A New Legal Approach to the Pledge of Allegiance?

Ron Lindsay, the CEO of the Center for Inquiry and an attorney, has an interesting essay suggesting a new approach to legal challenges to the pledge of allegiance in schools. Noting that we have filed numerous lawsuits against the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge and lost them all, he suggests demanding that the phrase be made explicitly optional rather than taken out entirely.

Undoubtedly, the Pledge is supposed to instill patriotic sentiments. To those of us who are atheists, that’s part of the problem: it equates being a patriot with belief in God. Moreover, that the Pledge taken as a whole might be described as a patriotic exercise doesn’t eliminate the statement of religious belief contained therein. There is no question that a solemn avowal that this is a nation “under God” is inherently a religious affirmation.

However, it’s pretty clear no court is going to rule the Pledge unconstitutional any time soon. So it appears that the choices for nonreligious Americans are to keep filing losing lawsuits or accept the status quo.

Except there’s a third way. We need to rethink our approach to the Pledge.

All the lawsuits to date have asked the courts to eliminate the phrase “under God” from the Pledge. Instead, I suggest an appropriate plaintiff request that the phrase be explicitly made optional. In other words, students would be informed by their schools that they can recite the Pledge with or without the words “under God.” Their choice.

Bear in mind that the defenders of the Pledge, and many of the courts that have upheld its legality, have maintained that the Pledge is not only a patriotic exercise, but an important patriotic exercise: it’s considered a critical part of a student’s formation as a good citizen. Therefore—according to defenders of the Pledge— some students are being denied a critical component of their education merely because they refuse to abjure their religious beliefs. Students who want to obtain the benefit of participating in the Pledge exercise should not be denied this important aspect of their education merely because they cannot honestly affirm there is a God.

Frankly, it’s difficult to see how a request for making the religious avowal in the Pledge optional could be refused. Compare it to other situations where religious avowals embedded in certain ceremonies were once employed as a pretext for barring atheists from participating in important civic activities. Until the mid-twentieth century, some states barred atheists from testifying, serving in public office, or serving on juries on the ground that they could not take a religious oath. All such provisions are now recognized as unconstitutional. Witnesses, for example, have the option of swearing on some sacred book to tell the truth “so help me God” or of simply making a solemn affirmation to tell the truth under penalties of perjury. If this country no longer requires witnesses, jurors, or public officials to affirm belief in God to participate in civic activities, how can a state require schoolchildren to affirm belief in God to participate in an important civic activity?

This seems like a good strategy that needs to be tried. And I think he’s right that there are precedents to support such a strategy that do not exist for the removal of the phrase entirely. He also answers the obvious objections from some atheists:

Turning to potential atheist critics, some will say I’m giving up too easily and am compromising on some fundamental points. We should keep filing lawsuits until some court recognizes that by including “under God” in the Pledge the government is endorsing monotheism and stigmatizing nonbelievers. Indeed, our friends at the American Humanist Association have a lawsuit pending now in New Jersey alleging that the Pledge practice constitutes a denial of equal protection under the New Jersey constitution. I sincerely hope their case succeeds. But I’m afraid it will meet the same fate as their recent Massachusetts lawsuit, which advanced a similar theory. (By the way, in case one doubts my sincere good wishes, I note that CFI was the only secular organization to file an amicus brief supporting AHA in the Massachusetts case.) At some point we need to acknowledge that an unbroken losing streak of about a dozen cases indicates we’re not going to persuade the courts to remove the phrase “under God.”

As to compromising principles, it seems to me atheists’ primary goal in the Pledge dispute should be to have public schools acknowledge that the nonreligious are patriots and citizens in good standing just like the religious. Having school officials inform the students that it is perfectly acceptable to omit God from the Pledge accomplishes that purpose.

I’d like to see a plaintiff file a suit using this tactic. I think Ron is right, that’s far more likely to succeed than our previous cases. But it’s not what I would ideally want to happen. I largely agree with Nathan, who left this comment on the post:

There is, however, one objection I’ve heard that you’ve left out, which takes two related forms. The first: that the pledge as a whole is, at best, a bankrupt exercise in teaching students a rote chant they’re unlikely to be able to comprehend, and doesn’t actually serve to make anybody more patriotic. The second: the pledge as a whole is a creepily totalitarian institution; loyalty oaths are something we should have left behind when we grew beyond McCarthyism; patriotism itself is a fundamentally rotten concept, tribalism writ large, fealty to an empty concept that should have no place in civilized society.

