Lately, I’ve found myself in situations where people are reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This hasn’t been the case very often since grade school, and I find all the reasons that made me object to it as a child renewed, and other ones added in.
I remain perturbed, as I have been ever since fourth grade, by the addition of “under God” clause to the Pledge of Allegiance. That addition, dating from the 1950s like the addition of “In God We Trust” to paper money in the 1950s is, to my mind, a violation of the separation of church and state. Yes, it doesn’t stipulate a particular denomination, but it does require me to make a quasi religious confession of faith that the nation is “under God” which, since I was aware that one could and could not believe things, I have never believed.
In addition, though, I am intellectually insulted by pledging allegiance to a flag. What allegiance could I possibly owe to a flag? It’s a piece of cloth, a symbol of my country, but since I don’t have deep assurances what principles the flag, as object, stands for, I don’t see how I can pledge allegiance to a flag in the way that I can to a person or the Constitution.
Of course, I’m not going to pledge allegiance to a person like this or any president. And by extension, I feel like I owe no allegiance to my government, but which I mean any given administration, past or present. So I’m not really sure “the Republic for which it stands” has the precision I want. What exact Republic is that? Is it the people of the government of the founding principles?
And finally, why indivisible? We are a democracy of mutual agreement. That doesn’t mean the process would or should be easy. Michael C. Dorf, professor of law at Columbia University writes:
As I will explain below, it is settled law that the Constitution does not permit unilateral secession: A state or group of states cannot simply leave the Union over the objections of the national government. However, the arguments that led to this settled understanding are hardly unassailable, and the Constitution is probably best read as permitting the mutually agreed upon departure of one or more states.
This, of course, is the basic sentiment of the Declaration of Independence, which concludes:
We… solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.
So the Constitution doesn’t say our union is indivisible in all circumstances, but just that it must be an act of consent. Our tradition, however, seems to argue in favor of the right of secession even without consent when conditions warrant.
Of course, we don’t have justice and liberty for all. No society does. But I’m comfortable taking those to be goals, rather than statements of fact and as goals go, probably the two most admirable that a government and a people can strive for. So I’m good with that part.
So I propose a simple rewording of the Pledge of Allegiance as follows:
“I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Republic which it defines, one nation, with justice and liberty for all.”