Pledge of Allegiance isn’t representative of all American people

Published by adviser, Author: Cheyenne Jackson - Commentary, Date: September 10, 2015
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It’s time to can the Pledge of Allegiance.

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance has always left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was 17 when I took the initiative to stop participating in the morning school ritual.

“Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.” I stayed sitting.

I remember my classmates’ questioning looks. I remember the few looks of disdain. I remember my homeroom teacher fumbling with the decision to send me to the principal’s office. Some of my peers asked me why. I tried to explain to them the history of the pledge and what I felt it truly stood for only to receive responses of “Who cares?” and “You’re disrespecting the soldiers.”

Although the Pledge of Allegiance has become a staple in our culture, we say it most mornings for 13 years and recite it at ceremonies celebrating all things American, the history and true meaning of those words, to me, feels anything but American.

In the late 19th century, Francis Bellamy sought to write a commemorative pledge for recitation by school children across the country, and further pushed the pledge onto them by using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas as a selling point. He wrote:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The original is slightly shorter and most notably lacks the words “under God.” The pledge was very popular and received minor changes over the coming years. It was not until 1954 that President Eisenhower instituted the words “under God” into our flag code. This was done to separate America from the communist and secular Russia during the Cold War.

I think there are already some obvious issues with the Pledge just by looking at the history. Firstly, the pledge was written to commemorate Christopher Columbus, a known murderer, slave owner and sex trafficker, responsible for destroying the land and lives of thousands of native people in the “New World.” The words “under God” are a clear breach of separation of church and state. When Eisenhower sculpted those words into our flag code, he made an establishment of religion, and anyone who fought against the addition of those words was a “commie.” Finally, those words were instituted out of fear. Fear of communism and the collapse of “American Values.” Why are so many Americans fighting to keep this pledge which so clearly represents a murderer and saying that it is unconstitutional?

My distaste for the pledge is deeper, though. It is rooted in something much less noticeable to most Americans. As a black, female, atheist, lesbian, nobody feels that the American dream is more unobtainable than me. Nobody feels more alienated by the conservative values in America. And when I had to stand every morning and say those words, I felt the sting of being different more than ever. When the words “under God” were added, Eisenhower not only made an establishment of religion, he made an establishment of the conservative values that tightly grasp America. The pledge’s potentially great message, that we are one nation united, was ruined by those words. The placement of the words between one nation and indivisible is an oxymoron. You are only a part of this nation if you submit to the conservative Christian agenda.

Yet, ironically, the right wing which routinely strives to keep the pledge is likely unaware, or ignores, the fact that the original author, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist.

Conservative ideology continues to ignore many of the problems in our country. The Republican Party consistently alienates millions of people. Despite the overwhelming evidence that shows there is discrimination towards minorities and women and despite the clear intent of our founding fathers to keep this nation secular, Republicans uniformly refuse to take steps towards ending the discrimination and often resort to “God” as a reliable source of information for running a country. Slipping the conservative message into the pledge for recitation in schools and ceremonies indoctrinates citizens into believing these out of touch, right-wing ideas.

It is time to get rid of the Pledge of Allegiance. There are thousands of great Americans who deserve commemoration much more so than Christopher Columbus and forcing school children to stand and recite these words is indoctrination into the conservative, right wing agenda. We are one nation united. All of us beautiful and diverse with different beliefs and histories. Rather than a nation unifying under a god, let us have a pledge that recognizes us unifying because we are diverse.

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