The K-12 independent Episcopal/African Anglican institution* where I teach celebrates the beginning of each school year with an outdoor all-school assembly.
It’s quite a confluence – Lower School teachers shepherd their little ones in lines, the Middle School bursts from Tyler Hall in a hormonal scrum, Upper School students meander down the steps to join the other two divisions beneath canopies of shade-providing oaks. Faculty members should, I suppose, hang with the grades they teach, but these well-behaved, considerate boys and girls need little supervision. I generally roam among each division until the show actually commences when I reposition myself as far back as discretion allows.
In Episcopal/African Anglican fashion, the ceremony begins with a processional led by a cross-bearing acolyte followed by the Chaplin, the Head of School, the Head of Admissions, sixteen flag-bearing students, and a bag-piping Latin-teaching devotee of Lucretius bringing up the rear.
Then follows a prayer, words of welcome, and introductions of the flag-bearers, natives or citizens of the countries of the flags they awkwardly wield. The last introduced is a US citizen, and one of the aforementioned dignitaries leads the assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance, words I haven’t recited since Lyndon Johnson was president.
To me, pledging allegiance to anything, especially when you’re too young and too ignorant historically to understand the words smacks of insecurity, if not paranoia, and is in a sense insulting. The Moore/Birdsong son-producing combine never demanded that Harrison and Ned and Mother and Father place their hands upon their hearts and swear fealty to the clan — it was a given that we all loved one another and wouldn’t endanger the family unit in any kind of serious malfeasance.
Furthermore, the words of the Pledge simply aren’t true. For example, I first recited them in a segregated school, and when I went for my smallpox vaccination, I flipped through Highlights magazines in an all-white waiting room (blacks had their own waiting rooms in the fashion of veterinarian clinics that separate dogs and cats).
So much for liberty and justice for all.
Not to mention that the Pledge itself violates the separation of church and state that the Constitution decrees — one nation under God, indivisible. I can also argue, as some Texans do in spasms of Obama-hating frenzy, that damn right it’s divisible, like in 1860’s, for example.
Having children place their hands on their hearts to solemnly swear to bullshit is unhealthy.
How about a compromise? How about changing a word here and there to make the Pledge less paranoid, less mendacious? Here’s a immodest proposal:
I pay homage to the ideals of the Constitution of the United States of America — liberty and justice. We are one nation of melded immigrants who treasure our freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly and will remain mindful of them as we live our lives in this great nation of ours.
Just an idea.
Wanna hear a really creepy idea? What if they made you pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of South Carolina?
*Not unlike some of our parents, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and some of its parishes are going through an ugly divorce.