Summary: We need to return to basics in order to reform America. Devising complex technocratic solutions are a snare and dead end, building castles in the sky while the 1% gain strength. We need to return to the fundamentals of the American project, both the symbolic and conceptual designs. Today we look at the Pledge, another in a series searching for a path to a better future for America.
Oaths were not purpos’d, more than law,
To keep the Good and Just in awe,
But to confine the Bad and Sinful,
Like mortal cattle in a penfold.
— Samuel Butler’s “Hudibras”, Part II, Canto II (1664)
This is great: Article II Section 1 of the Constitution:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
In the fires of the Civil War a more detailed oath was forged, passed on 13 May 1884, now taken by all civil, military, and judicial officials excerpt the President. This is perfect:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
This oath points to our duty under the founding document. The Tea Party was exactly right that we have lost sight of our system as it was, and forgotten how it should work. Too bad they’re interested in only fragments of the Constitution, and despise some of its principles (i.e., they’re part of the problem, not the solution).
As the United States evolved in the Gilded Age, with rising inequality at home and imperial aspirations abroad, our rulers devised an oath suitable for peasants. This was written by Francis Bellamy (socialist and Baptist minister) in 1892, formally adopted by Congress in 1942, and revised four times since then. The Founders are appalled by this.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This is wrong in many ways.
- The Constitution does not mention God, an explicit decision made for deep reasons.
- Swearing allegiance to the flag is antithetical to their ideas as expressed in the Oaths of office they created.
- That it is taken by children, too young to understand its meaning or seriousness, shows the intent to be indoctrination rather than devotion to citizenship.
This is the Pledge for a nation run by the 1%, a pledge to the Flag and pleasant abstract concepts. Their servants, today including people such as Eric Posner and John Yoo, will tell you what those things mean. Swear allegiance to the flag and obey. This is a betrayal to Founder’s legacy, and perhaps the moment when the American project first jumped off the rails.
We need a new oath, appropriate for a two century old nation entering the 21st century. One taken by adults, perhaps at their coming of age to mark assumption of citizenship. Post your recommendations in the comments.
Reforming America requires digging through the ruins of the US polity to find the foundation buried under the detritus. It remains sound, await our rediscovery of it, and we can rebuild on it.
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