If you are a member of the Facebook world, you have probably seen this, or something like it, circulating among your “friends” (I put that in quotes, since most Facebook users include in their “friend” base people they have never met and barely know, straining the traditional understanding of the word). Posts like this are all too common. Usually they involve a kind of minor psychological blackmail: If you don’t repost this, it means you’re an insensitive, uncaring, totally bad person. It’s rather like the good luck one is supposed to reap by passing on a chain letter, and the dire threats of what will happen if you don’t. The digital age has made it so much easier to circulate these bacteria (like a virus, but not as evil).
This one in particular insinuates that anyone who doesn’t help in this effort isn’t an AMERICAN. Evidently real AMERICANS like to shout. And they all believe in GOD. The propagators of this little piece of in-your-face theistic nationalism fail to understand that Facebook is international. By attempting to flood Facebook with it they are screaming at Canadians, Europeans, Australians, and just about anybody else who is plugged into the network and can read English. I imagine that would be pretty annoying. But I expect folks from other countries may be used to that from AMERICANS.
Several of my FB connections reposted this before it finally died a well-deserved death (although it’s probably still out there somewhere; nothing ever really goes away on the Internet, as much as you might wish it would). They are nice people. But they didn’t think it through. After several “Right on!” comments, the other side began weighing in. Commenters began gently pointing out that this is really kind of offensive and intolerant. One of the reposters went to great lengths to defend herself and affirm how tolerant she is; she was just reposting it as a favor to a friend who feels strongly about it. Well, meant, I’m sure. But again, not well-thought-out.
This, by the way, is probably what started the brouhaha, a decision made by NBC to voluntarily return to an earlier version of the Pledge that does not mention God. For those who may not be aware of it, The Pledge has gone through several incarnations since it was adopted. Here’s a brief and interesting summary of its history. The “under God” business is pretty recent, added during the paranoid era of the 1950s as a response to “godless” Communism. Rabid patriots act as if the current Pledge were penned by George Washington himself, forgetting that the Founding Fathers went to great pains to make this a secular government that would distance itself from any religion in order to assure tolerance for all, or none. Hence the No Religious Test clause found in the Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. By the way, kindly mention this next time you run across somebody who, in one breath praises the Constitution, and in the next advocates barring atheists from holding office.
So, going back to the little exercise in the overuse of capitals and exclamation points that started this off, besides forgetting that there are others besides AMERICANS that use Facebook, and disregarding the fact that many who are, in fact, loyal American citizens also happen to be atheist, how does reciting the Pledge without the words “under God” show disrespect for the country, the flag or the military? There simply is no logic to this. None whatsoever. So, what is the point of all this capitalized outrage that must be reposted ad infinitum ad nauseum?
Beyond this teapot tempest of frantic religious flag-waving, I’d like to take issue with the Pledge itself. I do not recite it, and do not encourage others (including my sons) to recite it. I advocate standing respectfully but silently should others do so. My allegiance lies with a body of principles, not a body of government. Governments, institutions, and individuals within governments and institutions can become corrupt, and when they do, they not deserve either respect or support.
I respect those in the military who have served honorably. I do not respect those in the military who have used their service as an excuse to bully and brutalize. I support my government when I think it is acting properly. I do not support it when it acts in a manner which I judge to be immoral. I respect theists whose belief in God leads them to act with kindness and compassion. I do not respect theists who think their religion gives them license to act with hatred and intolerance.
Thus, I am not going to take a pledge that my moral compass might prevent me from keeping, whether it is under an arguably fictional deity or not. An allegiance I can confidently pledge is one to the principles of compassion, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness, to defend the rights of others no matter their national origin or belief system, and to resist the forces of violence and warfare whenever possible. Write that one up, and I’ll happily sign on.
I might post it on Facebook but whether you want to share it or not is your affair. You’re just as good a person if you choose not to.