The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag is both popular and controversial when coerced on public school students in the USA. The Federal 9th Circuit Court , in denying its constitutionality, has created a public debate between the majority that praise it as patriotic and those who, on various grounds, are against it.
Yet the Pledge is in fact the model government program: opposing its noble aims seems petty until you think out the fine print.
NOT ALL AS IT SEEMS
If like many people of sense you are reacting in disgust at the long-simmering ills of America today:
. . . you may wonder how this came to be.
Causes of negative social change are complex, but inevitably rooted in a common pro-government-power philosophy. And especially to those spread not by direct ideas, but by implication: subtly getting harmless-sounding bad ideas accepted, that hatch even worse ideas in the subconscious of the young.
Such ideas come often wrapped in patriotic symbols, like the mighty Horse-symbol of Troy ordered in by City Elders, thinking it a Pledge of brotherhood but containing seeds of destruction. They silenced prophets who warned something was amiss and ordered all to pledge allegiance to it.
HOW DICTATORS WIN
Imagine a country where a man whose ideas combined the worst aspects of the political Right and Left, hating everything the American Revolution stood for, arranged to spread such ideas, complete with kids giving fascist (Roman Imperial) salutes. Judge for yourself where this would lead a country :
He believed pleasure such as beer-sipping should be government controlled. This tee-totalitarian promoted his cousin's book, outlining socialist utopia enforced by technology where, among its wonders, by 2001 people could go to government-approved library centers where, thanks to abolition of "small minded" free-enterprise, technology was so advanced they could hear piped-in what today we call Muzak.
He applauded aggrandizing foreign wars of conquest.
Scholars hail him a great socialist revolutionary, advocating "true liberty" under a totalitarian "democracy."
Was he Stalin, Hitler, Mao?
Their movements studied him.
He was the Rev. Francis Bellamy, the man who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance with the purpose of reversing the American Revolution from within through a culture of coerced socialism and crushing individuality in the name of "true liberty" so that people would innocently go along, so soon kids associated free citizenship with the formula used by medieval serfs and slaves to signal obedience: by pledging allegiance to the Lord's banner.
Get people to accept that, and all else would follow on its own.
Don't believe me: read what his  admirers such as hagiographer Dr. John Baer write. Read the Pledge's  history, how he was a ringleader of a "Nationalist socialist"  conspiracy that was hailed as "American Fabian Socialism" dreamed to destroy America long-term. The Fabians advocated bringing about revolution by sneaky social change through innocuous-sounding measures that would wear out or be undetected by opponents through political cross-dressing and giving in on issues that would only disguise that they were changing debate (such as clothing attacks on rights as pacifism, "patriotism" or religion), so, like the Roman general Fabius, every seeming tactical defeat brought a better strategic position and wearied the country for the "slow kill."
The quality of discussion in light of the recent Court decision is perhaps the most instructive in how thoroughly this Fabian time-bomb has confused people's emotions, and ability to look at the facts.
For example, as Congressman near unanimously denounced the decision or at least kept silent the specific grounds they gave were startling. Most seemed concerned with only increasing Government power, with little understanding or interest in the Constitution with the exception of a highly technical and learned proposal by pro-Libertarian representative Ron Paul, HR 4922 .
The Hon. Paul calls for removing the issue from Federal Courts entirely, so issues can be fought at the State level as originally intended by the framers (Federal Courts have however taken the view that by the 13th and 14th amendments creating Federal citizenship with attendant rights, this view is limited somewhat by those rights)and this of course must be viewed in light of his and other Libertarians pointing out the real structural problem, if one wants to look at it in that light, which is coerced funding of public schools in the first place: a view made all the more poignant in that the Pledge was also seen by Bellamy as reinforcing his program of crushing of private schooling alternatives through government controlled schools.
THE QUALITY OF DEBATE
Paul in so doing touches on Libertarian discussion of alternate paths of reviving Liberty-driven discussion in the public mindrestoring power to the States as a step to more autonomous communities, non-voting, the role of privatization in increasing protection of rights, and so forth. Compare this to what other Congressmen are saying: that the Pledge must be restored or government will be forced to
This is actually not a bad idea, or at least one where the Ten Commandentswhich far from being uncontroversial, some scholars caution in fact did historically promote theocracy and allow murder, enslavement and deception of non-Jews, and were used in that spirit by Christians in the Middle Ages as seeing themselves as successors of Judaism must be put in their real place historically.
