Reciting the Pledge Every Day

As a substitute teacher, I get to visit many different classrooms in many different schools.  In many of these schools the students are given the “opportunity” to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, usually at a designated time announced over the intercom.  This gives me the chance to observe what children of many ages do when reciting the Pledge.  Most stand; most put their hand over their heart – until you get to middle school and then the hand starts to sink lower and lower, until, in high school, it is much closer to the top of their chair.  Most say the Pledge.  Some just mumble in the correct rhythm.

I think reciting the pledge every day actually leads to complete disregard of its meaning. I am pretty sure that most of the younger students have NO IDEA what they are saying or why. And the older ones, who should have a clue, just mumble so that they appear to be patriotic, but they are really not thinking about it at all.

Yes, they do learn the words.  But I much prefer mindfulness in this regard.  If you are going to say the Pledge, you need to say it in circumstances where you are actually thinking about what you are saying.  It is much like the idea of praying for me.  If it isn’t done mindfully, it isn’t worth the time spent.

I stand, but I don’t say the Pledge.  I don’t say it, in order to respect those people whose beliefs don’t allow them to say it.  I don’t say it, because my mind is actually elsewhere, making sure the students are being respectful.  I don’t say it, because I don’t accept the inclusion of the “Under God” clause.

On the other hand, I love singing the national anthem.  Part of that is because I like to sing, but part of it is because I do so rarely enough that I can really think about what it means.

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28 thoughts on “Reciting the Pledge Every Day

  1. It’s been a very long time since my school years, so I can’t directly identify with this. It is an interesting topic, however, and I may include this in future essays/blog posts of mine.
    I am not a liberal type, and can’t understand why some are so opposed to the under God clause. They should regard themselves as very fortunate in living in a country with the freedom to be different, and the morality, in large part provided by religion.
    Also, what is this about those whose beliefs don’t allow them to say it? Why should you and others defer to, or cave into the demands, of those who don’t want to respect the great country of America, and the one who makes it all possible, God?

    • I don’t believe in the Under God clause, because I believe it is intruding religion into state. I do regard myself as fortunate to be living in a country with the freedom to be different and it is precisely that difference that the Under God clause compromises. I disagree strongly that morality is provided in large part by religion. Religion has been and is a source of a great deal of evil in the world. There is ample opportunity for morality without religion and, I would argue, there is a large amount of immorality justified in the name of religion.

      There are religious people who are not allowed to say the Pledge. I once taught a Jehovah’s Witness girl, who was not allowed to even stand during the Pledge. I do not know if that is the religion’s point of view or if it was simply her family’s take on the religious position, but nonetheless, I support her right not to say the Pledge. And anyone else’s right as well.

      And finally, I also do not think mindless reciting of the Pledge does either religion or state any favors.

      I personally don’t believe in “the one who makes it all possible”. It is your right to do so, but you do not, according to our Constitution have the right to obligate me to agree with you. I am nonetheless, and perhaps even more so, proud of a country with religious freedom; freedom, which also includes freedom from religion.

      • Your views are so typical of liberals who, quite incredibly, believe that religion has caused more problems in the world than it has prevented. Of course, the world would be a far worse place without religion, God, and traditional morality. Just wait twenty or so years, and we will see what happens, as God stages a big comeback in American life. A few days ago, I posted an essay on my blog called What about God?

      • The interesting thing is that secularism seems to be growing, rather than fading. From what I have read, I am led to believe that church attendance is down. Perhaps there will be a religious comeback. I sincerely hope not. From what I have seen of religious fundamentalism, I believe it is one of the most dangerous elements in society. We will have to agree to disagree, I expect. And, yes, I am a liberal and a progressive, but, I believe, a fundamentally moral person.

    • Typical illogical liberal thinking. One can practice any religion one desires here in America without any real problem. However, they will run into a lot of deserved trouble, especially in the long run, if they seek to undermine, and even destroy religion.
      Sure, people would object if the Muslims and Buddhists tried to take over America. If one wishes to see the real world effects of lack of religious liberty, then can go the Mideast, China, or back to the Soviet Union. Under God is for all people, not just for the Christian majority. People such as you seek to use the historical excesses of religion, in particular Christianity, to attack, marginalize, and then destroy the faith. Just check out my new blog post on God. You and your kind will inevitably fail.

