Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Decline to Participate

I was in the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum today where the main exhibition is United States.  The theme of national identity is only one theme employed by artists' work here and the broader concepts of united and states are what underlie this exhibition.  While I was looking around I could occasionally hear bits of a recording of children reciting the US Pledge of Allegiance and it got me thinking just how much I hate those phrases.  Let me tell you why.

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

I pledge allegiance to the flag...
To the flag?  What about to the people, the citizens?  Nowhere in this pledge is there a vow to commit to the people of the nation.  We will pledge to a piece of cloth.  Less abstractly, to the Republic for which it stands.  I mean get the fuck out.  A republic is a governmental construct through which the people are represented and which acts as the forum for addressing the people's problems and institutes good policy to improve their lives and protect their rights.  Or should, anyway.  That's all nice and good but again that is not about making a commitment as a citizen to honor and respect the rights and lives of all citizens -- of all peoples who comprise the population.  This phrase is about generic loyalty to a government construct as if  the government is the purpose of the people when in reality, the people are the purpose behind good governance. 

one nation under God...
Now this is plain false.  Since the point has been made frequently enough, I will refrain from the details about the addition of this phrase coming in the 1950s.  Let's just review for one quick minute here, however, that this is not a nation under any god.  How do I know?  I've read the Constitution.  And while I am no scholar on the matter, I have read a little into some history about the views of the founders and their desire that matters of religion and faith be separate from public life, government activity, and not used as a measure for civic engagement.  Yeah, there was some disagreement on this but the fact remains this is not a nation founded on any belief in any god.

Further, to use this belief as a measure of one's civic engagement is improper.  If I go to work, pay my bills, respect the law, respect my neighbors none of that counts because I don't believe in a god?   So much for that commitment to the people of the nation.  Oh, right.

indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Unless you lived under a rock for the last four years you should know this simply isn't true.  Look at the political rhetoric against anyone who isn't white, against women, against Muslims and atheists, et cetera ad nauseum, and there's no way you can think there isn't a popular desire to divide and conquer.  Private, local militias are growing, domestic terror continues, hate groups gain popularity, racism has increased even among young persons, bullying, the "religious" using their dictates to persecute gays and immigrants, blah blah blah.  Indivisible.  Ha! 

Liberty and justice are a laugh.  To use just one example, let's look at the recent year of voter obstruction as practiced by the Republican party.  Members, pundits, elected officials have actually gotten on television and said out loud, to a national audience that they essentially want to reisnstate Jim Crow.  "Yes" is the answer when multiple party officials are asked if voter ID laws would have helped Romney get elected.  Some have even stated the party wasn't aggressive enough on this and that is why the reds lost the election.  And for all their misinformation about socialism and the rise of fascism under Democrats, suppressing the right to vote is a fascist tactic.  So, by the way, is factless propaganda.  It's not all Republicans who want to keep certain people from voting and it's not only Republicans who want it.  Plenty of home grown "revolutionaries" want the same thing -- and worse, they want to remove "undesirables" from society entirely.

How about an economic system that unfairly disenfranchises black and hispanic citizens?  How about a prison system that works in tandem with this economic structure to ensure that these people are targeted and incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates than white citizens?  Liberty and justice certainly cannot be the driving force behind an educational system that enables children in families of means and leaves behind the poor.  But it works better for the private prison system that there always be an underclass who is more vulnerable to committing crime than getting a good job and being fully engaged in our social life economically, academically, culturally.  Better, too, if they are pigmented so as to be more easily targeted as criminals. 

This pledge offends me.  It is offensive.  It is a petty utterance that does not encourage dedication to one another and makes our current reality seem only more outrageous.  I make no public utterance of it for any reason. 

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with you.
    Governments have the obligation to serve the people, not the other way around.
    I wish you would write more, by the way. I enjoy your articles.