“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.”
For most our lives as Americans we have been reciting this pledge since we first entered kindergarten at 5 years old. Habitually repeating a set of words we initially knew nothing about. Honoring the United States daily and reminding ourselves of the country we so dutifully must cherish and respect. From the time we learn to read, we learn to memorize and recite. Not knowing the words we say and the meanings behind them until much later in life.
The pledge of allegiance has a dark history of lies beneath it and it was not something I remember getting taught as a child. The programming of a child’s mind is easier than the programming of an adult’s mind. Children are amazing and intelligent beings, but can easily be deceived (i.e.Santa Claus, tooth fairy, etc.). They are willing to receive all information and they trust others easily. This may be the reason why many people so blindly trust the government today. We have continuously pledged our allegiance to the flag even as adults with capable, critically thinking minds. It has been embedded within us for decades .
The pledge of allegiance was officially adopted by Congress in 1942, but it was written in 1892 and has been recited ever since. The idea was to instill patriotism in the youth. It was also a way to advertize patriotism in order to increase the sales of flags, which James B. Upham was directly involved in. It exclaims loudly a sort of hypocrisy in the use of the words justice and liberty. It was also presented as an honorary gift to the infamous man, Christopher Columbus. The roots of the pledge of allegiance are discomforting at best, but I think the history should be known in order for the people of the United States to make an informed decision.
James Bailey Upham, Junior editor of the Youth’s Companion, was also in the business of selling flags. The magazine had half a million weekly subscribers, the highest in sales magazine at the time. It was known for its effective strategies in advertising. With an interest to increase his profits he needed a way to make the public desire flags. He did this by teaming up with Francis Bellamy and together they wrote the official pledge of allegiance. This inspired a new growth of patriotism in the citizens and added to his profits in flag sales. To further increase sales, he made it his next goal to get a flag in front of every school and inside every classroom.
In 1888, Upham launched the School Flag Program to sell flags and create a patriotic youth. 25,000 schools purchased flags in the year 1891, one year before the official pledge was released. In 1895, the Legislature made it mandatory for school committees to provide a flag and flag staff for every school. Today, most states have laws requiring a flag to be flown in front of every school building.
NO LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
In 1940, the United States declared that all students must salute and pledge allegiance to the flag. This not only infringed on the rights of freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion. The Jehovah’s Witness religion forbids any form of idolatry and the symbolic salute to the flag violated their religious principles. One family tried to fight the school on this issue in the case known as Minersville School District v. Gobitis, but they lost the battle and the students were still required by law to pledge and salute the flag.
In 1942, the Board of Education required every student and teacher to salute the flag. If a student did not comply it was to be considered an act of insubordination and would be dealt with by expulsion. Readmission was not permitted until the student complied. If the student was expelled they were considered unlawfully absent. This placed the parents at risk for jail time and fines due to their child’s unlawful absence from school.
The salute was eventually dropped due to concerns from the Parent and Teachers Association, the Girls and Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, and the General Federation of the Women’s Clubs believing that the salute towards the flag resembled the Nazi salute too closely. Although the salute was no longer enforced, the pledge remained mandatory.
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943 was fought by another Jehovah’s Witness family asking for the protection of students who choose not to salute the flag or say the pledge of allegiance. The family won the case against the Board of Education due to religious based reasoning, but it protects every student and adult from persecution if they choose not to salute or pledge allegiance to the flag, whether it is based on religion or not.
It is has since been legal to decide against pledging your allegiance to the flag, but it is strongly admonished and looked down upon in our current society. Pressure on young students to give their pledges daily to the United States government can be witnessed in almost any public school classroom.
A GIFT TO THE INFAMOUS
The pledge of allegiance was first published in a family magazine, known as the Youth’s Companion, in honor of Columbus Day. In 1892, the magazine released the official pledge of allegiance with the hopes of instilling a patriotic youth and the rise in flag sales. The 400th anniversary of Columbus Day was to be celebrated with the World Columbian Exposition and a nationwide flag salute and pledge. In honor of the infamous Christopher Columbus children and adults nationwide pledged their allegiance to the United States government.
Christopher Columbus was once illustrated as a hero. It has only become a recent enlightenment that he was anything but heroic. Reigning terror on the people of America since he first set foot in the Bahamas in 1492. He was greeted by the Arawaks who graciously welcomed him into their community. He even noted in his personal diary how kind and hospitable these people were. The Arawaks were so kind hearted that they labored for hours the day the Santa Maria shipwrecked to save his crew and cargo. Shortly afterwards, Columbus repaid their hospitable services by seizing their land and forcing them to work in his gold mines as slaves. After two years of reigning, half of the population died due to labor exhaustion.
Columbus forced hundreds of people into slavery. He allowed the rape of young girls. He killed the natives babies and fed them to the dogs. He was never a person worthy of celebration. Sowing the seeds of oppression that continues to exist in today’s world of indigenous people across the globe.
JUSTICE AND LIBERTY FOR ALL?
