Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"The Pledge of Allegiance"

The Pledge of Allegiance was at first accompanied by an arm salute. After the Nazis swept to power, the similarity in Nazi and American salutes led to a protocol in which the right hand was placed over the heart during recitations.
In the brick-thick cold, across the rutted and icy street, stands the street lamp that has been there ever since I moved in. Its blue-ish cast seemed to add to the cold this morning. Blue, like grey, is such a cold color.

But beyond the street lamp was the moon -- a something-short-short-of-a-half-moon crescent resting in the heavens without effort or purpose.

It made me think how human it is to create a useful or inspiring philosophy and then, as part of the package, inject an aspect that shoots that philosophy in the foot. Religion, for example, may look to codify and enshrine some deeper understanding, but the more it is shaped and coddled, the further it retreats from what it claims to proclaim.

Here in the United States, there is something called "The Pledge of Allegiance." Its assertions are sometimes repeated by school children and politicians and others desiring to express their fealty and love. It's pretty simple:
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.
The phrase "under God" was added in 1954, during a Cold War with 'godless' communists like Russia. The pledge has been tweaked in the time since it was invented in 1892 and "under God" constituted the last of the tweaks.

A number of objections have been raised over time, but the pledge retains its "under God" proviso in much the same way the dollar bill does with its "in God we trust."

What interests me is not the legal or moral or personal objections to this phrasing, but rather the fact that in the midst of asserting a unity of purpose, a proviso is added that does nothing so much as to assert divisions in what is said to be "indivisible."

Indivisibility strikes me as being like the moon ... wonderful and unassailable and un-improvable and ineffable: It's simply true and no addition will make it somehow true-r. The willingness to tack yet another tail on the donkey that has a perfectly good tail is ... what?... silly or self-defeating or deflating or suicidal, perhaps?

Someone proclaims a unity and in that proclamation insists on a division between, in this case, "God" and "man."

The tendency to correct the uncorrectable, to improve the unimprovable, to inject friction where none exists ... what a strangely human thing to do. It's like the old expression, "He's so dumb, he'd fuck up a wet dream."

Growing up, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance in accordance with school policy. I can remember thinking how somehow lumpy it seemed to tack on "under God." It just felt off-kilter, irrespective of religious persuasion.

And the same is increasingly true of the moon and spiritual endeavors. Knowledge, like a street lamp, casts a wonderful light. But it just ain't the moon.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's like science. Investigate everything, test everything, even the stuff you thought you knew. Dip everything in vinegar to see what happens. And part of that litmus test for "spiritual" endeavor is to be open to the idea that everything you know is wrong. Run everything past your childhood and see what changes. Vinegar can be sour, life can be sour, and only an acid test will show you what's left.