      Bill

      • I disagree that mine is the illogical thinking. If Under God in the Pledge is for all people, it should be a god that whoever is saying the Pledge actually believes in. What would be wrong in substituting, “one nation, under Allah”? Part of what makes this country great and one of the founding principles was/is freedom of religion. Many of the people who came to the New World did so to obtain religious freedom. Are you turning your back on that tradition? Are you trying to deny me religious freedom?

        And, sorry, I won’t be checking out your blog post on God. Vitriolic discussions of religion are not a significant interest of mine.

    • Yes, secularism is growing, but that will not last. Just witness the much greater birthrates of fundamental/orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims all over the world, compared to secular types. Women in Mormon dominated Utah, for example, have an average of 2.5 babies each, similar to Christian Louisiana. As for overwhelmingly secular Vermont, it’s only 1.7
      When the bad times really hit within the next couple of decades, the forces of God will rise up, and take back society. Judging from the cycles of economics, culture, politics, and history, it’s really inevitable.
      I am sure that you are a fundamentally moral person, and that is the case with many present day liberals and progressives. However, in the long run your beliefs will lead to immorality, decadence, and eventually social chaos. Once God is abandoned, society can do well for a generation or two, but eventually it will collapse, and that will be the perfect environment for the fundamentalists do come in, take over, and restore decency, morality, and order to the world. All of this is explained in my recent What about God post as, well as a few others in my new blog.

      • If I am moral and I teach my children to be moral, that seems to lead to more morality, not less. I do agree, in part, about the birth rates of various religions. I guess we will all become Buddhist or Muslim.

  2. You just assume that whatever I say about God is not a product of reason, love, and concern for the well being of society. You mind is clearly not as open as you would like to think it is.
    Your talk of one nation under Allah is quite weird. People do have freedom of religion here in America, and yes, even the freedom not to believe in God, if they choose. However, they should not be allowed to stifle the religious expression of others, such as what the ACLU has been doing for the past few decades. The atheists should just keep quiet, and not cause trouble.

    • When did I say that what you said about God was not a product of reason, love, and concern? I don’t believe I did. But you did call me illogical – I contend I am not. Why is talk about one nation under Allah weird? It is the god many people believe in. Would you prefer “one nation under Zeus” or “one nation under Raven”? Whose god do we choose? How is your preference for God not an attempt to stifle someone else’s preference for Allah or Buddha or Raven? I am not trying to stifle anyone’s religion, even though that would be my preference. I am just trying to give a fair shake to all of the religions, including the right not to espouse a religion.

      • The best thing to do here is just agree to disagree on this. I will say that in a previous comment, you mentioned that you wouldn’t be reading my blog post, What about God, because vitriolic (bitterly caustic, scathing, virulent according to the dictionary) discussion does not interest you. It seems obvious, to me at least, that you are one of those liberals/progressives who believe anyone who disagrees with you is too full of hate and anger to think rationally.
        It does seem rather weird that you mention the one nation under Allah as being comparable to one nation under god. In America, one is free to believe in all types of religions and gods, in sharp contrast to the Muslim countries, where freedom of religion is rather limited, and where Christians and Jews have been persecuted in recent years.
        Of course, all religion, nations and cultures have done things in history that they now regret, but the those who believe in Allah are the ones who are now flying planes into building, beheading innocent people, and in general making fools of themselves on the world stage. Historically speaking, the concept of individual freedom is rather alien to the religion of Islam. Liberals would find living under the rule of Allah much more unpleasant than it would be under Jesus, Buddha, or others.
        You say that you are trying to give a fair shake to all religions. Well, that is exactly what the current system in America and other Western countries offers. No one is actively persecuting Muslims or atheists here, although, of course, we do want to preserve our largely Christian culture. Try to go to other countries, and see how they will treat your hostility to God. You are a typical liberal in seeking perfection at the cost of destroying what has worked reasonably well for many years.

      • I think you are missing my point. If we include the phrase Under God in the pledge, that is favoring religions that call their god God, rather than those that call their god Allah or Zeus or Raven (Native Alaskans). Using the word God, excludes those who believe in a different god and those who do not believe in God at all.

        It is true that I assumed that your post What about God would be vitriolic, without justification. For that I apologize. I don’t think you are full of hate or anger, but I do think most people who insist on including God in the United States are misguided and closed minded. There is plenty of morality without God.

