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JULY 4: The sacrilege of the pledge of allegiance!

Today, as an American, grateful for all that has come before, I will celebrate our anniversary. Sadly, as an Atheist, as a Jew, and as a  patriot, I will not be able to recite America’s Pledge of Allegiance.

I would gladly recite the original words of the Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This original pledge is very different from the pledge as rewritten in the McCarthy era:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Gentlemen:
While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
— G. Washington

The Pledge of Allegiance is just over a century old.  In 1892,  Francis J. Bellamy, a socialist and patriot,  created the salute to the flag as an effort to address the lingering pain of the civil war. White southerners were still angry, the KKK was rampant in the South while, in the North, new Americans, of diverse origins, had come to America not for religion but for opportunity.  Bellamy wanted all Americans to feel loyalty to this country. In 1892 the pledge was intended as a way of recognizing the patriotism of all citizens.

Bellamy’s intent was foreshadowed by non less than George Washington.    Shortly after the Revolution,  George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, telling them that that they did not need any special tolerance, “If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, …. …. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.  It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

American Children saluting the Flag before 1942, The Bellamy Salute consisted of each person extending his or her right arm straight forward.  With palms outstretched and fingers pointing toward the flag, Americans recited: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Back in Washington’s time, America had not yet experienced the religious revival that brought the justification of the genocide of indigenous Americans under Andrew Jackson and .. ultimately .. the justification for the civil war.  Bellamy wanted to heal the wounds from that war.

To make the words have meaning, Bellamy tied the words to a ritual .. a way of saluting the flag.

Forty years later, Bellamy’s ritual acquired a dangerous taint.  Patriotic  Italians and Germans began saluting Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.  “Heil Hitler!” became not just a patriotic gesture but the way of saying hello or goodbye.   America was not free of this disease.  Patriotism was core to fascism and newspapers and newsreels showed thousands of people saluting Der Fuehrer and il Duce. Nazi rallies came her as well.
Charlie Chaplin made the salute ludicrous in 1940 when he used it in the satiric movie, “The Great Dictator. ”  Despite Chaplin, many Americans saw their national Christian identity as patriotism.  But then came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I was born 24 days later on January 1, 1942 and soon after my father volunteered to join the US Army. Later he led a medical corps through the fence to give care to the victims of Buchenwald.
The overwhelming number of Americans opposed fascism and just before Christmas 1942, Congress addressed Chaplin’s satire by amending the  Flag Code to say that the Pledge of Allegiance should “be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart.”
Sadly, after the war, the flag salute again became a religious issue.  The Republican Party tied religion to the American identity.  Joe McCarthy took his war against godless Communism to the pledge.  Where the author of the pledge  was a Christian and an socialist, the Republicans were desperate to undermine the New Deal by tying social reform to Communism.   For the GOP, Christianity was a form of capitalism.  Communism, with its own religion of state atheism, was the devil.  Image result for chaplin great dictator heilUnder pressure from Joe McCarthy and his followers,  Dwight D. Eisenhower added the phrase “under God” just after “one nation.” Eisenhower declared: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

So today what do I do on the fourth?  I am very patriotic but not a Christian.  Eisenhower’s oath demeans my patriotism and the promises given by Washington..  I know very well that if it were not for the creation of America by Jefferson, Madison, and their colleagues, my family would have been stuck in Europe and likely exterminated.  I literally revere this country.

Asking me to swear allegiance to an American god is offensive to the ideals of our founders.  I can put a hand over my heart, I can swear allegiance to the flag and the country, but nor to someone else’s god.


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