From an early age, students are taught the Pledge of Allegiance to recite each morning at school. While many see this as a form of patriotism, there are some very problematic aspects of the Pledge. How it came to be and how it is used is actually anti-individualist.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: You know, it’s likely, if not totally certain, that every single one of our listeners has heard and can probably recite the Pledge of Allegiance. And from the day we start school, for those of us who went to public school and even a lot of homeschool, we are taught the words and told that you know, it’s our patriotic duty to face the flag and to declare our allegiance to our government. Now, there’s some obvious problems with this in my opinion, but you know, what some people don’t understand is that the pledge has some aspects to it that might even be worse than, you know, their words, their origin, where they came from. And so, before we get into all of that, and we’re gonna approach this, I should also say from like, a lot of people hold deep respect for the flag, the symbol of the flag, especially if they’ve had any loved ones. You know, in the military, they feel like the flag represents freedom. And if you’re, you know, not pledging to the flag, then you’re disgracing, you know, this family member. I love, like, we’re not approaching it from any of that point, but it’s important to understand why we do what we do. And for those of us that do pledge, allegiance to the flag, and go through the motions, it’s critical, I think, to understand how we got to this point, why we do this, what it’s been like before. And that’s some of what we wanna talk about today. So, Brittany, let’s maybe start here. Can you recite the pledge for us? and then we’ll dissect it and talk a little bit about its history.
Brittany: I was so confident about this, but not Yes, I can. Ok. I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to their public for witches stands one nation. Wait, I forgot. Like, one nation In one nation. Wait, indivisible. no, I can’t do it. It’s been so many years.
Connor: Only a few decades back, like half a century back.
Brittany: Did I get the indivisible part though? Cuz that’s the part I wanna make sure we talk about later. Yeah. yeah, I got it. All right.
Connor: Indivisible, under God. Yeah.
Brittany: That’s right. Yeah. Wow. It’s been a while.
Connor: Where those cobwebs. Okay. So now before we dissect, the parts of the pledge, I wanna talk a little bit about the history. This is something that a lot of people I found just don’t know at all. Now, the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist named Francis Bellamy, in the year 1892. And he wasn’t just a normal socialist, of course, socialism, you know, 130 years ago was slightly different than what a lot of people today think is socialism. This guy was, a utopian socialist. he saw, socialism.
Brittany: What is that? That’s a big word, Connor. What does Utopian mean?
Connor: A utopia is like a perfect world, a perfect society, just like dystopia.
Brittany: I was gonna say, it sounds like dystopia a little bit, Yeah.
Connor: Right. Dystopia is kind of an awful world. And so a utopian is someone who thinks that they can bring about, you know, peace and harmony in a perfect world. Now, a utopian socialist thinks that the way to do that, of course, is then through socialism. And so the wording back then when he was working on this, was a little bit different. The original pledge said I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. So what’s interesting here, I think Brittany, is that this was a sign of blind obedience to the government. And Bellamy was an vowed socialist. He’s also this kind of preacher utopian Christian kind of guy. And he actually taught his congregation that capitalism was evil. He believed that Jesus was a socialist, therefore, that, you know, other Christians should also be socialist. And so there’s a lot of this background here that people often don’t know.
Brittany: Yeah. There’s also, it gets even murkier as if it couldn’t get any worse. he was also one of the leading figures in the movement to nationalize education. And you and I have talked about how problematic this has been in prior episodes. You know, nationalizing education, making it what we now know as public education has been so detrimental. I mean, both you and I went to public schools, but, as we’ve gotten older, we can see the problem with public schools and how it’s, you know, squashed individualism. And it’s helped indoctrinate a lot of kids who are very impressionable with political propaganda. You know, it doesn’t even teach you how to think. It teaches you what to think or, yeah, I got that right? So, I was like, wait, that, how does that go? Yeah. so that’s a big problem for me, and that stands out as something big because you talked about blind obedience. And I think if we’re teaching kids blind obedience, you know, you and I have always talked on here about questioning authority. and so I think that’s really important, and this kind of seems like the opposite, but Bellamy also called for a very strong government, and he said that only a socialist economy could allow both the worker and the owner to practice the golden rule. And now, Connor, this actually always stands out to me because you and I have talked a lot about the golden rule, and I don’t know, you wanna kind of explain a little bit how this is literally like socialism is like the opposite of the golden rule?
