Just stay quiet: Poster hoax about the Pledge of Allegiance


Anybody send this to you on Facebook (100 times, maybe?)

Hoax claims about the Pledge of Allegiance, found on Facebook and innumerable e-mails

Hoax claims about the Pledge of Allegiance, found on Facebook and innumerable e-mails

Clever, eh?  It repeats the McCarthy-era editing of the Pledge of Allegiance, and then comes up with this whopper:

. . . My generation grew up reciting this every morning in school, with my hand on my heart.  They no longer do that for fear of offending someone!

Let’s see how many Americans will re-post and not care about offending someone!

Not quite so long-lived as the Millard Fillmore Bathtub Hoax — which started in 1917 — but a lot more common these days.

Just as false.  Maybe more perniciously so.

Consider:

  1. Actually, 45 of our 50 states require the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.  The five exceptions:  Iowa, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wyoming.  See any pattern there?
  2. None of the five states previously required the Pledge, and then stopped.
  3. None of the five states claim to not require the pledge in order to avoid offending anyone.  Oklahoma would be happy to offend people on such issues, most of the time.
  4. Reposting historically inaccurate claims, without fear of offending anyone, is no virtue.  It’s just silly.

The creator of that poster is probably well under the age of 50, and may have grown up with the hand-over-heart salute used after World War II.  That was not the original salute, and I’d imagine the author is wholly ignorant of the original and why it was changed.

Students pledging to the flag, 1899, 8th Division, Washington, D.C. Part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston 1890 - 1900 Washington, D.C., school survey.

Wikipedia image and caption: Students pledging to the flag, 1899, 8th Division, Washington, D.C. Part of the Frances Benjamin Johnston 1890 – 1900 Washington, D.C., school survey.

Wikipedia gives a concise history of the salute:

Swearing of the Pledge is accompanied by a salute. An early version of the salute, adopted in 1892, was known as the Bellamy salute. It started with the hand outstretched toward the flag, palm down, and ended with the palm up. Because of the similarity between the Bellamy salute and the Nazi salute, developed later, the United States Congress instituted the hand-over-the-heart gesture as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States, instead of the Bellamy salute. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred on December 22, 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code language first passed into law on June 22, 1942.

Students in an unnamed school in 1941, offering the Bellamy Salute for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Students in an unnamed school in 1941, offering the Bellamy Salute for the Pledge of Allegiance. Wikipedia image.

One might understand why the Bellamy Salute was changed, during war with Nazi Germany.

Arrogance and ignorance combine to form many different kinds of prejudices, all of them ugly.  The arrogant assumption that only “our generation” learned patriotism and that whatever goes on in schools today is not as good as it was “in our day,” regardless how many decades it’s been since the speaker was in a public school, compounds the ignorance of the fact that since 1980, forced patriotic exercises in schools have increased, not decreased.

Like much about our nation’s troubles, assumptions based on ignorance often are incorrect assumptions.  Consequently, they give rise to what is today clinically known as the Dunning Kruger Effect (or syndrome), so elegantly summed by by Bertrand Russell in the 1930s:

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Humorously summed up by “Kin” Hubbard:

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

Ignorance is a terrible disease, but one easily cured, by reading.  We can hope.

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14 Responses to Just stay quiet: Poster hoax about the Pledge of Allegiance

  1. Lee says:

    I like this version of the Pledge:
    “I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the Republic which it established: one nation from many peoples, promising liberty and justice for all.”

    No God, no idolatry, no worship of a symbol (the FLAG!!!) that can be made to mean whatever somebody wants it to mean, an acknowledgement that America has an ethnically-mixed heritage, and also that while that promise of “liberty and justice for all” has been made, it hasn’t exactly been achieved yet.

    Like

  2. JamesK says:

    We had to say it in grade school (early 80’s) but never had to say it past that point.

    I’ve never quite figured out the point of compelling someone, especially children, to say the pledge.

    One should say the Pledge by one’s own choice, not because someone else told you to.

    Like

  3. Jim says:

    I started public school in 1970. The POA was said from K through about 4th grade. But afterward, not so much. That was suburban Pittsburgh. Moved to Ohio, where it was never said that I could remember in public schools. Oh, maybe before an assembly once a month or something.

    But when I switched over to private, Christian school…the POA was NEVER said. EVER. Not because of any ethic in operation. There was plenty of jingoistic nonsense and faux history being taught in the classrooms. They just didn’t have the time.

    And at the time, I thought it was a crock that they didn’t. But then, I was a jingoistic, right wing nut job.

    Since then, I’ve read my Bible. And the Church Fathers. And the founding fathers. Putting “under God” in the Pledge did nothing to serve America or the Christian faith. If anything, it has diluted and weakened both. And while we’re at it, let’s get “In God We Trust” off our money. That never computed for me.

    Thanks for this, Ed. It’s excellent!

    Like

  4. Kellee says:

    Touche. Great arguments. Keep up the good work.

