"I Pledge Allegiance"

Culture Watch

Cecilia O'Leary, Associate Professor of History, California State University, Monterey Bay, is the author of To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotismi> (Princeton University Press). Tony Platt, Professor of Social Work, California State University, Sacramento, is the author of The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency (University of Chicago Press). Both authors are members of the editorial board of the interdisciplinary journal Social Justice.

During the flush years of an exuberant dot.com economy, being an American meant little more than the freedom to consume or visit Disneyland. But since the September 11th attacks, a resurgent patriotism is omnipresent and nowhere is it more on display than in our schools.

From the White House the Bush administration launched a series of initiatives aimed at prescribing patriotism among the nation's 52 million schoolchildren. Government officials urged students to take part in a mass recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and called upon veterans to teach"Lessons for Liberty." The House of Representatives voted 444-0 for the display of signs proclaiming"God Bless America" in the public schools.

On thelocal level, the New York City Board of Education unanimouslypassed a resolution requiring all public schools to lead a daily pledge in the morning and at all school assemblies."It's a small way to thank the heroes of 9/11," explained the Board's president. In Madison, Wisconsin, the School Board reversed its previous position and voted to allow schools to recite a daily Pledge of Allegiance and sing"The Star-Spangled Banner." Nebraska dusted off a 1949 state law requiring schools to devise curricula aimed at instilling a"love of liberty, justice, democracy and America…in the hearts and minds of the youth." And after years of futile attempts, a conservative, fringe organization in Orange County - Celebration USA Inc. - succeeded in synchronizing a nationwide recitation of the pledge at 2:00 p.m. eastern time on October 12th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, people are hungry for social rituals and eager to communicate a deeper sense of national belonging. But this new rash of prescribing and orchestrating patriotism is not the answer.

Rituals of patriotism were first institutionalized between the Civil War and World War I. At the end of the bloodiest civil war of the nineteenth century the combatants left the battlefields for political, economic, and cultural arenas, where the struggle to make a nation continued with renewed intensity. In fact, many of the patriotic symbols and rituals that we now take for granted or think of as timeless were created during this period and emerged not from a harmonious, national consensus, but out of fiercely contested debates, even over the wording of the Pledge. Confronted by the dilemma that Americans are made, not born, educators and organizations, such as the Grand Army of the Republic, Women's Relief Corps and Daughters of the American Republic, campaigned to transform schools, in George Balch's words, into a"mighty engine for the inculcation of patriotism."

Balch, a New York City teacher and Civil War veteran, wrote what is thought to be the first pledge to the flag in which students promised to"give our heads and our hearts to God and our Country! One nation! One language! One flag!" Balch intended the pledge to teach discipline and loyalty to the"human scum, cast on our shores by the tidal wave of a vast migration." In 1890, Balch published a primer for educators on Methods for Teaching Patriotism in the Public Schools, which called for the use of devotional rites of patriotism modeled along the lines of a catechism."There is nothing which more impresses the youthful mind and excites its emotions," noted the West Point graduate, than the"observance of form."

To commemorate the first celebration of Columbus Day in 1892 and in preparation for the grand opening of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Youth's Companion magazine charged Francis Bellamy with writing a new pledge. Bellamy, a Christian socialist with a commitment to social reform, dismissed Balch's formula as a"pretty childish form of words, invented by an ex-military officer." He wanted a pledge that would resonate with American history and make students into active participants in a"social citizenry." For Bellamy the notion of"allegiance" evoked the great call to union during the Civil War and"one nation indivisible" recalled a phrase used by Lincoln. Bellamy was tempted to add the historic slogan of the French Revolution -"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" - to the language of his pledge, but in the end he decided that this would be too much for people to accept. Instead, he settled for the final phrase,"with liberty and justice for all." This way, he reasoned, the pledge could be ideologically"applicable to either an individualistic or a socialistic state," a matter for future generations to decide.

