceremony or in school, the question to ask is this:

Why do you insist on starting this ceremony with a message of contempt for some of the soldiers who are fighting and defending the freedoms you take for granted? Is this your idea of patriotism – declaring that soldiers who are, at this moment, putting themselves at risk for us are to be virtually spat upon by putting them in the company of our nation's greatest enemies? The Pledge, with the phrase 'under God', says that many of those soldiers are no better than those who would support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice. What about showing a little respect here? Do you deny that the soldiers fighting for our freedom deserve respect?"

Of course, where respect is a value, the only response available to this claim is to deny that 'under God' shows a lack of respect towards any soldier.

But that is just not true.

To say that the words 'under God' respects the soldier who does not believe in God is the same as saying that the word 'indivisible' respects rebellion and that the words 'with liberty and justice for all' respects tyranny and injustice.

There is no escape from this objection – because the statements above are all true.

The same form of objection applies to those who would post the motto 'In God We Trust'.

You insist on posting a sign here that says to the soldier who has returned from fighting to defend this country, 'If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us.' I believe that these soldiers deserve our respect for what they have done, not to be insulted. I think we need a sign that speaks well of all soldiers who have fought honorably for our defense. But that doesn't seem to be the case with people like you. You think that insulting people who have fought for our freedom by saying, 'We do not consider you to be one of us,' is a perfectly legitimate act. Apparently, you do not value respect.

When they say that the national motto respects those who do not believe in God, then they can be asked:

If somebody were to suggest that you put up a sign that says, 'If you are not white, then we do not consider you to be one of us,' that this would be taken as showing respect for those who are not white?

So, whenever you encounter somebody defending the Pledge and the Motto using the terms 'patriotism' and 'respect', throw the terms right back at them.

Yes, you believe that it is important to show our respect for people who have fought for your freedoms by insulting them and excluding them. You declare that they are the moral equivalent of rebels and tyrants, and declare that they are not fit to be considered one of us. And you have the gall to say that this is necessary to show respect. I am the one who favors respect here. I insist that we show respect for all soldiers who have served honorably.

The ultimate power behind this argument is that the claim being made is true. The question that I have in my mind is why people have, for so long, ignored what is an obvious fact, and thus allowed the theocrats to obtain a monopoly over the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect'.

The 'strategy' that I am talking about here is simply one of putting people face to face with the truth. 'Under God' was added to the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' was made the national motto precisely to teach the American people not to respect those who held particular religious views. They were passed into law for the purpose of branding particular religious views 'unpatriotic' – and, thus, to brand those who hold these vies as 'unpatriotic'. This is in spite of the fact that some of the citizens who hold those views still fight and die for the sake of defending the government that insults them.

As long as the theocrats are able to hold a monopoly on the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect', they will always be able to brand atheism and secularism as 'un-American' and 'disrespectful'. The way to deny them this monopoly on the concepts of 'patriotism' and 'respect' is to make it clear how these policies disrespect some of the people who most deserve our respect – those who fought to defend our rights and freedoms even though they did not believe in God.


Alonzo Fyfe said...

doug s.

I think you would be surprised.

I strongly suspect that, if we started to give the argument that I recommend in this posting, that your "sarcastic counterargument" will be heard from one end of this country to the other.

And that, more than anything else, is what will finally cause people to realize how serious the problem really is.

Anonymous said...

I was giving the counterargument sarcastically, but I agree that people will, in fact, give the argument I just gave, and seriously.

breakerslion said...

I object to all institutional ideas that amount to mind control, and I have made my problems with the Pledge, etc. plain before.

as for making school children recite it, this is objectionable for two reasons. By doing so, one is demanding that they take an oath without full understanding of the implications of the act, or suffer for their non-conformity. Furthermore, as minor children, they are not legally able to enter into such a contract.

Since these arguments fall on deaf ears, I wish you luck with yours, which requires even more brain cells to comprehend.

I firmly believe that the pandering to Church by the State is founded on the premise that, once someone has been sucked in to that exploitative delusion, it makes it so much easier to con them into taking up arms and to possibly die for someone else's failed diplomatic policy. US versus THEM! BOOYA!

Anonymous said...

Breakerslion -

I wish to make one request.

Make sure that as many people as possible know your opinion, and do your best to convince them that it is right. Do so even more when those in question are children.

I do not say this sarcastically. I mean it in all seriousness.

It is very common for those who go against the majority to feel despair. "The masses are sheep, they can be cowed into anything" type of opinion. I've felt this more than a few times myself. But societies DO change over time, and they do so slowly and gradually through the efforts of people like you and Alonzo (and me, if I dare be so bold). Never give up. Do what you can. Even if you can only convince a dozen people in your lifetime, the ripple effects may very well be felt for hundreds of years. The Founding Fathers were but a few dozen men, and yet they shaped the course of modern governments for centuries.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


It is not that your message has fallen on deaf ears. I hear you, but I think that you are mistaken.

There are no intrinsic values - so it would be false to claim that there is something intrinsically wrong with having children say a pledge of allegiance. If it is wrong, it is because the policy thwarts certain (good) desires.

If having children pledge allegiance to 'liberty and justice for all' means that we have more liberty and justice for all, then the policy does not thwart good desires, it helps to fulfill good desires. If the practice fixes in the minds of young children an affection for liberty and justice that makes them less willing to support tyranny and injustice as adults, then I see this as a good thing - and good enough reason to support such a Pledge.

It does not matter that children cannot fully understand the words. A parent, for example, can have a child who is about to spend a couple of weeks with some relatives promise to "brush your teeth every night." The fact that the child is not fully informed on the facts about tooth decay and cavity prevention hardly makes it improper to have the child make such a promise.

As far as the legal issue of a child not being able to enter into a binding contract - the pledge of allegiance does not qualify as a contract. A child is hardly at risk of being hauled before a civil court for failure to live up to his side of the bargain.

Morality itself is the practice of promoting good affections and inhibiting bad affections, particularly in children. I can see an argument for the case that the Pledge promotes affection for liberty and justice, and if so I would consider that to be a good thing.

Unfortunately, it also is being used today to promote an affection for 'one nation under God' which, in the absence of a God, actually means 'one nation under those people who claim to know what God wants.' It is a pledge to give a political monopoly to those who have no right to claim it.

That is a bad thing.