What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Four years ago I wrote an article explaining the sordid history of the pledge of allegiance and the modification I made to its words to make it more palatable to me. For a couple of years I used this version whenever I found myself at an event or meeting in which those present were invited to verbally demonstrate their allegiance.
Now I don’t say any pledge at all.
Honestly, I have simply grown tired of seeing people wear their supposed love of freedom on their sleeve. Whether it’s attending a patriotic event, expressing gratitude for “living in the freest country,” saying the pledge of allegiance, participating in a parade, or a variety of other superficial activities, these are devoid of any substantive meaning without corresponding actions. In short, many talk the talk but few walk the walk—or, in Tom Paine’s words, there are too many summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.
While I take issue with the pledge itself—both its history and its textual composition (why do so few find it odd that they are pledging their allegiance to a piece of cloth or symbol of the state?)—my primary motivation for abstaining altogether from saying the pledge is to encourage people to think about their regurgitation of the same. In other words, I want people to focus on the “walk” and see how without it, the “talk” is worthless fluff.
I am extremely active in political issues, having now made it my full time (and then some) career. I’ve written several books on liberty issues, I regularly speak at events or in interviews to provide a liberty perspective on current events or public policy, and I founded and now operate a successful “think tank” that is changing the political landscape. It would be very difficult to accuse me of being “unpatriotic” or in opposition to the “liberty and justice for all” that the pledge calls for—and, let’s be honest, that’s the initial thought the average American would have upon seeing somebody refuse to make the pledge. (If you don’t believe me, research the reactions made to Barack Obama when he didn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Oy.) Given that my public identity is so closely tied to my political persona, those who observe me standing silently during the pledge—while every other person is acting like a “good citizen” and performing as expected—are led to wonder why. This initial confusion can give way to greater consideration to the problems presented in my previous article on the pledge. In my experience, those with whom I discuss the pledge often change their behavior as I did several years ago.
I pledge my allegiance cautiously and conscientiously. I do not pledge it to a group of politicians and bureaucrats that routinely violates my rights and the rights of my friends and family. I do not pledge it to an institution that has harmed, starved, occupied, and killed millions of innocent individuals. I do not pledge it to a theoretical governmental system (the “Republic”) that has failed to protect and preserve liberty and justice. I do not pledge it to an indivisible nation, for I believe in the right of secession as did the founders. I do not pledge it to a symbol or a tangible item.
I pledge my allegiance to God and my conscience. I am loyal to my family and friends. I am committed to the truth. Because no political system is perfect, and because they are almost always overrun by conniving individuals seeking power and fortune, I withhold my allegiance from them preferring to focus on immutable principles. My allegiance is freely given to the cause of liberty, desiring for all people the enjoyment of their unalienable rights.
As I think about the thousands of times I’ve said the pledge throughout my life, my thoughts turn to the people who said it along with me—mostly good and sincere people, no doubt. But most of these individuals made no effort to defend the liberty and justice they claimed to revere, and, to the extent that they had any interest in political issues, often voted for or supported politicians and policies that violated these ideals. Clearly, reciting the pledge is a pathetic barometer of one’s understanding of and commitment to the principles upon which the Republic was founded.
Abigail Adams once wrote to her husband, John, that “we have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.” I’m inclined to agree with her, and therefore have decided to let my actions speak for themselves.