The Pledge of Allegiance is one of the more baffling parts of the American experience. Originally written by a magazine, it was created to advertise that each new subscriber would receive a free American flag. The pledge was then quickly adopted by Americans and worked its way into becoming officially codified law. Given its deceptive genesis and its rather discriminatory history, this relic of American patriotism should be laid to rest.
Regardless, it has become a touchstone in America. To question it is to lack patriotism and to therefore be “un-American.” Unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump used this rhetoric maliciously in a misinformation campaign to smear the Democratic Party and sow fear among his base.
The tactic of using the Pledge of Allegiance as a way to discriminate against political rivals, however, is far from new. President Trump is merely following an example set forth in the sordid history of the pledge.
According to “Smithsonian Magazine,” the pledge began as the brainchild of Francis Bellamy, a writer at “Youth’s Companion” magazine. The Companion originally wanted to pen a Pledge of Allegiance so they could take advantage of American patriotism by offering a free American flag to “every Public School from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” so long as they subscribed to the Companion.
As it was written in 1892, the pledge stated, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Since then, the pledge’s wording has undergone several changes, with the most notable change taking place during the height of the Red Scare in 1954. Christian lobbyist groups — with the support of President Eisenhower — convinced congress to add the words, “under God” to the pledge as a way to distinguish Americans from Communists, whom they viewed as un-American and “Godless.”
President Trump has followed this harmful rhetoric, almost exactly, by taking a stand against socialism while disparaging Democrats. In a tweet about the Venezualen Maduro regime from June 22, Trump said, “Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism … My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY.”
Two months later, Aug. 22, Trump went on to use the pledge to denigrate Democrats even further by tweeting, “The Democrats took the word GOD out of the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democrat National Convention. At first I thought they made a mistake, but it wasn’t. It was done on purpose.” His assertion that the Democratic National Convention (DNC) omitted the words, “under God,” is false. According to FactCheck.org, alongside recordings of the nationally televised DNC, the pledge was recited in its entirety all four nights of the convention. President Trump’s claim, however, is not completely baseless. Two caucuses — separate from the DNC — did omit the words, “under God” when they recited the pledge. President Trump is unfairly using these two caucuses to paint all Democrats in the same light: Godless and un-American.
By doing this, he is directly ignoring the Pew Research Center and Gallup polling, which show that there is a nearly equal number of Christians who identify with the Democratic and Republican parties at just under 49 million each. This leads to one conclusion: He is saying the 50% of Americans who identify as Democrats or as Democratic-leaning are un-American. This rhetoric also encourages his base to treat them as such.
It is shameful that an American president would create such discord among the American people, simply because two particular groups decided to voluntarily remove the words, “under God” from the pledge. It is especially egregious because those words were not even present for the first 62 years of the pledge’s 128 years of use. As the pledge was used against political enemies when, “under God,” was added 66 years ago, so it is being used again.
Given that the pledge was concocted to be a clever marketing scheme and has an ongoing record of being used to malign the good names of average Americans, its use in schools and governmental affairs should be thrown out. It is clear that when a patriotic oath is wielded with such vitriolic intent by a president, its power needs to be taken away.