Fields: Why I Don’t Say Pledge Of Allegiance

Guest Columnist

Watching opponents of health care use the Pledge of Allegiance to drown out the opposition made me look into the history and purpose of the Pledge.

It has led me to the conclusion that I have pledged my last pledge.


Contrary to local myth, the Pledge of Allegiance was not written by Bob Lockwood, the late Clerk of the Courts.

Ironically, what has become a rightwing cudgel, was authored in the 1890’s by Francis Bellamy, a well-known socialist.  It went through various versions until 1954 when “under god“–which I scrupulously avoided saying–was added. 
Even the salute has undergone change.  Although used before Hitler was old enough to be Bar Mitzvahed, the original Pledge salute looked just like the Nazi salute.  

Bellamy's Pledge salute

Whatever Bellamy had in mind, it has long since become nothing he intended.
In the 1988 election, Poppy Bush attacked Michael Dukakis’s patriotism for vetoing a bill that would have made the pledge mandatory
Dukakis had it right.  Requiring people to publicly repeat a pledge for “liberty and justice for all.  might be the irony of ironies.  It was certainly unconstitutional.
The whole thing reminds one of the “The Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, a subplot in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.  In an attempt to prove their patriotism, the characters proudly brag about how many times they daily repeat an officer-written loyalty oath.  The more times you say it the more patriotic you must be.  To impugn his rivals, the oath’s author refuses to give them copies.
In much the same way, the American Rightwing has co-opted the Pledge along with the flag and the National Anthem.  What should be symbols of freedom have become weapons of obedience to the government.
Following family tradition, I have always flown a flag on National Holidays.  

A while back, when the Right attempted to amend the Constitution to make it criminal to burn Old Glory, I reconsidered that tradition. Instead I hung it upside downa distress code. 
When a symbol of freedom becomes a weapon of oppression, I know which side of the road I need to be on.
I can’t imagine one person has ever become a better American because they regularly repeated an oath. 
I’m through doing it.

18 Responses to “Fields: Why I Don’t Say Pledge Of Allegiance”

  1. admin says:


    The Cato Institute has criticized the Pledge. Here is a portion of a 2003 article in their newsletter:

    “From its inception, in 1892, the Pledge has been a slavish ritual of devotion to the state, wholly inappropriate for a free people. It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist pushed out of his post as a Baptist minister for delivering pulpit-pounding sermons on such topics as ‘Jesus the Socialist.’

    The newsletter goes on to ask:
    “Why do so many conservatives who, by and large, exalt the individual and the family above the state, endorse this ceremony of subordination to the government? Why do Christian conservatives say it’s important for schoolchildren to bow before a symbol of secular power? Indeed, why should conservatives support the Pledge at all…?”

    Hmmmmm. I wonder if anyone in the Republican mob that is disrupting the health care debate with the Pledge read this?

  2. The Right Pledge says:

    It’s never a good idea to swear an oath or proclaim allegiance to anthing that one does not believe in completely. The object of the pledge is to celebrate national solidarity and acknowledge allegiance to the principles stated that are assumed to serve as the underpinnings for our nation. Either one wants to pledge their allegiance to those principles and that nation or they don’t.

    As to the statement “In much the same way, the American Rightwing has co-opted the Pledge along with the flag and the National Anthem. What should be symbols of freedom have become weapons of obedience to the government.” I think that’s almost correct, the last part is the part I disagree with. It’s not that the radical right wants obedience to the government, but rather to the radical right which is sometimes at odds with the government depending on whether their candidate won or not.

  3. Coolio says:

    So you give up because of some stiff opposition?

    Man, I’m glad (I presume) your ancestors weren’t the ones we were counting on at Valley Forge.

  4. Tinny Ray says:

    Great post. It didn’t just look like the salute of the national Socialist German Workers Party, it was the origin of their salute. and the pledge was written by a national socialist. see the work of Dr. Rex Curry (author of “Pledge of Allegiance Secrets”).

  5. Democrat says:

    Fields exposes the hypocracy of the far right. All these “demonstrations” at congressional town hall meetings are drummed up by the Rushs and Fox News types, who get their gullible listeners stirred up with misrepresentations.

  6. Jesus Was a Democrat says:

    This is a bit far afield of Sam’s comment (no pun intended) but the other interesting thing about the far right is this closeness they say they possess with Jesus and Chritianity. Not sure exactly where that conclusion could come from.

    If you read the bible, which Christians believe to basically be His word, it’s pretty clear Jesus was a democrat. His interests were the healing the sick, forgiving sinners, housing the homeless, tending to the meek and the poor. His was a ministry of love and mercy not of judgment and harshness. Jesus didn’t have much use for the rich, those that were harsh or mean, vindictive or made judgments about others.

    The far right isn’t into any of those things and but true Christians are supposed to be.