Bellamy's words --"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" - were gradually adopted throughout the country. But the pledge, once imagined as a living principle of justice and liberty, perhaps even equality, quickly became suffused with militarism and obedience to authority. On Columbus Day, 1892, according to newspaper reports, children marched with"drilled precision" as"one army under the sacred flag." In the wake of the Spanish-American War, state-sanctioned rituals of patriotism became more common. In New York, the day after war was declared on April 29, 1898, the legislature instructed the state superintendent of public instruction to prepare"a program providing for a salute to the flag at the opening of each day of school." Daily rituals aimed at reaching children's hearts were backed up with new civics curriculums to secure their minds with heroic images of virile soldiers and the honor of dying for one's country. A typical children's primer published in 1903 taught that"B stood for battles" and Z for the"zeal that has carried us through/When fighting for justice/With the Red, White and Blue."

During World War I, Americanizers worried about dual allegiances and feared that Bellamy's pledge allowed cunning fifth columnist immigrants to swear a secret loyalty to another country. To close this loophole, the words"my flag" were extended into"the flag of the United States." Many states now required students to salute the flag every day. In Chicago in 1916, an eleven-year old African American student was arrested because he refused to respect a symbol that represented Jim Crow and lynching."I am willing to salute the flag," Hubert Eaves explained,"as the flag salutes me."

Meanwhile, Boy Scout troops across the country staged massive operettas in celebration of"America First," while vigilantes forced German Americans suspected of insufficient loyalty to kiss the flag. A judge, unable to reverse a lower court's decision to sentence a man to twenty years of hard labor for abusive language toward the flag, believed that the man was"more sinned against than sinning." The mob, he wrote in his opinion, had descended into the kind of"fanaticism" that fueled the"tortures of the Inquisition."

Between the World Wars, campaigns for"100 percent Americanism" led to the persecution of thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses and the expulsion of their children from school when they refused to salute the flag. What began as a movement to encourage loyalty to a nation"with liberty and justice for all" had deviated into the suppression of dissent and unquestioning homage to the flag. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that an obligatory loyalty oath was unconstitutional, thus putting law on the side of any student who refuses to participate in patriotic or religious rituals. But even after the ruling, refusal to say the pledge took both courage and conviction.

The pledge remained unchanged until Flag Day, 1954, when President Eisenhower approved the addition of the constitutionally questionable phrase"under God" to differentiate this country from its godless Cold War antagonist. In the wake of public opposition to the Vietnam War, educators were not inclined to impose rote patriotic drills on their students or to resurrect the slogan of"One country, one language, one flag," which guided the teaching of civics earlier in the century. Since the 1980s, many schools have slowly begun to adopt textbooks and develop curriculums that speak to the needs of a multiethnic, polyglot population living in an increasingly interrelated world. This is not the time to reverse this trend by reverting to form over substance and rote memorization over democratic participation.

"What of our purpose as a Nation?" pondered Francis Bellamy more than a century ago when he crafted his pledge. Our students today can better use their time debating this question than marching in lockstep loyalty."At times of crisis," writes historian Eric Foner,"the most patriotic act of all is the unyielding defense of civil liberties, the right to dissent and equality before the law for all Americans."

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Rex RexCurry.net Curry - 9/18/2005

Shocking facts were exposed by me (Rex Curry) during research for court litigation against the Pledge of Allegiance. Elk Grove’s new Pledge case (9/14/05) virtually guarantees the high court again will consider the constitutionality of the Pledge, and I will be there to tell the whole truth, (including the parts that are hidden by the courts and media). As a libertarian lawyer, I provide pro bono services in schools nationwide to educate the public about the news:

1. The USA’s first Pledge used a straight-arm salute and it was the origin of the salute of the monstrous National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazis). It was not an ancient Roman salute. http://rexcurry.net/pledgesalute.html

2. The Pledge began with a military salute that then stretched outward toward the flag. Historic photographs are at http://rexcurry.net/pledge2.html and at http://rexcurry.net/pledge_military.html Due to the way that both gestures were used, the military salute led to the Nazi salute. The Nazi salute is an extended military salute. http://rexcurry.net/book1a1contents-pledge.html

3. The Pledge’s creator was a self-proclaimed socialist in the nationalism movement in the USA and his dogma influenced socialists in Germany, and his Pledge was the origin of their salute. "Nazi" means "National Socialist German Workers' Party." A mnemonic device is the swastika (Hakenkreuz in German). Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, it was also used sometimes by German National Socialists to represent "S" letters for their "socialism." Hitler altered his own signature to use the same stylized "S" letter for "socialist."

