more political names, don't judge a book by its cover, the bellamy salute, and things we put our kids through

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Written back in April of this year along with "Today I am a Bourbon Democrat", and Today I will be a "No-Nothing"

Today I will be a Christian Socialist.

In the continued saga of making Blair a more informed citizen I tripped and fell over some fun (but kinda disturbing) facts in the evolution of our country's early quest for making our children more patriotic. I can't take full credit for the tripping, as the reference came from a workmate of Bryan's, but nonetheless sent me on an interesting rabbit trail.

And because I didn't know about this before just goes to show you that either the education I got was cruddy, or pollyannic...

or I am just a big dumb dumb.

But the visual person that I am really gets it when shown a picture, somehow making the two sides of my brain connect so that I might retain the information...

ask me in a year.

The topic is the pledge of allegiance.

Ok I knew about the whole "under god" debate, but I didn't know about the origins of the pledge, and the somewhat unfortunate evolution of its salute (being adopted by hitler).

But in reading about all of this it triggered a memory. I seemed to recall that at some point in school Daniel wouldn't do the pledge. I couldn't remember the details exactly so I asked him to refresh my memory.

It was kindergarten and he was five. Because of us moving from Canada to the US in the middle of the year he was thrust into school later in the year(his first year of school ever!) missing the first three months. Although I don't know if the other kids in his class were given an orientation on the pledge I know that he never got one. So when faced with being required to perform this seemingly strange ritual without anyone giving an explanation of "why they do it", he, for the sake of understanding, decided to test it.

He turned his back on the flag.

Now you have to understand that he was a bit of an abstract thinker even back then. These days if you have a conversation with him you may walk away feeling like you have been intellectually left in the dust, but by the age of three he was hardly talking and the few words he could say were garbled. At five in this new classroom setting where he was still trying to figure out what the rules were nothing made sense. As he tells it in his observation of the other kids, most of them looking various directions, hand on their hearts, picking their nose, fidgeting and doing what five year olds do, he couldn't put his finger on the purpose. Employing what he thought would be the process of elimination he turned around, in hopes to see what info he could glean from the reaction.

He got an answer. But not one that gave him any more information.

The teacher firmly grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around to face the flag.

His thoughts: "Well at least I know that I shouldn't face the wall."

But still no explanation for what seemed like cultic behavior.

And I can only imagine what the teacher's point of view had been. This kid just moved from Canada after all...

But it is intriguing to me that children employ judgement on an instinctual level, especially if something just seems wrong.

Today, as a culture we don't think much about the pledge or where it came from, just that we "should" do it and that it represents patriotism. Kinda like trick-or-treating being something fun for kids and forgetting that it originally sprang from a genuine pagan ritual.

In a nutshell (thank to Wiki) the pledge of allegance was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist and Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy as part of a marketing campaign to sell subscriptions of a magazine called the Youth's Companion. That was it's birth. A bit like Santa's red suit persona being birthed by a popular Coca-Cola campaign.

The beauty of capitalism.

Not to say that I don't think the pledge may have developed into a useful tool to gently remind children what country they live in and are "pledging too". Except that children of certain faiths could not "pledge", having the action be in conflict by being idolatrous. That original intent modified by the later addition of the "under God" text which left out other certain religious groups in the great melting pot we call america.

Oh well.

But back to Daniel's reaction... being faced with having to participate in a ritual that seemed wrong even though everyone else was doing it...

he didn't.

He hadn't been indoctrinated yet. Didn't know the rules, the ropes, the expectations. If you would have asked him if he was american he would of said yes... and canadian (he's both).

Which is why when I hear people pass judgement on someone because they don't look a certain way, have the same rituals, don't wear a cross, or a flag pin, or a WWJD bracelet, I have trouble not passing judgement on them. I used to wear a cross until I got older and realized my faith ran deeper than the jewelry and that a conversation stopper hanging around my neck might not be what god intended. But that is just me.

The world has gotten smaller though and requires more nuanced communication because there is a greater need for understanding when your neighbor has a slightly different way of doing things, and he probably has a good reason based on the roots of his beliefs and a nice long conversation may bring greater understanding...

or maybe his reason is more superficial...

like that flag pin is really tacky.

While living in canada it was appropriate to wear a little plastic, fuzzy, red poppy pin to commemorate veteran's day for the common wealth.

and that pin is really tacky too. And they make a gillion of them every year and sell them like candy corn at halloween. But the donations made from those poppies fund veteran's services.

I don't know if our veterans get funding from the sale of flag pins (i haven't checked) but I do know when my father was given a vet pin while visiting the National WW2 Memorial it had a very familiar inscription on the back...

Made in China.

Maybe tomorrow I will be a Whig.

the original pledge of allegiance salute.





1 Comment

Whoa! Those kids could just as well be shouting "Heil Hitler"! Scary!

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This page contains a single entry by Blair published on September 11, 2008 9:28 AM.

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