Connor: Well, you think of these early socialists and even like Carl Marx, who’s kind of the father, of communism, they perceived capitalism as oppression. And this has actually come back into vogue. A lot of people today are now saying, excuse me, that capitalism is an oppressive institution. And you know, that workers are being exploited. In other words, people who have jobs, you know, they’re not being paid enough. It’s the Jeff Bezos of the world that are stealing all the money, and they should be, you know, giving more of it to the workers. It’s always about, you know, these workers, and the, injustice, the unfairness that they, experience. And so socialism is like, okay, because capitalism is not fairly giving you what you due, we’re going to force, you know, the Jeff Bezoses and Elon Musks of the world, we’re gonna take more of their money and we’re gonna redistribute it down to you. We’re gonna have the government come in and say what’s fair. And that’s kind of the vision of what socialists are trying to do, because, with Bellamy, him saying that only in a socialist economy can both the worker and the owner practice the golden rule. He’s basically saying that without socialism, then the owner is going to not practice the golden rule when it comes to his workers, never mind the fact that they’ve both agreed to a certain wage. Right? There’s a voluntary exchange here. The worker has consented to offer his labor in exchange for, you know, whatever money he’s being paid. You would think that is sufficient to practice the golden rule. But somehow when you Bellamy’s thinking, when you force people to do things, somehow that’s obeying, I just don’t understand this at all, but Francis Bellamy, there’s actually, it was called the Bellamy salute. I don’t know if you know this for me. You can find photos of this on the internet if you Google Bellamy salute.
Brittany: I’ll put one in the show notes.
Connor: Great. If You’ll find, children, photos of children in school, all standing, you know, in a row and everything. And they’re saluting the flag, except they’re not, doing it with their hand over their hearts. They’re doing it in what we today call the Hitler salute. They’re pointing to the flag arm outstretched, palmed down fingers altogether. And it’s kind of eerie because that’s what the Nazis did. Well, Congress came in during kind of the Nazi era, and they’re like, we don’t wanna be saluting with the president. Guess so Congress actually came in and changed it and said, do our hand over our heart instead. Now, you know, it’s one thing to talk about, okay, well, Bellamy was a socialist, the person who created this, and yes, he wanted children to be cogs in a machine. He wanted them to kind of be, you know, supportive of the state and the state is what mattered to the government. Like it’s one thing to kind of say all that. Oh, but you know, Bellamy was a long time ago, right? The pledge now today means something different to me. Well, I think of it like, why are we pledging to a government or to a flag? I should be, Like if I’m religious, I wanna pledge to God. Yeah. Or I’m gonna pledge to my family or myself. Like I’ve never really understood why we pledge to a flag that seems very odd.
Brittany: It almost seems like, a little bit like idle worship if you’re somebody who’s into, yeah. If you’re somebody who’s into a religion where it’s just almost, blasphemous in a way.
Connor: like I pledged the golden calf of, you know, so okay, maybe it’s not idol adultery, you say, you know, I don’t like the flag part, but pledging to the republic, but the republic should be pledging to me, right? Like, the government is there to serve us. We shouldn’t be pledging allegiance to a government that’s often very corrupt. And so then you say, no, no, it’s not about what you’re pledging to. It’s about the principles and the pledge. Well, okay. What are the principles? Brittany, one of the words you wanted to make sure you got in there was individual. Why, is it important for you? like what concerns do you have about people who are pledging, that, you know, this country is indivisible? Why is that a problem?
Brittany: Because it’s not nor should it be, you know, one thing, I don’t, I think we’ve used the word secession in here before, on one of the previous ones. But, you know, our country was founded on a lot of the philosophies of John Locke and John Locke talked about the right to revolution, the right to secede from a, you know, a government if they treat you poorly. I mean, we did that. The only reason America is America is because we made ourself independent from Britain. That was a good thing. And so indivisible is almost like a threat to me when I hear that word in the pledge, it almost says like, you know, were one or else kind of thing. And I don’t believe that’s true. I think that we should, you know, even was it, Thomas, even said, you should put up with a fair amount of abuse before you start storming the castle, but we should have the right to be, you know, individual if it gets to that point. So I’ve always hated that word in it, because it does sound a little threatening to me. Almost.
