Thursday, October 25, 2007

I pledge allegiance to the flag


Last night was "Meet the Candidates Night" for our hometown. Lyn, along with several other candidates, is running for City Council. A representative of the League of Women Voters ran the meeting, reading questions written by members of the large audience. Each candidate had 90 seconds to answer each question. It was a hurried but informative hour and a half. But the really interesting part came at the end when citizens had a chance to ask questions of individual candidates.

Let me get straight to the point, an ex-mayor's wife asked Lyn. There's gossip going around town that you won't salute the flag or say the pledge of allegiance. Is that true?

That's true, Lyn answered, and then explained her reluctance to swear allegiance to any symbol. I try to let my deeds stand for my commitment to this democracy, she said.

The explanation didn't seem to sit well, and certainly the gossip will have heated up by this morning.

I don't say the pledge of allegiance either, and while walking our dog this morning I reviewed my reasons:

1. I have seen Leni Riefenstahl's film "Triumph of the Will."
2. I have an aversion to the coercions of crowds.
3. I believe in the separation of church and state.
4. I don't believe that I or this country are "under God."
5. Loyalty oaths make me break out in hives.
6. I believe that symbols are only what we make of them, and I'd like to make as little of this symbol as possible, given its role in an often sketchy history.
7. I love Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star Spangled Banner.

In fact, the last pledge of allegiance to the flag I enjoyed went as follows:

30 October 1996, Orem

A Cub Scout “pack” meeting in the church gymnasium. The boys and their Den Mothers are wearing costumes for Halloween. Bishop Gunderson, wearing a trim Scout uniform, asks us to rise for the presenting of the colors. He salutes smartly. The rest of us place our hands over our hearts. The first boy in the color guard wears a blue-and-gold Cub Scout uniform. The third boy is dressed like a bloody but elegant vampire. Marching between the Cub Scout and the vampire, carrying the flag, is my son Samuel. In the dress and wig his brother Benjamin wore last year. There are scattered chuckles as Samuel levers the flag into the heavy brass stand. I pledge allegiance, the vampire begins. Samuel rips the wig from his head and holds it over his heart. To the flag of the United States of America.

5 comments:

Torben B said...

The idea of "pledging allegiance" to a symbol is odd to me. I've seldom felt comfortable expressing my commitment to an ideal, such as democracy, through worshiping a symbol. Isn't that idolatry?

rikker said...

I didn't have any problem with this as a kid, and I remember how positively odd the rest of us thought it was that the token Jehovah's Witness kid in our class didn't participate in this ritual.

The older I get, though, the more this practice troubles me, for all the reason's you've mentioned, Scott. Still, force of habit is strong, and even though I haven't participated in any event where the pledge of allegiance took place since high school, I'm not sure what I'll do when the opportunity inevitably presents itself.

I think I don't want to say it.

Grabloid said...

I agree...

I think that "pledging allegiance" to anything is pretty scary. I feel like...if I do pledge my allegiance to something, it strips me of my freedom to walk away from (or object to, re-evaluate, etc.) that thing, should I choose to in the future.

I think that a lot of people think that you can't be committed to something without formally 'pledging an allegiance' to it and/or showing/proving that you really are committed to it through some sort of legally binding document or statement...

Marriage comes to mind here. I have been in an exclusive, intimate relationship with another person for 3 years now. We feel like we are just as committed to each other as a married couple, but we don't feel like we need to be legally bound to each other (married...). I think that being legally bound to a person is a strange concept. However, some people (family, government, friends, etc.) don't take our relationship and commitment to each other as seriously without the official-ness of marriage. There are pressures in society that make us feel like to be a legitimate 'couple'...to live together...to raise a child together...to enjoy benefits of "legally bound" couple...,we would have to go through a conventional process and that we have to 'pledge our allegiance'/be legally bound to one another.

I have a lot of problems with this 'pledging allegiance/legally binding' type of social situation...

Scott Abbott said...

Travis,
funny you should mention the similarity of pledging allegiance to marriage. I've been hooked up with Lyn for going on to 8 years now, after a marriage that lasted for 25 years. The feeling for me in both relationships is the same: commitment, sharing, love, etc. But neither Lyn nor I can imagine an actual ceremony. That leaves us free, I think, for the ceremony of coffee together in the morning, or the ceremony of walking the dog together.

I know that marriage and such daily ceremonies don't have to be mutually exclusive; but like Travis, and for reasons related to my distaste for the flag, I don't want to be beholden to the state or to the gossipy neighbors for legitimation.

When we had a lawyer friend draw up some documents for us related to our house, she said it would be easier to just get married. We'll get married, we said, when you to can marry your partner here in Utah and not just in Boston.

JGrotegut said...

This Halloween well the day before Halloween we had pack meeting My partner and I, I say partner not to be imposing by saying wife, but I just said wife anyways, I hope no one is offended now. Anyways I was in a frog costume that I wore last year and held the flag as everyone said the pledge I commented that this might be everyones only chance to salute the flag when it is held by a frog-pole. and the pledge was given. I feel anything that is repeated as such for me looses its significance. Yet Aleister Crowley would object and say it is the religion of patriotism. Magick through repetition. I have felt that patriotism has been a major religion in America for a long time but 9/11 really made it what we see today. I wonder if I actually have any patriotism in saying the pledge, I couldn't remember all the words without following along with everyone else. Because I tried to recite it to the Canadian Couple who shares den leading duty with us, and failed.