        Laura

  3. Within the next few decades, the issue of the social and moral value of religion should be settled, to the extent that anything really can be in this world of ours. Yes, it is possible to be moral without God. However, is that limited to those who are educated, well fed, economically secure, with a stable family and social environment? What will happen in a time of major crisis, and especially a sustained period of hardship and conflict such as 1914-1945? These are my main concerns in this ongoing (forever?) debate.
    I haven’t recited the Pledge in a great many years, and really don’t know exactly what’s in it. For what it’s worth, my interpretation of the under God clause would include the God that Christians, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and other religions believe in. I really don’t know where you get your idea that just because some name their god as Raven or Allah means that they wouldn’t be included in the pledge. That seem to be source of the misunderstanding here.
    Of course, for the interests of social cohesion and harmony, it is best to have one dominant religion, although the others shouldn’t be discriminated against either. That’s the great American way. However, those who don’t believe in God, or who are actively try to destroy the faith (or faiths) are the real enemy, and should be vigorously opposed.

  4. I don’t think you can know that the issue will be settled in the next few decades. Indeed, I would be surprised if anyone could know in advance. And I would be surprised if it were settled. The world is too big and too varied.

    Yes, YOUR interpretation of the words may be inclusive, but it doesn’t feel inclusive to those who call their gods by other names, nor does it feel inclusive to those of use who would prefer to leave gods out of it. I learned this when I was in college. I was a freshman and it was Christmas time. I was going on and on about Christmas and Christmas presents, which were very important to me. My roommate at the time said to me, “You know I am Jewish, don’t you?” I told her I did. But I still went on and on about Christmas. I thought of Christmas as a sort of generic American celebration. Yes, I knew there was religious significance to it, but the Santa Claus and present buying and Christmas trees decorations should be for everyone, shouldn’t it? Only it isn’t. Years later, when I was no longer a Christian, I realized how painful this time is for people who aren’t believers. What I thought was inclusive and just general fun, was neither. It was/is a painful reminder to people who aren’t in that tradition that they are outsiders, that they are different, that their beliefs can be ignored or glossed over. This is what the Under God phrase does to those who would call their god by a different name or those who profess no gods. It may feel inclusive to YOU, but it doesn’t to those outside the tradition of calling their god God. It just doesn’t.

    • My sense is that your new attitude is that the feelings of the minority should take precedence over the rights of the majority. Your college roommate, whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or a non- believer, should not have the power to make you stop celebrating your faith.
      Do you think if you went to Israel, Iran, Egypt, India, or an overwhelmingly secular place in America or in Europe, that they would allow your feelings to dictate what they would do? It’s so easy to try to be conciliatory, (and basically cave into the demands of the minority.) However individuals who are in the majority have rights too, and shouldn’t relinquish them just because someone utters the words, I am Jewish, or I am Muslim or I am an atheist, etc.

      • My college roommate did, in no way, try to stop me from celebrating my (at the time) faith. She was reminding me gently that she didn’t share that faith. She has that right as well.

      • A college roommate, whether Jewish, Muslim, or whatever, has the right not to share your, faith, but doesn’t have the right to stifle the reasonable expression of your beliefs just because they are of a different faith.

  5. And, now that I am re-reading your comment, I am wondering why you think that “for the interests of social cohesion and harmony, it is best to have one dominant religion, although the others shouldn’t be discriminated against either. That’s the great American way. However, those who don’t believe in God, or who are actively try to destroy the faith (or faiths) are the real enemy, and should be vigorously opposed.”

    Our country was founded with precisely the opposite idea, i.e., the many religions could co-exist if religion was kept out of government. Many people came to America to escape the religious dictates of their governments. The great American way, for the founders, was acceptance of diversity in religion, with regulation of worldly affairs through the state. I don’t see people as actively trying to “destroy the faith (or faiths)”, but rather striving to insure that faith is kept separate from government, so that beliefs can flourish, as long as they don’t impinge upon the rights of others.

    • I am not an historian, although my sense is that the Founding Fathers didn’t want a state supported religion, and merely sought no interference with how people practiced their faith. In sharp contrast, many present day liberals actively seek freedom from religion, to stifle any public expression of it, that is.
      Instead of some Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Jew, etc. wanting to be left alone to believe whatever they want, nowadays you have an atheist who doesn’t want to hear any mention of God. That’s a huge difference. Having a minority faith around may be an annoyance, but not believing in God at all is a direct and major threat to many people.
      Instead of having government simply not favor one religion over another, liberals seek to eliminate religion from playing any role in public affairs. The one nation under God clause shouldn’t offend any minority faith. If it offends atheists, well, they better realize that God will always win out in the end. Just read my recent What about God post.