The Pledge is part of the USA’s growing police-state. The insane government in the U.S. could cause comatose persons to Pledge dis-allegiance, desecrate the flag, and recite a declaration of independence. Remove the Pledge from the flag, remove flags from schools, remove schools from government.

Government schools will never teach children about their Pledge rights, nor the truth about the Pledge and its author.

Most comments fail to ever mention that Francis Bellamy and his cousin Edward Bellamy were National Socialists in the USA, wrote for and supported their "Nationalist" and "New Nation" magazines, the "Nationalist Educational Association" and pushed their totalitarian dogma in their "Nationalism" clubs worldwide, including in Germany, and that the bible of their movement, Edward Bellamy's book "Looking Backward" was translated into every major language including the languages of those countries that became home to totalitarian socialism and the socialist Wholecaust (of which the Holocaust was a part) under the National Socialist German Workers' Party (21 million dead), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (62 million dead), and the Peoples' Republic of China (35 million dead). It is easy to see why anyone would want to cover all of that up, but it should not be covered up.

In the USA, the Bellamy dogma supported a government takeover of education. The government's schools imposed segregation by law and taught racism as official policy. The USA's behavior was an example for three decades before the Nazis. As under Nazism, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and blacks and the Jewish and others in the USA attended government schools that dictated segregation, taught racism, and persecuted children who refused to perform the straight-arm salute and robotically chant the Pledge. Some kids were expelled from government schools and had to use the many better alternatives. There were acts of violence. When Jesse Owens competed in the 1936 Olympics in Germany, his neighbors attended segregated government schools where they saluted the flag with the Nazi salute. The U.S. practice of official racism even outlasted the horrid party. And the schools and the Pledge still exist. The Pledge is still the most visible sign of the USA's growing police state.

After segregation in government's schools ended, the Bellamy legacy caused more police-state racism of forced busing that destroyed communities and neighborhoods and deepened hostilities.

Bellamy was a self-proclaimed national socialist in the USA, with the "Nationalist" magazine, and he preached what he called "military socialism." The federal flag darkens schools because Bellamy wanted government to take over all schools and to eliminate all of the better alternatives. Worse, Bellamy wanted the government to take over everything, not just schools. He wanted the government to impose the military system on all of society. School flags are a symbol of nationalization, militarism, and socialism.

The Bellamy dogma was the same dogma that led to the "Wholecaust" (of which the Holocaust was a part): 62 million killed under the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; 35 million under the Peoples' Republic of China; 21 million under the National Socialist German Workers' Party. It was so bad that Holocaust Museums could quadruple in size with Wholecaust Museums to document the entire slaughter.

Some schools in the USA are still named after Francis Bellamy. The Bellamy schools should be re-named because they send the wrong message to children and the community. It causes emotional distress to children who attend schools named after a man who popularized the Nazi salute and who helped the government institutionalize racism and segregation. I, and my supporters, will also assist in any legal means to defray the cost of re-naming Bellamy schools.

If government's schools (and the media) told the true history of the Pledge, then no student would chant it. If Americans knew the truth, then the Pledge would cease to exist.

Fight the flag hags and their flag fetish. Government's schools should not teach kids to verbally fellate flags each morning. It is like a brainwashed cult of the omnipotent state. For adults it is childish. Remove the Pledge from the flag, remove flags from schools, remove schools from government.

Listen to audio exposing the flag and the Pledge http://rexcurry.net/rexcurry4.mp3


As an attorney, I am asked if students can be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance in government schools. Another school year has started, and it is important to educate children about their right to refuse.

Government schools deserve a failing grade for not teaching students about their right to refuse and about the horrid history of the Pledge. There are still some oddball states where government schools are required by law to begin each day with a robotic chant of the Pledge, after students hear the ringing of a bell, like Pavlov's lapdogs of the state.

Government schools in the U.S. were the origin of the salute of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazis) because the Pledge's original salute was a straight-armed salute. It is a myth that the salute is an old Roman salute. Most students never see the eye-popping historic photographs. http://www.rexcurry.net/pledge2.html

I became involved in litigation about the Pledge of Allegiance before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Wonschik v. United States http://www.supremecourtus.gov/docket/03-10249.htm Research in that case and other litigation involving the Pledge, led to astounding discoveries concerning the Pledge's past.