  7. oh please... says:

    Republican mob?
    Sure Buddy, the only people pi$$ed off about the proposed plan are Republicans. Sure.
    I agree that many of the people attending those town halls are behaving like Democrats (protesting, shouting down speakers, storming the stage, disrupting others’ enjoyment, acting like fools, etc.).
    What we are seeing is right out of “How to Behave Like a Whacky Democrat 101”.
    The most complaining a Republican ever does is to fill out a complaint card at a Marriott.

  8. TheBrowardRepublican says:

    It is always humorous to me when I happen upon a discussion of like-minded individuals bent on congratulating themselves and patting themselves on the back for what they believe to be a great epiphany amongst themselves simply because no one else has shown up to disagree with them. Well, I am afraid I disagree with the lot of you.

    The Pledge of Allegiance is not simply a poem written by a grade-schooler that warrants, or even requests, your critique. And your belief that it is unconstitutional has yet to be ruled on by the Supreme Court, making it just that – your belief. You hold it up as an example of irony, rather than trying to understand the meaning behind the words. It is not simply an oath to our nation or, as you put it, a “weapon of obedience to the government,” but instead it is an outward projection of the pride we should all feel inside for the country in which we live.

    In Francis Bellamy’s own account of what went through his mind as he picked the words of his Pledge, he states, “The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ …And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove.” It is your purposeful choice to ignore the unity these words imply for our nation that borders so well on the partisanship that has done so much damage to our nation, especially as of late.

    I also wonder why you feel the need to criticize words such as “Liberty” (the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness”) and “Justice” (where each person is entitled to be treated justly, fairly, and according to proper law and principle). Or do you take affront to the phrase “I pledge” which, in this case, means to be faithful and true to one’s nation?

    Too often, I hear people try to sanitize the beliefs of certain groups of individuals simply because those beliefs do not hold true with their own. Bit by bit, we are forced to bleach away every little aspect of what makes us a “united” people, without the smallest inkling of its long-lasting effects.

    If the rest of us are supposed to fall in line with your beliefs that the Pledge of Allegiance, along with every other form of pledge to this nation, is wrong and should be abolished, then soon enough there will be nothing left for the people of this nation to believe in.

    I, for one, refuse to submit to your version of what you think this world should be like. I like it messy and colorful, where individual thoughts, instead of “don’t dare offend anyone” thoughts, are still relished.

  9. Barack Obama says:

    “If the rest of us are supposed to fall in line with your beliefs that the Pledge of Allegiance, along with every other form of pledge to this nation, is wrong and should be abolished, then soon enough there will be nothing left for the people of this nation to believe in.”

    Wow, I don’t believe Sam said that it ‘should be abolished’ along with ‘every other pledge’…but misrepresenting your opponents words is an easy way to dispute them. And please, slippery slope much? Yeah it’s not required anymore to say the pledge in school and suddenly our entire society is falling apart, people are driving on the wrong side of the road, the murder rate will spike astronomically… give me a break.

  10. majorpenalty says:

    hey sam, go to venezuela with cindy and harry and recite their pledge.

  11. Talking Points says:

    First of all, “Democrat” needs to paraphrase the Democrat talking points. That way it isn’t so obvious. Kudos to Sam for a strong blog. I have to agree with him. Anything that restricts our freedom of expression in the name of respect of our flag or pledge is an outright contradiction of both. But I see it this way. The Pledge and the Anthem are methods of expression. It makes sense that citizens wishing to express their patriotism would gravitate to a pledge. (Personally, I am thankful it does not involve Lee Greenwood in any way.) But that is all it is, a way for someone to express their patriotism. It is in-and-of-itself neither good nor evil. (And Mr. Field’s freedom to abstain from the pledge is not a lack of patriotism.) The beauty of this country is we have freedom of expression, unless of course you don’t agree with this administration. Otherwise, you are a racist (Paul Krugman’s words) or evil (Harry Reid’s words, or a Nazi (Nancy Pelosi’s words). Perhaps “Democrat” will look up from the talking points long enough to see which Party is not interested in a good fair debate. I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a “D” and it’s symbol is a jackass (entirely appropriate).

  12. Jesus was a Republican says:

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. I am not sure if Jesus was a Democrat or a Republican but I am sure about one thing. If we pass this Democrat stinker of a health care plan we will all meet Jesus sooner than later and we can ask him ourselves. P.S. Is it judging when you label conservatives as harsh or mean or vindictive? Just checking. How does Jesus feel about hypocrites?

  13. VM says:

    I agree with Sam and who the hell is Richard Stanz??

  14. Sam Fields says:

    Must to the consternation of the super patriots, in 1943 in West Virginia School Board v Barnette the Supreme Court ruled a mandatory pledge unconstitutional.

    Nothing says freedom like a mandatory pledge.

    I am still waiting for one of my critics to explain to me how the loyalty oath made them a better American. Don’t tell me about others tell me about yourself.

