I Pledge Allegiance . . . Or Do I?

I Pledge Allegiance . . . Or Do I?

Madilynn O'Hara, Features Editor

Last year, my mom came home from work fuming. She works in the office at the elementary school, North Creek, and a parent had come in and was talking on the phone. The principal came over on the announcements and my mom asked the parent to refrain from talking during the pledge of allegiance. The parent ignored my mom and continued speaking loudly in the office during the pledge, angering my mother. She came home from work and was so mad, and I could understand why: I’d be mad too if someone had ignored me when I politely asked them to stop, but this wasn’t the source of her anger. Her anger was rooted in the fact that someone had been rude enough to talk during the pledge. I agreed with her, I mean, I think it’s disrespectful to our country to speak when we’re supposed to be pledging allegiance to it, but my mom had a whole extra level of anger. Her fury made me stop and think about the pledge that we say everyday. I had never really given much thought to saying the pledge before that; it was just something that we did all the time, it was the norm. Like most of you probably think too, the pledge to me had always been a fundamental constant of school, like memorizing a locker com, going to the next class when the bell rang, raising your hand before speaking, or getting smiley fries on Wednesdays, but it wasn’t until this conversation with my mom that I really considered why we say the pledge. I mean, I know why everyone says we say it: to show our patriotism. That’s not why I say it. I say it because it’s just what we do at school. It wasn’t even until this experience that I realized we really shouldn’t be saying the pledge of allegiance in school at all.

The main reason the pledge is so heavily protested in America today is because of the words “under God” at the end. “Under God” alienates those who are not Christian or don’t believe in God. Since about 25% of our population is atheist, one fourth of our people are being misrepresented by this phrase in a pledge that’s supposed to unify the country. Also, law forbids that these words even exist in our pledge. Our country has the separation of the church and state, meaning that in public school, we shouldn’t be making explicit references to God or his love for our country–it goes against this seperation of government and religion. Because we have these laws put into place, and the first amendment gives us freedom of religion, many citizens see this reference to God as impeding on such freedom, as they’re being told to say things about God that they do not believe in. The reason that legislation allowed “under God” to be said is because “it is tradition,” but in actuality, the pledge was first created and used in public schools in the 1890s–the words “under God” were not even included until the 1950s, and thus the whole argument that it is a tradition in our country goes out the window. The pledge did not intend to use the words “under God,” so why should they be included?

Even though this is an important aspect of the negatives of the pledge, there is a much bigger reason as to why schools should not enforce the pledge. I understand that most believe when we say the pledge, we are honoring our flag and those who have served our country–but I don’t believe that saying the pledge actually does this for us.

Students do not really have a choice in whether or not we’re allowed to say the pledge. Every student has the option to not say the pledge (according to a court case in the 50s), and at CHS, we have a choice as to whether or not we say the pledge. However, it doesn’t always feel that way. In my fourth hour when we say the pledge, everyone stands and every student says the pledge, so I’d feel awkward if I didn’t say it. There is often a social stigma if you don’t say the pledge: it’s the pressure to conform. Everyone else does it, and you’ve been doing it since you were five, and, a lot of times, not standing or saying the pledge is seen to some people as “hating America.” In reality, this especially is not the case. I dislike saying the pledge not because I refuse to support my country, but because I refuse to say things I don’t truly believe.

I think that if we honestly had the choice to say the pledge or not–if nobody came over the announcements and asked that we stand–most people wouldn’t do it. None of us think about what we are doing when we do it. It’s an automatic response to hearing “please rise,” and if those words were never said, we wouldn’t think twice about not doing it.

We as students get roped into saying something we don’t think about, marking just another reason as to why we should not have to say the pledge. Students who say the pledge often aren’t conscience of the words they are saying. Sometimes I feel as though I’m disrespecting the flag when I say the pledge because honestly, I’m not thinking about what I’m saying. How am I honoring my country by saying words I don’t care about? How am I showing my pride in America by muttering with my hand over my heart? How am I being a dutiful citizen by staring at a flag for thirty seconds every day? There are much better ways to show our pride in America than by mindlessly reciting a pledge we don’t care about. I read a story about a parent who heard that their six year old had started saying the pledge. When she asked her child about it, who called it the “American prayer,” she quickly realized that the child didn’t even understand the words they were saying. In fact, the child didn’t even know what “allegiance” meant. So yes, I’m all for patriotism and supporting our troops, but to me, it seems like making children recite something they cannot comprehend is not the way to do it.

Listen to the way your class says the pledge tomorrow. It sounds like mindless drones spitting out words that aren’t even correlated. Even better, listen to the way you say the pledge, because I guarantee what you’re saying doesn’t match the way you’re saying it. Hopefully you’ll think about what you’re saying, and just as importantly–you’ll think about why you’re saying it.

So, while the parent who ignored my mom was being rude and disrespectful when she talked on the phone instead of stopping for the pledge, how much worse was she than those who mindlessly recite the pledge without even considering what they pledge allegiance to?