The commonly held belief that the United States government stands, or has ever stood, for “justice and liberty for all” is a lie. This “truth” has been ingrained into our minds from the time most of us began attending school and reciting the pledge of allegiance. We have been programmed to see the United States government in a certain light. A light we believe to be of truth, of justice, of liberty, until one day that light goes out and we realize the true light has been shining in through our windows from outside. The artificial light we’ve been receiving has plagued our minds with insecurities and false truths. The pledge was intended to instill patriotism in the minds of the youth and it worked, but some of us caught some of that warm, glowing sunlight from outside. Some of us can see through the artificial illumination we’ve been hypnotized to love. This government does not stand for “liberty and justice for all” in the way that most of us would understand it to be. It is geared towards a specific group of individuals and that does not include the citizens of the United States.
The pledge claims “justice and liberty for all” except for the indigenous peoples, except for the people of color, except for the women and children. Those people are not worthy of justice and liberty. Someone might say, “Well, this inequality is a thing of the past and no longer exists today.” This person probably is unaware of the native struggles still persisting even today. The government has forced their way onto the sacred lands of the Native Americans since the moment the first Europeans arrived. The United States government has not only raped and killed the Native American people, but also raped and killed the sacred scraps of land it has left them with. Destroying the lands for materials like silver, gold, and copper. Leaving their lands destroyed and infected with dangerous chemicals and metals in their waters, land, and air due to depleted uranium and other radioactive materials. This kind of injustice dominates the way the government interacts with the people of this land. This is not “justice and liberty for all” when the people who were here before the United States government are suffering in every aspect of their livelihood at the cost of a shiny penny.
After the European settlers colonized north america and raped and murdered the native indians of the land they turned their ceaseless desire to dominate towards a new group of peoples. These were the Africans brought on a Dutch ship in 1619 to the colonies. The settlers at this time were largely dependent on the tobacco plant. Most of the farmers had indentured servants (poor Europeans), but when the Dutch ship arrived with new and cheaper labor they instantly accepted this form of injustice to increase their wealth. It has been estimated that anywhere from 6 to 7 million Africans were bought and enslaved during the 18th century alone.
The roots of injustice began with Columbus, but did not end with him. More than 846,000 African American men were incarcerated in the year 2008. African American men aged 20 to 24 are more likely to experience police brutality than any other group of individuals. Recently this has become a much talked about issue over the past year with the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir E. Rice, just to name a few. The injustices that have occurred over the past centuries are still occurring in the current era. I would also like to note that Native Americans are experiencing the same level of brutality and their numbers are equally troubling.
Women, both white and black experienced their own form of slavery and injustice. Women were considered less than man and even after African Americans were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and were counted as 3/5ths of a whole human being, women were still considered to be below that. Women’s duties were to raise the children, keep the house clean, cook dinners, and cater to the every need of her husband.
Women were not only house slaves for men, but also sex slaves. Marital rape was not made illegal until 1993. Up until that point if a woman accused her husband of rape no charges could be made against him. If a woman disagreed, argued, questioned, disobeyed, or did anything against the desire of the husband all he had to do was claim that she was insane and she would immediately be taken to an insane asylum. She could lose all connections to her family including her children. Even if she was sane, the conditions that she would be subjected to were horrendous and would make any sane person insane. The doctors would subject the women to many forms of physical abuse including electroshock, lobotomies, and medications that subdue or suppress the mind. She was also mentally abused with the doctors reinforcing the ideals of the husband and if the woman did not comply to those, then she was not mentally healthy. Women were not even allowed to vote or “handle all the responsibilities of citizenship” until the 1920’s. A fight women fought for at least 100 years.
These injustices are apparent from the roots of the United States government and has spread without cessation into the 21st century. Forcing small children to pledge and repeat a set of lines that are absolutely meaningless in the eyes of the government is disgusting. Indoctrinating the youth to believe that the United States was founded on the grounds of morality is an injustice in itself. Where is this “justice and liberty for all” because surely it cannot be this
Women, Native Americans, and people of color have all been fighting this battle to have a sense of justice and liberty within themselves for centuries, but it is constantly taken away from these individuals in different and sometimes similar ways. Pledges should be taken seriously and should have truth to them, but it seems that these lines are incorrect and completely void of truth.
DECIDE FOR YOURSELF
The next time you are in a setting where the pledge of allegiance begins taking place think about what exactly you are saying. Think about what and who exactly you are pledging your allegiance to. You do not have to be a patriot to a corrupt system. You can love this land and the people, but not support the system that has weaseled its way into our lives for hundreds of years. Teach the youth the truth about the roots of this government. Let them decide on their own to make an oath to such an institution when they are old enough to comprehend the past and current situations. Remember that you have no legal obligation, if that is something that concerns you, to take the oath. You can decide for yourself what is right and what you may want to pledge allegiance to.
As for me, I pledge allegiance to the land, I pledge allegiance to freedom, and I pledge allegiance to justice. The real kind of justice and liberty. Where we are all equal, men, women, and children of all ethnic backgrounds and religions. Where we can live freely to express our individualities without coercion and suppression. I pledge allegiance to “justice and liberty for all” but not to “a republic for which it stands” when it stands on injustice and deceiving the youth. Truth is the light that will guide us home and I know it may burn our eyes to see the real light, but in the end we adapt and we grow and we learn how to be better because that is just in our nature. Do not do things out of obedience, do things out of truth. I’ve made up my decision, now you must make yours.