While one can certainly favor calling attention to the many contributions of all legal systems, the present focus on the Ten Commandments is odd, and viewed by many people as a trick to deepen the theocracy-by-democracy that infects so much US legislation, and often backfiring on independent or smaller Jewish, or Christian denominations themselves. Internecine religious quarrels have no place in a secular system of law. Moreso, given that the basis of Common law is in the more secular Greco-Roman law [6b, 6c] such as the Roman Constitution, or 12 Tables, Polybius, and other enactments, which was the common law for 1000 years including its distinction of the supremacy of privately agreed law and procedures over the government and in the US the conscious modeling from those by the Founders.
Such were, as Cicero points out, in turn an expression of natural law; and Jewish Mosaic law is itself derived from Egyptian common law, or as scholars are increasingly understanding again are at least, unremarkably, similar to the main systems of the time. Indeed, the US Embassy in Rome and the celebrated educational Roman Archeology Group proudly point out what was once common knowledge in American schools: that the 10 Amendments of the US Bill of Rights were designed to honor and loosely track the 12 Tables, both summarizing the principle involved and correcting. This tendency to ignore the actual Greco-Roman roots appears as part of a wider tendency to dub the syncratic growth of civilization that started 7,000 years ago at least as Western or Judeo-Christian, particularly in ignoring its more Ancient components, not only Greco-Roman, but the elements that were Ancient even to the Greco-Romans and that they cheerfully recognized as earlier chapters and contributors of their own development.
The Founders in fact rejected later Judaism and Christianity as a barbaric wrong turn that led to a democratic theocratic dictatorship at best, keeping in mind the horrors of Puritan New England, the British Inquisition, the democratically blessed religious persecutions of Scotland, where young boys were horribly and implacably executed for even questioning the recieved ideas on Christand indeed the judicial murder of Christ himself for refusing to pronounce what was viewed then as the equivalent of the Pledge of Allegiance, meaningless obeisence to various Jewish rituals and Roman formulas apparently without even official Senatorial sanction.
They did so warning against the conspiracies of well-intended religious leaders that would if taken seriously subvert freedomand though they had nice things to say about early Israel under the non-governmental guidance of the Judges and early, non-governmental Christianity. But simultaneously, they hoped to create a system of secular respect for all religions and points of view anchored on the US Bill of Rights, and the more lax Bill of Rights of the States in a Federalist context where they were presumed to be refugees for particular religions if so desired by the inhabitants, a concept lost to current discussion, but modeled with Switzerland, which had thus avoided much religious strife, in mind.
Perhaps most emblematic of the quality of debate while many who know better, in today's climate of hysterical patriotism, are silent, was a statement by a Congressman who is billed as a 'Constitutional Expert' (one would have hoped they all were, natch). Popular Senator Bond  warns that if the Court decision is not overturned by the Court en banc (i.e. all the judges reviewing together) or the Supreme Court, then
"Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. This is the worst kind of political correctness run amok," Bond said. "What's next? Will the courts now strip 'so help me God' from the pledge taken by new presidents?"
The whirring sound in the background may indeed be George Washington. For alas, the Constitution has no such words in the Oathit in fact prohibits such religious 'tests' as a requirement for public officesimple common sense that was only mentioned because the Founders were aware they were creating a secular society in one already divided by a large minority of fanatic religious groups, many of whom doubted that Jews or Blacks were human beings or the non-religious entitled to Civil Rightsand who thus viewed such things as saying Blacks were 3/5ths of a person or that there should be no religious tests of office as the limit of their patience.
The phrase was added by George Washington and repeated as tradition the same Washington who invited Jews to settle as our Constitution is intended as but "an impartial machine" for preserving rights; and assured Muslims that in no wise was the United States a Christian government. Indeed, Bond's attributing things to the Constitution that are specifically not there is made all the more treacherous in identifying a judicial decision against "political correctness" as "political correctness run amok." Which may indeed soon be the new political correctness.
The Courts have tended to make decisions on religious grounds that, as Paul's resolution underlines, may be arguable and they reinforce ignoring the twin elephants in the living room: that the Pledge and all similar Oaths would not be controversial under voluntary schools and that as a political statement, it is profoundly against everything the Founders stood for, and instead all for what nationalist socialism stands for.
The US is thus embroiled in a controversy over words whose intent, unexpected implications, and meaning few have stopped to consider and many wish to conceal. It is not a major Libertarian issue, but clarity of public discussion is, and while the US has many less subtle problems, it and countries with similar oaths can learn from those who would like to live in a free, secular society unmolested by big-Government boosterism and recognize the danger of such coerced, unanalyzed litmus tests of loyalty over generations.
