Pledge Politics

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pledge Politics

I've been thinking a bit about the latest Pledge of Allegiance ruling.

I feel very strongly about this issue because of my personal experiences and beliefs, it's a symbolic issue that is pretty close to my heart and helped transform me into a political animal when I was in 6th grade. (Yet another reason to dislike the battle over the pledge.) It is a fact that in many places in America to criticize state-sanctioned religious speech earns people the label anti-God, anti-Christian and anti-American, or worse. This is an adult battle over the place of religion in the public square being played out with non-Christian kids as the political fodder. Many Christians don't see it that way, they believe is it their children who are being persecuted by the removal of "under God" from the Pledge. But who do they think pays the higher price for being different in this country? Their Christian kid or the kid who either sits down or goes out in the hallway during the Pledge of Allegiance?

Frankly, kids don't care about the pledge. It doesn't really mean much to them, they generally don't understand the words-- well, except for the "under God" part. That's one of the only parts that aren't garbled by young mouths. Kids do get the message that we are supposed to be a nation "under God." Speaking from personal experience that is not a subtle message to the kids who are from an irreligous household and don't say the pledge.

Conservatives like to argue that the Pledge isn't compulsory, that no one is forced to say it. What do people think happens to the little Muslim/Jewish/Jehovah's Witness/agnostic/atheist kid who opts out of the Pledge? Sorry, but the opt-out clause is pretty much bull as stupid kids and even stupider adults think that you're anti-god and anti-America if you refuse to say the Pledge. It's not a benign option. We know this about America yet we pretend that opting-out doesn't have negative consequences for the kid who every morning opts-out of saying "under God" with all of his/her classmates. It does. It takes little to no imagination to realize it.

The Pledge, as it stands now, is both a pledge to God and Country. Everyone standing up in a room to say the Pledge in unison *is* a cohersive environment if you're a kid. Why does anyone want to volunatrily put kids in this awkward, uncomfortable position so they can be picked on and ridiculed for being different?

However, despite everything I have just written, I do concede that it's a lame, tired issue. It's one of those pure political ammunition issues that never get debated in a constructive way. It's lose-lose. It's pretty low on my list of priorities and I do wish it would fade away.

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