There are many wonderful things about this country that set it apart from Communist China or Stalinist Russia.
This country’s ritualistic reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance is not one of those things.
As a boy, when I was required to recite the pledge every school day through the sixth grade, I understood, even at that young age, that I was being subjected to a form of brainwashing. I clasped my hand over my heart, I said the words, I probably even meant them, but I realized there was something idiotic about pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth (i.e. the flag.)
When I entered the seventh grade and no longer was forced to say the pledge, I felt a sense of relief.
So naturally, I’m disheartened by a new push by Senate Republicans to force all public school students in Michigan in grades K-12 to recite the pledge every school day, unless their parents object. I know that Republicans (and most Democrats) love their Pledge of Allegiance, and I don’t fault them for that. There’s nothing wrong with patriotism. Pledging allegiance to one’s country can be a very powerful, meaningful act, if it is done voluntarily.
A mandatory, daily reciting of a pledge, of course, is not voluntary. It’s anti-democratic, anti-individualistic, and as I suggested earlier, similar to the brainwashing and indoctrination of the young in Communist countries.
People in this country worship the pledge, despite knowing nothing of its origins. Republicans might be surprised to learn that it was written by a socialist, Francis Bellamy, and it was not composed until 1892. The most beloved part of the pledge -- “under God” -- was added much later in 1954, when the nation’s leaders wanted to claim God was on Uncle Sam’s side during the Cold War.
Proponents no doubt will say the pledge is not mandatory because parents can always opt out. But we all know how children respond to those who are different. With bullying and teen-age suicide on the rise, do we want to give students one more reason to persecute and humiliate their “non-pledging” peers?
What would our founding fathers say about a pledge? The fact is, the country got along fine for more than a century without one.