A hollow pledge
Recent letters in The Tribune about the Pledge of Allegiance have generated hundreds of comments online. With Flag Day coming on June 14, I'd also like to chime in on the subject.
First, I don't mind that the author of the pledge was a socialist. So-called socialism often serves us well.
The pledge could be viewed as an antidote to anti-federal fervor. When a few Utah sheriffs, for example, vowed to arrest any federal agents who enforce U.S. gun laws, perhaps the sheriffs forgot that in reciting the pledge (which they all do), they swear allegiance to our federal republic.
Remember, even in the comparatively small land areas owned by the states, the federal Constitution reigns supreme. And "one nation, under God, indivisible" suggests that secessionists aren't winning points from the Almighty.
Utah's 2012 law ordering all public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily has a significant flaw. It's toothless. What if students, lacking a written excuse from parents, still refuse to say it? The law provides no punishment. Before students discover they won't be punished for refusing to pledge, perhaps the Legislature will designate penalties.
The current president seems fond of human rights, so beatings and waterboarding may be off the table. But lawmakers could find other ways to inflict pain on disobedient students. And with some Utah teachers packing heat these days, when a gun-toting teacher encounters a child who refuses to swear allegiance, he could simply tap his firearm and whisper, "Say it, buddy."
If legislators discuss penalties, they must be careful not to repeat the errors of the 2012 pledge debate. One lawmaker stated that he had Marine friends who died defending the flag. Really? My father was a World War II Marine who was wounded at Guadalcanal, and my stepfather climbed Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima. Neither was defending the flag.
Instead, soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution: "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 ... ." Notice the words "true faith and allegiance." The real allegiance of Americans is to the Constitution.
Therefore, perhaps we ought to consider replacing the pledge with something more suitable. How about asking students to recite the preamble to the Constitution instead? ("We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union ... .") If that's too long, the shorter preamble to the Declaration of Independence might suffice: "We hold these truths to be self-evident ... ."
Do thoughtful Christians who "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" really feel comfortable placing hand over heart and swearing allegiance to a flag? I can't imagine that early Mormons in the Utah Territory would have done such a thing. Jehovah's Witnesses get it right they view the pledge as idol worship.
The pledge is a relic of an era in which Americans feared the Russians were coming. It is a loyalty oath and, frankly, is more befitting of Nazi Germany than of a great country. Those who love their country need no pledge, and those who intend their country harm won't be deterred by one. Let's get rid of it or replace it with something better.
In the meantime, three cheers for students who choose not to recite such hollow words.
Steve Warren is the author of "Drat! Mythed Again." He lives with his family in West Valley City.