People complain of growing and unlimited government power, conformism and cowardice, a ramboism combined with real fear of attack, interference in religious matters, attacks on local autonomy, lack of independence among the youth, of worse racial disharmony even as more legislation meant to create goodwill is applied and while former communist and fascist countries struggle to adopt free markets and internationally enlightened tolerance, the US is sliding into a deepening socialism mixed with every group pressing for to crush others. They are unaware that the Oath deepens such trends automatically by deepening the ideas that lead to these problems, every morning.
No matter how many mentions of God, motherhood, flags, or apple pie are added to things such as the Pledge, at the end of the day a document cunningly crafted to induce feudalisitic receptiveness to nationalist socialist popular dictatorship is still a feudal oath to nationalist socialist popular dictatorship. Some things can't be fixed.
People like the Pledge in desiring some uncontroversial ritual affirming love of country and fellowship. If that was all that mattered we could hug each other or not, because part of being free is that others disagree. But if it's voluntary, for fellowship's sake and tradition, I'll Pledge proudly.
But that's not all that matters. For the Pledge's politicized words mean something, something disturbing, and if you focus on them you realize that the specifics by design betray what we're told and feel it is meant to say.
To recite, while ignoring the implications, is to teach kids words are meaningless.
It accustoms them for predatory politicians with definitions of elastic.
REPLACE THE PLEDGE
Curiously, the US did not even have a national flag until the WW II era, the government making merely a vague description of colors for governmental use. Americans were quite jealous that the flag was the people's flag, not a mere bureaucrat's symbol, and individualistically was made in differing shapes, star arrangements, and even numbers of stripes. The original Pledge accordingly said not the flag but my flag. Bellamy from his writings apparently hoped that by getting people to focus on the flag as national he would change the discourse and attitudes away from the still vibrant Federalism that made many Americans still feel more attached to State or local banners. Indeed. The idea of an official government flag was viewed as a sort of idolatry, a remnant of European feudalism.
Am I against reciting the Pledge? No.
I understand what people mean to say as poetry and respect it. If done voluntarily, I defend this right like a tiger. Such community rituals are soon laden with historic meaning even though when looked at closely they make little sense. What do-gooder organization does not solemnly bedeck honorees in ridiculous hats? What country does not have its share of hallowed criminals from kings to misguided revolutionaries whose misdeeds are forgiven for the good they did? While visiting friends in Britain I have respectfully toasted the Queen in might and glory, though she strikes me as merely a nice, modest lady of a certain age of at best technical political acumen and a singular choice of hats; and lustily joined in singing Rule Britannia, though the words are so silly that to read them seriously is to seriously laugh. Many Blacks offended by symbols from the Civil War, have found that at best they can hope that people will be conscious of the whole history, as supporters will invariably assert equally complex claims of tradition.
This can get quite complex. In Florida a Black group wanted to have the cross of the Florida flag removed, only to find that Latins became upset because, pace the claims of the Old Cause, they saw it as memorializing the peace colors banner of Republican Spain (the medieval republics) before the forced unification of 1492 and eventual replacement with the War colors of Imperial Spain in the early 1700s. One happy result is that the old white and red Spanish banner now flies side by side with the Florida flag at certain monuments, much to the satisfaction of generous Spanish tourists. There are many such thought provoking examples.
So I can certainly respect these issues. But I don't respect community or government coercively forcing a serf's declaration, and now anything else, down people's throats.
If you support glowing displays of American patriotism and if people must recite something, then I propose the issue is not Pledge or anti-Pledge, but are you for or against replacing sneaky coerced recital of the subtly subversive Pledge with voluntary recitation of the one core document of the Revolution and the Constitution: The Bill of Rights.
Quick, recite the Pledge.
Now quick, recite the Bill of Rights which is the Republic for which it stands.
Can't do it?
Then you're like the goody-goody spouse who recites the marriage vows ... and sleeps with another with predictable results. With the same result for your country. And that is what you teach your children.
Let's replace this Trojan Horse, and the bad civic habits it brings.
Recite the Bill of Rights instead and stand for the world it promises, not the Pledge.
Michael Gilson De Lemos ("MG") is on the Executive Committee of the US Libertarian Party, and also co-ordinates the Libertarian International Organization. Retired as a Fortune 100 management consultant, he is working on books on management and libertarian philosophy. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.