The pledge of allegiance has been barred from schools as unconstitutional for the reference to god.
Maybe, maybe not, but I don't want to argue that. Although, I always found the scheduled and forced utterance of a loyalty oath kind of creepy.
My battle with the pledge of allegiance was perhaps the first critical moment in my political consciousness, the first moment when I realized that adults and the society they lived in, and the actions they proscribed for me, might be fundamentally flawed.
A short version of the story.
I was in seventh grade, it was 1981. All through elementary school, we had been prompted to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance. Then in junior high the process was repeated. Morning announcements and then we stood, faced the flag and recited the pledge of allegiance. I had done this without thinking along with everyone else for all those years, until one day when I stood, I just didn't feel like saying it, so I just stood there, kind of half mouthing it so that I wouldn't get into trouble. This continued for about a week, and during this time, I slowly began to look around at the other kids, not at the flag as instructed, and just kind of watched them. Mostly, they just stood and looked bored. And somehow, in a flash, it struck me just how odd this whole process was, forcing children to stand everyday and pledge their fealty to a piece of cloth, and to the republic.
Something inside my head changed in that moment. There was nothing in my history that would've indicated this, an "A" student, a well known rule follower and teacher's pet, suddenly, I was against the system. Somehow, it just seemed wrong that I was being forced to stand and take the pledge. Now, I gotta say, that I really had nothing against the pledge itself, merely the creepy process by which it was being forced on us. So I made up my mind.
The next day, I stood, not putting my hand on my heart, not even mouthing the words. I got a glance and a gesture to put my hand up from the girl who sat next to me, and a friend behind me gave me a little push on the shoulder and an emphatic eyebrow raise instructing me to join in. But I didn't.
It took three days for the teacher to notice which she followed with the same disaproving head nod indicating that I should put my hand up and join in. I looked away from her to the flag and thought about what all this must mean. She held me after class and asked me why I wasn't doing the pledge. The best I could manage was to try to explain to her that it just didn't feel right to be compelled to do it. In her most menacing voice, she told me to do it the next day. I didn't. In fact, I didn't even stand up. The stakes were raised, and the whole pledge process in the classroom broke down as everyone whispered about what I was, or perhaps better said, wasn't doing. I was sent to the principal's office.
After sitting there for the period, the teacher came in, explained the problem, me, to the principal, and then went back for her next class. You can guess the conversation. "Is there something wrong? Do you not like the pledge? You've always been such a good student." It went nowhere, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to explain to them how creepy it seemed to me that we had to recite a loyalty oath every morning to whoever or whatever. I made it very clear that it was the compulsion that seemed wrong.
I'm gonna shorten the story cause this is getting longer than I intended. I was sent to the school counsellor who extensively interrogated me trying to figure out why this model student with perfect previous behavior was suddenly displaying this "aberrant and abnormal," his words, I remember them specifically, behavior. From the principal, I was threatened with discipline, staying after school, detention, etc. But they never did contact my parents, at least not that I know of, probably because they didn't want to open that can of worms.
Anyway, this went on for two and a half weeks or so, me sitting while everyone else stood reciting the pledge with their eyes flitting between me and the teacher who was decidedly not looking in my direction waiting for something to happen.
Finally, the principal called me in and gave me the "we can't force you" talk, this after weeks of threatening me with discipline specifically to try to force me. We came to the agreement that I would stand, so as not to disrupt too much, but was henceforth released from having to say the pledge. And that is how I continued through the rest of Junior High and High School(I assume there was a lengthy entry in my file). Some days I did say the pledge, and some days, I didn't. But I was happy because I had been freed of having to say the pledge. I had made my point that they couldn't force me to mouth words of belief. That my beliefs were mine.
And the really strange thing about all this, is that I didn't really have a problem with the pledge itself, as a thing, as a concept, or as an action. Something in my brain just popped one day and said, "they can't force me to think a certain way." And since then, I never have. And that has lead me on a politico-philosophical journey very different from most.
I can say without fear that I am unique, that my interpretation of the world is unique, and that I can explain and defend my understanding of the world because I had to arrive at it the hard way. I never believe what I'm told unless the facts or someone can explain why it is true.
I feel both truly sorry for, and envious of, those people who never seriously questioned what they were told be it in religion, in politics or in definition of self. Their lives have been much easier than mine, but they also believe the myths and fairytales they were told as true. I listen to people tell me they believe in the garden of eden and then they laugh at the equivalent Greek/Inca/Navaho/Aborignal creation myths as foolish because of course the real estate agent who lives next door to me happens to be smarter than all men of all other cultures throughout history. It must be empowering, but it is so obviously wrong. Which side would you want to live on.
Ingnorance is Strength.
So although I have no stringent opinion on whether or not God should be mentioned in the pledge, I do stand against the principle of making children recite the pledge at all. If your being forced to pledge a belief, whether or not religion is mentioned, you are still being forced to pledge.