Ceremonial Patriotism

There are two rituals that go with being an elected official. The first is the swearing in ceremony. The second is the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag at the being of each meeting. The content of each is as different as the frequency of each.

The swearing in ceremony is a one time affair. This is an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. People who take this oath are called “oath takers” by people in the public who feel this act is a binding point of honor and commitment for as long as the office is held. Too often is is treated as just a silly initiation to the political club.

The Constitution includes: The original Constitution, the Bill of Rights (codified in the first 10 Amendments), and subsequent Amendments. The Supreme Court is the last stop for ruling interpretations of all three Constitution segments. The promise of a soon to follow Bill of Rights was a precondition for many people who signed the Constitution.

The Pledge of Allegiance was a late 1800’s addition to the political scenery. The Pledge is focused on the American flag. It is an act of faith that saluting the flag is a kind of signing off on being under some kind of authority of an unspecified God, affirming that national boundaries are not downwardly negotiable (except when its from England), and a plan for liberty and justice being coded in the stars and stripes somehow. There is no information in the Pledge where the keys to this code can be found. It is an act of faith that it is there somewhere.

It seems to me there is more useful information in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If repeating the Pledge over and over magically resulted in more “liberty and justice” I might feel differently. But people are lazy. They seem to think this group ritual substitutes for the critical analysis required to be a good citizen. It does not. Many outrages against liberty and justice have been committed by fervent flag pledgers. The God clause needs work also as deities often don’t get along with each other. Some of them call the Pledge idolatry.

It is far more common to pursue liberty and justice by using the tools of the Bill of Rights in a court of law than to whip out the flag and expect your opponents to fall down in shame and impotence. The flag is not the Ark of the Covenant.

So its clear to me that we have the relative importance of the Pledge and the Oath reversed. Fixing this error should be reflected in the regular public gatherings of our politicians.

I propose that when new politicians take office we make a gigantic spectacle of their first meeting. We will have attending politicians speak each line of the Pledge of Allegiance with megaphones followed by audience repetition. There will be a simultaneous light show. Next up will be the celebrity singing of the Star Spangled Banner with a military band, followed by a Yankee Doodle Dandy precision drill team. Last but not least, large flags will be passed out to members of the audience to wrap themselves in as politicians lead a procession out the room and around the building chanting “I pledge allegiance, I pledge allegiance.”

We will do this once every two years to get it all this brainless nonsense out of our system. Now for every meeting after this we will remind our representatives what their jobs are and what is really important. This will start by replacing the Pledge with the Oath to uphold the Constitution. Obviously there needs to be a little more. There needs to be superiority clause here about the law of the land being above personal and religious agendas and an emphatic statement that no one’s rights are above anyone else’s rights. This will be done every meeting where action is taken.

I’m ready to circulate an initiative to make the change. How about you?

One thought on “Ceremonial Patriotism

  1. Brilliant essay. Thank you for taking on the mindless systems of our government in an effort to increase our politician’s accountablility. Are you really thinking about writing an initiative? It is not a huge process and such an initiative would make an interesting “bed fellow” to the vote for our county to join the State of Jefferson.

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