  15. RobertF says:

    Buddy, what makes you call the Cato Institute “right-leaning”? It is Libertarian.

    FROM BUDDY: It indeed styles itself “libertarian.” The Cato Institute says it stands for the “principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace.”

    I believe the principals of “limited government” and “free markets” are generally positions embraced by the right wing. However, the Cato Institute also opposes drug laws and is for the abolition of the Drug Enforcement Administration. And the institute was firmly in the liberals corner, backing the closing of Guantanamo and coming out against secret subpoenas in the war against terrorism.

    So I agree with your comment. I have changed the reference. I appreciate you pointing out that my shorthand reference for the Cato Institute did not really reflect their views.

  16. TheBrowardRepublican says:

    To Sam:

    I agree with you on the aspect that the pledge has in some places, and in some ways, become simply a Catch-22 way of saying I am more patriotic than you. The procurement and subjugation of the flag and the Pledge by the America Rightwing has led me to question some of the people who actually try to use them as matters of law for their own device (disrupting Town Hall meetings, to use one example). I shall expand on this in greater detail, however, by using your own statement of flag burning.

    The matters of law are that you, I, and anyone else should have the right to burn Old Glory. It is a freedom we have been granted through the constitution, and I completely believe in this. It is an aspect of the law for which I will not disagree with.

    However, it is the honor, faith, and tradition of what the flag means to me, and what I believe it should mean to every other American, which should prevent any one of us from even considering burning the flag or turning it upside down simply to make a point. I don’t fault you for doing this, but I do fault your disrespect (or perhaps disregard?) of what the flag means. To you, based on your actions, it appears to simply be a pretty piece of fabric; to me it is something so much more.

    You also question whether or not there is anyone out there who believes that the Pledge of Allegiance made them a better American; perhaps because this did not happen to you, or you have forgotten about how it did affect you as a person. I will say that, for myself, the Pledge of Allegiance did indeed make me a better American. It is not simply a feeling or an emotion, but an actual knowledge in that I know that it helped shape who I am and who I have become.

    As a child in elementary school, the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance was simply something we did each morning before class began. As a kid, I was proud of the fact that I was able to memorize such a long sentence, but did I fully understand what I was saying at the time? Not really. I sensed it was something important, and I understood some of the singular concepts, but it was not until later in life when the full power of the words, and what they truly meant, were able to be understood.

    Still, I do remember that the words carried with them a sense of pride. Here I was, just a child, and yet I was part of something that I should have pride in. Although I was an individual, I was also part of something bigger, and so were all of my friends and classmates who were reciting the pledge with me. I believe that pride has always been a part of me, and directed me not only into becoming a Cub Scout as a kid, but also into becoming a Cub Master as an adult in order to share with my kids and the other kids in the Pack what it meant to be proud of being an American.

    Yes, I do feel I am a better person for reciting that oath, as I feel other people are, as well. I find it hard to imagine that people aren’t completely swept up in the pledge simply from listening to the words and from understanding what those words mean. Perhaps part of the problem is that to a lot of people the pledge is just a collection of words, and that they do not denote the importance of each phrase as I do.

    I am sorry if you, or anyone else, feel as though you have missed out on this. But even if you choose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance ever again, which is your right, I hope you will still understand that the words still carry with them something to which I am proud to be a part of and that I do consider myself a better person for having recited them as a kid.

  17. The Real Fish Story says:

    That Jesus took several fishes and loaves of bread, that were not enough to feed the entire crowd, and made it enough sends exactly the message that Jesus was a Democrat wants to convey. The message is we all matter enough to get fed and there’s no such thing as there’s not enough to go around so long as we make it our business to make sure there is. That’s the message. And it’s not a conservative message.

    If Jesus was a Republican, he’d have said sorry folks, no fish for you this Friday. Go fishing. He’d have said no bread for you, go find your own. But he didn’t do that did he.

    And the question folks need to ask is why. In that very answer is where you find the essence of what Jesus was all about. Yes, he was decidedly more aligned with the left than with the right. Face it.

  18. Jesus was a carpenter, not a carpet bagger says:

    The “Real Fish Story” leaves out one very important distinction. Jesus multiplied the bread and fish. He didn’t ask anybody else to pay for it. Democrats are interested not in raising up the sufferers but rather bringing the successful down so we all can suffer together. Remember the Great Society and the Left’s war on poverty. How’s that improved in the last forty years? FEELING sorry for the less fortunate does not fulfill your Christian membership dues. Creating wealth and prosperity is the answer brothers and sisters. A rising tide lifts all boats. Admit it or not, Capitalism is the road of divine intervention. That is the easiest way to spread the wealth around to those willing to partake. Jesus understands the value of incentives. What would you call Heaven? He’s not asking us to behave so we can all spend eternity together in a dark room.