    Like

  5. […] Fillmore’s Bathtub — a blog named after a hoax — Ed Darrell takes on a piece of crazy-uncle Facebook spam about the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a good overview — along with pictures of American schoolchildren doing the […]

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    46 out of 50. The poster is even more wrong.

    Like

  7. Michael Pullmann says:

    Funnily enough, I grew up in Oklahoma. The state may not have required us to say the Pledge every morning, but we did anyway.

    Like

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for the memories, everybody. I’d love to hear from someone who came through the schools in the last decade or so. I wonder if they ever got the message about what the Pledge means.

    Like

  9. JamesK says:

    I’d like it out as a Christian because to me it’s nothing more than taking God’s name in vain.

    That and it smacks of Frank Burns and Colonel Flagg.

    Like

  10. sbh says:

    Yes, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity” or whatever it was Yeats wrote.

    I learned the pledge of allegiance in school a year or so after the words “under God” were put in and the teachers and other adults who had learned it without the words kept stumbling over it. I remember somebody–I think it was our school principal–who when called on to join us in the pledge, inevitably said the word “indivisible” while we were saying “under God”, and then would pause for a moment for us to catch up.

    I spent some time in early grade school (first or second grade I suppose) trying to work out the meaning of the pledge, which nobody ever bothered to officially explain to us. Classmates I talked with regarded it either as a meaningless ritual (just one of those things you have to do in school) or as some sort of patriotic duty not to be questioned or understood. I had to look up the words “pledge”, “allegiance”, “republic”, and “indivisible”–which is to say I asked my mother or father what they meant–and tried to puzzle out the meaning of phrases such as “for which it stands”. The word “indivisible” was a particular stumbling-block: what, exactly, was indivisible? God? My father (I think it was) explained to me that it meant that the United States was a single nation, not a mere collection of sovereign states, and that it could not be divided, and gave me some context about the civil war. So how did God fit in? I wanted to know. Nobody could really explain it, though my mother gave me to understand that it was something to do with politics and making people feel good and I would get it when I was older.

    A bit later, when I was in fourth grade and my brother in third, we had a discussion about the meaning of the pledge. My brother said that while he didn’t necessarily understand the individual words of the pledge, he got the meaning of it, which was that he would never wave any flag higher than ours, and that he would be willing to lay down his life if necessary for the flag. While I had a high appreciation for our flag–one of my favorite possessions was a fifty-star flag I had bought about the time our school was replacing its old forty-eight star flag with a forty-nine star flag–that interpretation seemed a bit over-the-top to me. We both agreed, however, that the phrase “under God” was just silly, and we weren’t going to say it any more. And we didn’t.

    At some point in grade school I became aware that the words “under God” were not an original part of the pledge; I saw the pledge written without them in an old book that had belonged to my father when he was a child. I think it was an old Boy Scout manual; at any rate it had material in it about identifying types of clouds and animal footprints and other woodsy lore. I believe it was in that same book that I saw a salute with outstretched hand (the Bellamy Salute I suppose) that I liked better than our hand-over-the-heart gesture. Seeing the old pledge and salute made me aware, at any rate, that what we were learning in school wasn’t necessarily the way things had always been done–though, honestly, it wasn’t until the advent of the internet that I realized just how recently these changes had been made.

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  11. Pat Morgan says:

    My generation also had to learn to add phrase “under God”. We also got to watch the McCarthy hearings on the old black and white where you were called a commie if you did not like what he decreed. I will only pledge in the original form and I do inform the younger folk of the origins of the newer version. I think the part that irritates me most is those who know better my age and all who way whats wrong with God in the pledge, leave it alone. They have no idea how offensive it is to some knowing that it is meant to be only the Christian version of God. The secular version is the heart and soul of the pledge, the addition is not. I would add if we were all going to add something, like this I pledge allegiance to the Flag and the Republic for whic it stands, one nation indivisible, ever working for peace, with liberty and justice for all. Now its not the way it is but it is less offensive than the current one.

    Like

  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Amen. Highly ironic that the phrase “one nation indivisible,” had its own indivisibility sacrificed to religious fanatics.

    Like

  13. Ellie says:

    My generation had to learn to add the phrase “under God.” I’d like it out. I don’t believe a reference to my Creator belongs in a secular pledge of loyalty to a human government.

    Furthermore, the founders of this country saw no reason to require a loyalty pledge from its citizens.

    I’m quite positive most people, unless they are old enough to remember, are unaware of the original Bellamy salute. When I visited the Memorial Day Museum in Waterloo, NY, a few years back, the curator told me I was the first visitor who had ever mentioned it to her. BTW, nice museum if you’re ever in the area.

    If I feel compelled to recite the PoA, I recite it in its original form.

    “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    That phrase “one nation indivisible” was quite important to the writer. No words stuck in and no comma. One nation indivisible. I recently read that most people cannot give a definition of the word “indivisible.” I find that disheartening, since that’s what the original PoA was all about.

    Like

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