It is with trepidation that I, as an immigrant, pen a piece of prose concerning the pledge of allegiance. Having immigrated at the age of 28, I never participated in its daily school room recitation. Not only does this article deal with the pledge, but it also views the pledge as an insidious form of mind control affecting many of the adults "born of the child", so to speak.
The pledge of allegiance was first written in a slightly different form by Francis Bellamy in 1892. The original version read:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"
It was part of a campaign in a boys' newspaper. It had become widely used as a daily pledge by the 1920s. About that time Bellamy stated that although the pledge contained many words largely beyond the comprehension of young children i.e. "pledge", "allegiance", "indivisible", "liberty", and "justice", he believed that these words, constantly repeated, would form core values that would strongly influence the adults who would evolve from these impressionable youngsters.
So he wrote, and, towards a century later, so it is.
Can most American-born adults disassociate the ideas of liberty from a freely-flapping flag? Can they accept that the star-spangled banner can symbolize injustice? Could they ever accept that their beloved flag-draped America has become the land of the unfree and home of the knave?
I think not.
The inability to process information that contradicts basic sets of beliefs has been expounded in a highly readable form by George Lakoff in "Don't Think of an Elephant". This book explains that people think in terms of frames and if you control a person's frames then you control that person's mind. He uses current examples of the lying lingo of the Bush admin to "frame" certain topics: Tax Relief, No Child Left Behind, Clear Skies, Healthy Forests, Death Tax, War on Terror etc. Anyone opposing their policies in these arenas while adopting the Republican language frames commits debater's suicide i.e. "so you're in favor of leaving children behind?", "so you want dirty skies?", or "you're with the terrorists, then?". So to return to our issue of the pledge of allegiance: What can be more powerful than the daily group incantation and inculcation of the flag draped frame to young children? What, indeed, could be more widespread?
Few countries have daily pledges of allegiance to their flags and few, if any, developed democracies have flags flapping all over the place as in America (post offices, business offices, for example). The sight of the flag may set off in many the fond memories of early childhood and "liberty and justice for all' whose words now we, as adults, fully understand.
I am not claiming that all, or even most, adult Americans have their minds encased in pledge-forged political manacles. But that does not matter. As long as, say, 15% to 25%of adults can and do resonate to the symphony of the flag unequivocally representing justice and liberty then unscrupulous American leaders will wave the patriotic flag and cover up unconstitutionality at home and invasion abroad. As a test to my readers, try reciting the pledge aloud (and it may have been years since you recited it) and try to capture the mental images that your mind associates with the pledge.
If my hypothesis of widespread childhood brain-washing and its concomitant influence on a substantial segment of American adults is correct, I must confess I have no solutions. Psychological deprogramming is not an option. Open discussion may help but can barely address the problem.
So we may be left as a flag-fixated nation constantly marching off to war.