Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Uhhh-Merican






  
I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. I haven’t said it in years.  If, by chance, I am someplace where a recitation is going on, I do stand quietly while other people say it. I do not, unless I am asked, go into the history of the socialist that wrote it, or of his purpose in writing it. I don’t bring up how weird it is that a ‘free’ society would compel schoolchildren to swear allegiance to it every morning. I don’t point out the fact that pledging allegiance to the flag and ‘to the republic for which it stands’ is, in essence a  pledge of fidelity to Obama and his minions.   Some would say I ought to raise a ruckus, but I don’t. I simply abstain.
  I abstain not because I’m trying to be a rabble rousing jerk or to be contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I abstain because I truly believe it to be a case of misplaced loyalties. I understand that, for many people, the pledge is a nostalgic remnant of a bygone era which may or may not have actually existed.  It’s a devotion to an idea and that their devotion to this oddly worded mantra (the flag? Which flag?  Just the one on front of me? What about the flag in that other building? Am I pledging allegiance to every American flag on earth? What sort of loyalty does a piece of fabric need from me anyway?) is so wrapped up in emotion that  logic would have a hard time penetrating.  I know that their heart is in the right place. I know they probably don’t know the history.  They probably haven’t thought it through. So I stand politely. But I don’t say it.  Some people ask me why. Some people are nice about it, and some people are belligerent. Some people just glare at me like I’m sort of commie Philistine.  But I abstain nonetheless, and in doing so, am considered un-American.
  I am former military, and I attend a church chock-full of current and former military. That also means it’s chock full of military spouses who relentlessly post and parrot pro-military propaganda on social media sites.  They do that, not because they are willing dupes of the American hegemony, but rather because they love their husbands.  It is not uncommon for a statement to be made like ‘we could never do too much for our troops’.  I know that’s not a rational statement, that’s an emotional statement, based on any number of false assumptions.  If that statement is carried to its logical conclusion, then it wouldn’t be ‘too much’ to erect a 500 ft. gold statue of every single military person. After all, ‘freedom isn’t free’.  To challenge such statements, however, is considered un-American.
  These same people will continually lobby for military pay increases.  My counterpart in the military sometimes works long hours, as I know from first-hand experience. I remember working 80 and 90 hour weeks.  I remember being awake for more than one day in a row. I also remember long periods of busy work and pointlessness.  To say that there is a certain point at which military pay outstrips the amount of work being done isn’t an act of disloyalty, it’s an act of economic logic.  Yes, they have a dangerous job, but not all of them are doing that job.  Aside from that, a less aggressive foreign policy would make that job way less dangerous.  Unfortunately, to suggest such a thing is also considered un-American.
  I am an American. I was born here, and so far I remain here by choice. But I don’t see, from scripture, that some sort of continual show pageantry of loyalty is required of me for my choice.  So in church when one particular song about God’s blessings is sung, and they get to the part about the blessedness of being an American, and somebody snatches the flag up located on the platform and everybody stands to their feet, I remain seated.  I consider it odd that when singing about God, who presumably is the reason we are all there, nobody stands up, but when a multi-colored piece of fabric is foisted at us, everyone stands.  Once again, for me, it’s a case of misplaced loyalties on their part. For others, it is a blatant act of un-American-ism on my part.
  It probably would be more fun to be a rabble-rouser, but less effective.  Most people have been so marinated in nationalistic propaganda that challenging the status quo even passively is akin to saying that the sky is pink.  It just never occurs to them. They do it, they grandparents did it, and so why aren’t you doing it, Mr. un-American?
  The tragically ironic part of all this is that I believe, with my small acts of going against the flow of the social norm, I am exhibiting the very essence of what it means to be a free person. I live according to the dictates of my conscience, and   give honor to whom honor is due. I stand politely, but unreservedly against peer pressure, and every once in a while someone will ask ‘What’s the deal with you and the Pledge?’  At that point, the real conversation can begin.
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