      • But, the one nation under god clause DOES exclude people with a different name for their god. I don’t know why this isn’t clear to you. Their god has a different name.

        How is my not believing in god a direct and major threat to religious people? How is secularism a threat? I am not trying to shut down your churches or keep you from praying, I am just asking that I not be coerced into praying or attending churches.

  6. No one is coercing you or anybody to pray or attend churches. My sense is that one nation under God includes all faiths, no matter what a particular religion calls it. It isn’t restricted to the Judeo-Christian God or anything else. The majority of secular types are not out to destroy religion, but many of them, such as the ACLU, are, and therefore must be stopped.

  7. The main problem with all this is that a small percentage of people, no matter what their particular religion, sex, race, occupation, social status, or nationality, just don’t care about the feelings or needs of others. They seek power, glory, and enjoy dominating others.
    You seem like a reasonable person. Unfortunately, there are few, let’s say 5%, in any crowd who wreck it for all the others. The large majority of folks can get along fairly well despite the inevitable differences. However, there are always the fanatics, zealots, true believers, and activist types who cause all the trouble, and enflame the latent passions and grievances of the rest of us. I address this topic in my recent, The 5% rule, in my blog/collection of essays at my website.

    Bill

  8. So, since you seem to think God includes all gods, would you be comfortable with One Nation under Allah? You see, Muslims believe that their god also includes all gods.

    You may not be trying to coerce me to pray, but every time I am forced to listen to the Under God phrase in the pledge, I am listening to a prayer. Every time people pray at public gatherings, I am forced to listen. You see, I can’t shut my ears the same way as I can shut my eyes. When you turn public gatherings into prayer events, you are turning the public arena into a church.

  9. Here we go again. Muslim countries do not have freedom of religion as we do. One Nation under God is vastly different than under Allah.
    So you and other people have to listen to the pledge, or listen to folks pray at public meetings. What’s the real problem? it should be a minor annoyance. Do you really think life would be better in other countries? The feeling of those in the minority should not be more important than those of the majority.

  10. I am not talking about other countries right now. I am talking about the US, since it is the only place where the Pledge of Allegiance is said. There are plenty of Muslims in the US and if we are going to choose a pledge that includes religion, why not one nation under Allah, since their god includes the Christian God?

    It is a minor annoyance that is repeated day after day after day where I work. It is brainwashing. It is propaganda. It is unnecessary. It was unheard of before the 1950s, during the McCarthy era.

    I have traveled to and lived in many countries in the world. The United States is not the paragon of life on earth that many Americans seem to think it is. And life is, in fact, better in quite a few other countries on this planet. I am still a loyal American, though, because I believe that this country has the potential to become even better than it is. This is partly because we listen to everyone, not just those in the majority. There are times when I wish we would listen more to the majority (who support universal background checks for gun purchases). There are times when I wish our politicians were MORE representative of the majority (I oppose gerrymandering.) Even so, we need to be sensitive to minorities as well. They have rights, too.

    • You are such a typical liberal. Rooting for the underdog, Muslims in this case, no matter no badly they behave. Other countries may be more peaceful and relaxed, but America is where the action is.
      I don’t know where you live, but here in Connecticut no one forces people to pray. Even if they did, it’s a small price to pay.
      Background check won’t keep the bad guys from obtaining guns. It’s just another way for government to intrude into the lives of people and gain power for itself. Liberals like that, of course.

      • And you are such a typical right-winger. You said yourself that the majority of people of any religion are peaceful and law-abiding. Muslims and Christians are both included in this statement.

        And, as for America being “where the action is”, yes, the highest rates of gun-deaths, decaying infrastructure, exorbitant health care costs, environmental degradation, etc. Willful ignorance of science.

        I am forced to listen to a prayer nearly every day I work when the students say the Pledge. It may be a small price to pay, but that is largely because YOU don’t have to pay it.

        I can never understand why some gun-owners don’t support background checks. They would make gun ownership seem MORE positive to other people. If you have no history of mental illness or illegal behavior, why don’t you support background checks, so that people view owning guns more positively?

        Right-wingers have no problem accepting government intrusion in peoples lives when it doesn’t bother them themselves: drug testing for welfare benefits (that actually costs MUCH, MUCH more than it saves), intrusion into women’s private health care options, government intrusion into immigration procedures. If it doesn’t impact the radical right directly, government intrusion seems just fine to them.

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