By David Schussler

The “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America” is an oath that proclaims loyalty to the United States and its flag (the symbol of our nation). It reads: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I can remember standing in line in 1949 at PS 26 in the Bronx, N.Y.C. in my blue pants, white shirt, and blue tie, having had my hands and fingernails checked for cleanliness, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that time I had no idea about the significance of the pledge, and like most 5 year olds, hardly knew that I was alive. I did wonder, however, “who and what was the Republic for Richard Stans?” As it turns out many kids then wondered the same thing, and as I research it, kids today wonder the same thing.

When I tried to research the name, I could find nobody notable with that name ( please excuse me all of you namesakes out there). For some it could be referencing Richard Stands who did voice-over in “Olive, the Other Reindeer”) on the TV special. More likely it could be for Richard Sands, hero, who was killed in action/body not recovered in Vietnam in 1968. For most it is as written about by Sylvia Wright in 1954 and again by Evan Morris in 1997, repetitive mishearing of popular phrases. For me I know that Richard Stans does not exist any more than we are “one nation invisible”, or “the republic for witches stands”, or “Don’t cry for me Marge and Tina” is a line from “Evita”.

I remember how embarrassed I was when I discovered that I had been reciting the wrong words and , as an awakening, it transformed my thinking about everything I heard and repeated from that time on. Having grown up with World War II and with my Dad having survived the South Pacific in the Navy, as I grew older, I began to realize the significance of the pledge and its importance for our nation.

The pledge first appeared, in it’s original form, in “The Youth’s Companion”, Sept. 8, 1892. Authorship has been ascribed to little known journalist Francis Bellamy (1855–1931. A month later the pledge was used for the first time publicly in school ceremonies celebrating Columbus Day. Officially recognized by the government in 1942, the pledge became compulsory in some public schools, but the following year the Supreme Court ruled that “recitation could not be required of any individual”. It continues, however, to be compulsory or voluntarily recommended in most states and is recited daily in most American classrooms. In 1954 Congress inserted the words “under God” ascribing to the fact that the U.S. was in a cold war with an atheistic Communist enemy and the people of our country wanted the world to understand the antithetical American underpinnings.

In Texas in 2003 the legislature passed a bill requiring students to pledge allegiance to the flag once during each school day. Some of the opposition was fierce. Some of the claims are and were “Why should we want children to love country and state?”, “If our country is engaged in immoral or illegal activities, should we love it?”, Our democracy is in serious trouble if we think we can teach citizenship and critical thinking like the multiplication tables”. The reciting of the pledge is being touted by critics as promoting “mindless patriotism”. What a crock of bull!

We teach our youth to be allegiant to their parents, to their God, and to the country that allows them to be free to do so. The pledge is nothing less than verbal practice. Practice makes perfect. Some of us who are looking toward holistic health may practice Yoga. Most of us never achieve mastery of it yet we keep trying because we know the practice is good for us along the way. Athletes, musicians, artists, craftsmen, doctors, all practice rigorously to achieve some sort of mastery and virtuosity, some are born with skills, and some have to fake it till they make it. It’s all good. Some of us just practice eating properly and getting good excersize. Where’s the negative? We are a nation of fat weak people from not practicing the basics. Should we stop practicing being patriotic, strong, and free also?

Our flag is a symbol of a republic, under God, with liberty and justice for all. With the world in turmoil as it is today, with the haters of democracy and freedom making their daily pledges to kill all Americans, why shouldn’t we instill in our youth the spirit to survive, believe, and protect our Republic? That spirit comes from understanding the pledge which, depending on the development of each child, comes at a different time, but why shouldn’t it be practiced until it becomes a corporeal part of us? Allegiance to the republic that allows us to be free for you and me and Richard Stans whoever he is.

 

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