The history of the Pledge is suppressed because it is unlibertarian. The Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a self-proclaimed National Socialist, who wanted a government takeover of education to produce an "industrial army" (a Bellamy term) for the authoritarian vision in his cousin Edward Bellamy's book "Looking Backward." The Bellamy cousins promoted national socialism worldwide for decades. It resulted in racist and segregated government schools that lasted through WWII into the 1960's, setting a horrid example for hate-spewing groups worldwide.

A webpage helps students learn that the Pledge was written by a National Socialist and the rest of the Pledge's truly terrifying history:

The eye-popping new version of the popular graphic art "All in favor of gun control raise your right hand" is at http://www.rexcurry.net/pledgewonschik.html
In the new version, the original Nazi-style salute to the U.S. flag is exposed with the phrase: "All in favor of a Pledge of Allegiance raise your right hand."
The graphic art shows the original Pledge of Allegiance on the left and on the right it shows the salute of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
It explains that the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag is the origin of the salute of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

In the 1930s, the National Socialist German Workers' Party passed laws that required everyone to pledge allegiance, similar to many state laws in the U.S. that have tried to require school-children to recite the Pledge. Jehovah's Witnesses believed that people who enjoy reciting government pledges are people who worship government. Jehovah's Witnesses were officially banned in Germany for refusing to join the raised palm salute of the National Socialist German Workers' Party in schools and at public events. Many of the German Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps.

The National Socialist German Workers' Party had adopted the U.S. salute and forced people to perform it. Many states in the U.S. had a practice similar to that of National Socialist German Workers' Party in forcing people to perform the salute created by a National Socialist in the U.S.

In the 1940's, before the phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, Jehovah's Witnesses refused to recite the Pledge in school on the grounds that it constituted worship of government. They hoped for a different response than they had met from the National Socialist German Workers' Party. In 1940, in the case of Minersville School Board v. Gobitas, the Supreme Court ruled that a government school could expel those children for refusing to salute the flag. Three years later (1943), in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette the Supreme Court reversed itself and decided that school children may not be forced to stand and salute the flag.

In 1940, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was freaking about France falling to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party when Frankfurter wrote the Gobitas decision that allowed schools to expel students who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Frankfurter was very concerned about the progress of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in the war and Frankfurter believed it was important for the country to come together and for everyone to be loyal. Yet, Frankfurter’s decision allowed compelled collective pledges by the government in government schools that were using a straight-arm salute similar to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party salute, for a Pledge of Allegiance that was written by a U.S. socialist who was a member of the "Nationalism" movement and a vice president of its socialist auxiliary group, whose members wanted the federal government to nationalize most of the American economy. It is fortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Gobitas decision 3 years later.

The original salute to the U.S. flag was the same as the salute of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. An example of the salute is at http://www.rexcurry.net/pledge1.html (historic photographs of the original socialist salute being given to the U.S. flag are collected at that website, so please contact the website with information about any historic photographs of the Pledge).

"Nazi" was an abbreviation of "National Socialist Worker's Party of Germany." They advocated nationalizing the economy. After the Nazi's demonstrated full blown socialism, the U.S. flag salute changed to the modern hand over the heart.

The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist, to promote socialism in the most socialistic institution -- government schools. The author, Francis Bellamy, belonged to a religious socialist movement known as "Christian Socialism," and belonged to a group known for "Nationalism," whose members wanted the federal government to nationalize most of the American economy. He saw government schools as a means to that end.

Libertarians like to say they oppose "the cult of the omnipotent state." There are many parallels between the legal arguments made by Jehovah's Witnesses and the libertarian catchphrase.

The Barnette case held that students cannot be forced to recite the Pledge or salute the flag in government schools. One admirable result of the Gobitas case and every Supreme Court case regarding government schools is that many parents removed their children from government schools. And that is the real solution to the Pledge debate and all other issues: reduce government and remove government from education. As Libertarians say: The separation of school and state is as important as the separation of church and state.

For more information on the U.S. flag's Pledge and salute see http://www.rexcurry.net/pledge1.html

Yours in Liberty,
Rex Curry
Attorney At Law