Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Pledge Allegiance?

Do you swear?  No, but I know all the words.  That is a line from a Three Stooges short where Curly is being sworn in to testify in a courtroom.

The Pledge of Allegiance, recited hundreds of millions of times since its creation in 1892, has frequently been the center of controversy.  So how could this little phrase be so controversial:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Let’s take a look at the history of the pledge.

Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Socialist Baptist Minister? The National Education Association requested the pledge be written to demonstrate the unity of our growing diversity in public schools. A believer in the absolute separation of church and state, it is safe to say that when his ubiquitous pledge was modified in 1954during the Joseph McCarthy led anti-communism, anti-atheism, anti-enlightened histrionics to include the words ‘under God’ he would have been mortified. It seems that “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” has a history of being quite controversial because the catholic Church opposed it during World War I because it was making American Catholics, more American than Catholic.

On a regular basis there are court challenges about “under God” as some claim that the insertion violates the establishment clause.  In all cases, the courts have struck down those claim saying the words are more about patriotism than religion.

But the issue, isn’t the words or whether only half the states in the country require the pledge be recited in school.  The issue is what do school kids, all citizens for that matter, think the words mean?  What do the words mean to these young people?  Has anyone asked a classroom of children to share what the pledge means to them?  What it means to “pledge allegiance”?  Why is the flag important?  Why pledge to a piece of cloth, possibly made in a  foreign country?  What is liberty?

I am not being flippant or glib. I conducted a similar study with employees who had copies of our quality policy on their ID badges, on cards hanging in offices, in posters in the cafeteria, and signs in meeting rooms.  When asked to internalize what the words meant, employees typically thought for a few minutes and then were able to share what they do every day in support of the policy.  The point being, having the words parroted back is of no value.  Understanding, comprehending, internalizing; living the words in everything one does is most important. 

After all, there is no value in 31 words unless you analyze and appreciate the meaning.


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