As of this morning, I have pledged my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America roughly 4,140 times. If this sounds remarkable to you, then clearly you are not a public school teacher. Every single day of my life as a student and every single day of my life as a teacher has begun with the Pledge. Neither wind, nor snow, nor dark of Oh My God The Sun Isn’t Even Up Yet, will stop the faithful from dutifully reciting the Most Important Sentence in America.
This morning we nearly didn’t say the Pledge and the tension in the school was palpable. Fortunately our Fearless Leader stepped up to the challenge and once again disaster was avoided here in the Palisade of Pontification.
I would imagine that when anyone repeats something 4,140 times it is perhaps inevitable that you’ll eventually start to become a little introspective on the subject. There are several things that I find curious about this obsessive repetition of a (mostly) secular Pledge.
First, how many times must a person repeat the Pledge before it becomes binding? Back in the day, giving an oath once was generally considered enough and even today we only require people to give their word once for relatively unimportant matters like marriage, court testimony, or military service. I suppose that for most people it is enough to repeat the Pledge 2,160 times before their loyalty to the American Flag is assured, but why then are teachers less trustworthy? For a career teacher who is nearing retirement, it is entirely possible that they have been asked to Pledge Allegiance 7,560 times. Is there something untrustworthy about teachers of which I’m unaware? Whatever it is, I suppose that there must be a reason why they are held in such low regard by the general populace. Perhaps someone could explain it to us so that we can begin rehabilitating our image?
Second, why do we chant the Pledge of Allegiance? It is one sentence of moderate length and yet people pause after every second or third word. I realize that as a nation we’re fatter than ever, but surely we can finish a sentence without becoming so winded that we need to catch our breath? Has standing up really become that difficult for so many of our young people and teachers?
Finally, why are we pledging allegiance to a flag, anyway? Doesn’t it make more sense to secure the loyalty of citizens directly to the country in question? What decisions of importance does the flag make for this country? Why do I owe it anything at all? All it ever did for me was force me to raise and lower it unnecessarily slowly while I was in the Scouts and that hardly seems to qualify it for leadership. Furthermore, how do we know that our flag is even a natural born part of this nation? All the plastic sleeves I see the flags wrapped in say “Made in China.” I will need to see a birth certificate.
In any event, I suppose that this line of questioning is all for naught because as surely as the sun rises and students stumble blearly into class to greet it, we’ll all rise tomorrow and recite the Pledge again, lest anyone forget for one second how patriotic we are and totally convinced that ours is the greatest flag on the planet.