Skip ended his recent piece about the Pledge of Allegiance by saying: ‘Words have meanings but when you don’t know and understand what those words mean…’
So let’s take a closer look at those words, shall we?
A question for the people who recite the Pledge of Allegiance:
Can you think of something — anything — that ‘the Republic’ might command you to do, that you would refuse to do? Or that it might command to be done to you, or to someone you love, that you would resist?
If so, then isn’t your true allegiance to something other than the Republic? Aren’t you really just pledging your cooperation with the Republic, so long as it doesn’t violate your principles? In which case, shouldn’t you really be pledging allegiance to those principles instead?
For example, Ben Franklin said: ‘Where liberty is, there is my country.’ Being forced to choose between liberty and republic, he would choose liberty. Anyone who agrees with him would never recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or anything like it.
But I believe Franklin would be comfortable pledging allegiance to the principles of liberty as articulated in the Declaration of Independence. (First, that people form governments to protect their rights; and second, that government gets its legitimate power to act from the consent of the governed.)
But that’s not what the Pledge of Allegiance requires. A person saying the Pledge of Allegiance is pledging allegiance to the Republic, which at any given time may or may not be guided by these principles; and which increasingly is guided by a very different set of principles.
Suppose you believe in the principles of the Declaration. Then to the extent that the principles of the Declaration have the Republic’s allegiance, the Republic has yours, and it’s not necessary for you to say that. But to the extent that the Republic is guided by a different set of principles, it does not have your allegiance, and it would be disingenuous to pretend that it does.
To put that a different way: a Republic worthy of a pledge like that would never ask anyone to recite it.
Note that elected officials pledge to support and defend the Constitution, not the Republic. Increasingly — as Grok readers are painfully aware — allegiance to one of those actually precludes allegiance to the other. When that happens, the Pledge of Allegiance requires you to choose the Republic over the Constitution, to choose government over principles.
Edward Abbey said: ‘A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.’ If you take its words seriously, the Pledge of Allegiance is a solemn promise not to undertake that defense.
And if you don’t take its words seriously, then what’s the point of reciting them?