Connor: I agree. I think we need to preserve the opportunity to be divisible, to go our separate ways. If, you know, the country is, if the government is abusing us, the Declaration of Independence says as much. And so this part of the pledge really contradicts the Declaration of Independence, which I think is far more inspired and inspiring. yes. And another portion I take issue with, and this is as someone who’s, you know, a God-fearing Christian, individual is, you know, saying that, this country is under God. I, want it to be, I wish it were so, but I don’t think it really is. And so to me, it’s a little hypocritical for everyone to be, you know, memorizing and, and just reciting this pledge and with our words, with our lips, you know, drawing near to God, but not having actions that are like that. Of course, there’s plenty of people who object to this part cuz they’re not religious. They don’t want to, you know, pledge allegiance and say under God when they don’t believe in God. So that’s, also an interesting issue. it’s also this question of should you be required in a government taxpayer-funded school to be having this religious stuff. And there are people who feel very strongly on both sides, but to me where I focus on this is I just think it’s a little bit hypocritical to say, yeah, we’re one nation under God. I’m like, no, we’re not. We’re really like eight nations in one that are kind of like, tied together and we’re abusing one another. And it’s this constant jocking for power to dominate over one another. And, really, like, I think America, it’d be super interesting going back to the divisible point to have people be able to kind of break off and have some of these countries where you have closer, like let all the socialists go move to the, you know, west coast or the east coast already.
Brittany: Mostly there anyway.
Connor: Right? Yeah. And so let them form their own, you know, country and see how long that lasts and, you know, let the rugged, Western states, you know, Texas will be its own country. Like that would be a very fascinating thing because I think you’d have a lot more, I don’t know, you’d have a lot more cohesion. We do not have cohesion right now.
Brittany: Say what cohesion means. That’s kind of a big word.
Connor: Yeah, it is. So cohesion is like, kinda like glue. We’re not, tied together. We’re not unified. That’s a better word. We’re not, unified. And so when we say one nation under God, I don’t really think we are really one nation. We’re kind of forced into being one nation, which I don’t think really works, but we’re not like culturally one.
Brittany: No, not at all. Go. I mean, go anywhere. Go Utah, go Texas, go, New York, different places. Completely different.
Connor: Totally. And I just think it’s a little hypocritical to say we’re under God when, you know, we can write that on the back of our dollar bill and we can say it in a pledge, but I just, as a Christian, I just don’t think that we really are, and we’re acting in a way, that is consistent with that. So, Brittany, let me ask you as we wrap it up, like, you were saying, you and I both went to school, a lot of our listeners are going to school. What are your thoughts on kids just kind of memorizing this without even knowing what it means? Like speak about from like a the perspective of our overall society. Why do we have a system where we’re having kids like, memorize this and just say it? And what does that mean for like decades in the future that kids are just taught to do this?
Brittany: Well, I don’t like, like I mentioned a little earlier, I don’t like that it is kind of a symbol for blind obedience, right? Memorize this, recite this, you know, it’s very, it’s dystopian quite honestly when I think about it, it’s like we’re creating little robots, you know? And as a teacher, our school had a very interesting view on this because of, you know, like you said, people with military parents or family members. We did say the pledge once a week, but that was it. And we didn’t say it every day on purpose. We didn’t like what that represented because again, it was turning them into Cox, you know, and you don’t really sit there and, and dissect what it means. Now, my class did, and the first day of school, we went through every line and we talked about the, you know, indivisible part and, and we clarified that, but I was teaching at a private school. So public schools don’t do that. And then you grow up and like me, I didn’t even really think about the words until I was an adult and I had, you know, or like started thinking the way I think politically. And then I was like, okay, this is a little bit problematic. So we think it’s so important that kids of all ages should be taught not just the words, but what it is that those words mean before they’re just told to recite it every single day.
Connor: And that’s an important point. Your family, you individually, may decide to still say the pledge because, notwithstanding these and other concerns, you feel it’s important for whatever personal value you hold. And that’s totally fine. You’re doing it then intentionally, and you’re doing it with your eyes wide open. And that’s kind of all we’re really talking about is most people aren’t even aware of the history of the pledge. They don’t know who wrote it and what his intentions were. They don’t really pay attention to some of these words. They don’t really pause to think about, you know, like a lot of people I know, Brittany, they’ll just modify certain words, right? So like, if they’re in a, you know, in a circumstance where everyone’s saying the pledge, they’ll just kind of say their slightly altered version. Yep. that they’ll feel better about saying that. And that’s cool too. I think what’s important is that you just be aware and informed and then you can make a smarter decision. Head to the show notes page. We’ll link to some of these resources, including an article I wrote, about why I personally don’t pledge allegiance to the flag that has a little bit more detail, that you’re welcome to read. That’s all gonna be at Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Very interesting topic. And again, mean, I like you, Brittany, I grew up just pledging allegiance to the flag without thinking about it, without knowing anything about it. And so it’s, good to kind of do some study, look into this and make your own decision about what you wanna do. So head to the show notes page. Thanks as always, Brittany. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.