The Pledge of Allegiance has been in the news a lot lately. People are arguing over whether or not the Democrats are being disrespectful by not reciting the pledge in session, or whether they are simply exercising their rights. Students have been reprimanded for not reciting it; other students are told they need not recite it, but they do need to stand.
Frances Bellamy, the ordained minister who originally wrote the pledge in 1892, did not include the words “Under God” in the original, and at that time, the posture children were taught to use when they recited it looked like the photo at the top of this post. Fortunately, that posture was soon abandoned for today’s more humble stance, standing, hand over one’s heart.
Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance hoping it would be recited by students in any country, which is why the original read, “I pledge allegiance to MY flag…” You can read more about the history here:
I know that in classrooms across the United States, there is no one way that teacher or students respond to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. I know one high school teacher whose students routinely stand quietly for the pledge, but do not say the words. Most of the students in that school are young men and women of color. One day after the pledge, he wrote a prompt on the board asking the students to write a response to this question : “’with liberty and justice for all.’ Is this true for you?”
The students wrote more on that writing prompt, an activity he gives them daily, than any other prompt to date. They were also more willing to speak, to read their writing, to engage with the conversation that followed. The question itself seemed to make them feel freer to speak about an issue they had carefully remained silent about until they were specifically asked their opinion.
Many controversies are swirling right now about the Pledge. Some say it should be rewritten. Some say it should be abolished. Some say those who do not show proper respect (standing, removing hats, placing one’s right hand over their heart, reciting the pledge) should be punished.
I have not been in the situation to have to say the pledge for some time. When I have been, I’ve opted to stand, put my hand on my heart, but not say the words. This is because I do not take pledging allegiance to anything or anyone, carelessly, and if there is anything that I do pledge my allegiance to, it is to my maker and redeemer.
Today I looked again at our Pledge, and I read many articles debating its value and the value of those who do or do not recite it in the way that was originally intended. And I decided to try to write a pledge that I could say – one that reflects the world today, my hopes for it, and my allegiance to participating in valuing and caring for it and its inhabitants.
Here’s what I wrote. You might try to write your own. It was an interesting experience.
My Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the earth,
And all of life upon it.
And to all creatures,*
For which it was made
One world, divinely created,
Striving to live united,
With Freedom, dignity,
and justice for all.
*Note: there are many creatures I would prefer to not pledge any protective allegiance to, but I consider the pledge something we hope to attain, even if we aren’t there yet.