In short, the pledge needs to go away because its fundamental premise is rotten. The two words “under god” constitute a state-enforced prayer to a deity, which is bad, but the rest of the pledge is itself a prayer to the state, which isn’t any better.

I do not say the pledge of allegiance at all, under any circumstances. I will not pledge allegiance to any flag or to a country either. My allegiance is to a set of principles. When my country’s actions are in line with those principles, I support it; when they aren’t, I don’t. But that isn’t really an argument against Ron’s new legal strategy. This is a good example of where, as a legal strategy, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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  • cgm3

    Having recited the pledge (with “under God”) all through my elementary school tenure, I find the experience has rendered the pledge a rote exercise without meaning to me, just a set of words.

    On a slightly related note, I have a similar problem with written or recited renditions of most speechs and orations, such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which I always felt had some interesting phrases but came off as rather flat. Then I bought a CD of music from the movie Gettysburg that includes a track with Jeff Daniels actually delivering the Address, and gained a whole new appreciation for it. Perspective helps, even if it’s just aural.

  • Kevin Kehres

    The entire ‘pledge’ thing is so silly. As if a real traitor wouldn’t eagerly and gladly recite the pledge while holding the flag and weeping hot tears of ‘patriotism’.

    I also find it most amusing that the pledge was originated by a socialist preacher and promoted by an entrepreneur who wanted to sell more flags to schools. There’s a combination for you.

  • eric

    Instead, I suggest an appropriate plaintiff request that the phrase be explicitly made optional. In other words, students would be informed by their schools that they can recite the Pledge with or without the words “under God.” Their choice.

    Better yet, make the phrase optional for the teacher/leader to say. IOW, allow the civil service leaders who are leading the kids in recitation, to lead them in a recitation of the original pledge if the teacher likes that version better.

    As we’ve seen in “limited public forum” cases, when most fundie Christians are forced into a choice between no form or a truly open one, they pick the no forum option. I’m guessing the same thing would occur if my suggestion came about: when most fundie administrations face the choice of eliminating the Pledge from the daily school routine, or allowing teachers to lead kids in saying the no-Under-God version, they’re going to eliminate it altogether. Even in cases where the new version dominates 90% of classrooms in a school, the mere thought of some kids getting the non-God version may be enough to push them to eliminate recitation altogether.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I, as your representative in Congress, am putting forward a bill, not to remove God from the Pledge, but to mandate saying that section like Napoleon Dynamite.

  • Michael Heath

    I take the humbly held position that the best way to get rid of the Pledge is not through the courts, but the court of public opinion. That we should encourage people to not take the pledge, and encourage their children to consider doing the same.

    Secondary to this, I don’t think we should equivocate on the Pledge in regards to its containing,’under God’. That phrase is blatantly unconstitutional and should be removed by the federal courts. I see the argument above that Ed supports as a loser’s argument that advocates we lose; effectively arguing that the Christianists win big-time. That’s because few will notice if secularists fail to recite the ‘under God’ quip.

    I think the arc of moral progress is on our side where the harm done by the state protecting the Pledge is relatively trivial, unlike the state protecting conservative Christians who discriminate and abuse gay people.

  • busterggi

    We could, as originalists, start using the Bellamy salute during the pledge. It might just get us some attention.

  • Chiroptera

    Maybe if they can somehow convince Kennedy that saying the pledge will force a closely held corporation to believe that it is funding abortions against its sincerely held religious beliefs?

  • Glenn E Ross

    I have never understood why you must repeat the pledge. I mean if you actually mean what you say when you recite it, isn’t once enough? Does it have a shelf life? If I recite it today is it no longer valid after a day, a week, the next full moon, a new president?

    Does the President repeat his oath of office daily? Senators? Mayors? Police Officers?

    Maybe that explains why so many public officials seem to violate their oath, it ran out and they need to repeat it.

  • sinned34

    We kind of have the same problem in Canada, but with our national anthem. Whenever I sing it, I replace “God keep our land glorious and free” with “We keep our land glorious and free.” Nobody ever seems to notice or care.

  • tbp1

    I agree that saying the pledge daily is kind of stupid.

    In high school I did simply omit the words “under God” when we recited it. I also didn’t bow my head for the morning prayer or the lunch prayer (absolutely illegal by that time, but they still did it).

    I went to my 40th high school reunion a couple of years ago, and that was one of the things lots of people remembered about me.

  • Chiroptera

    Glenn E Ross, #8: I mean if you actually mean what you say when you recite it, isn’t once enough?

    It’s not really a promise by the oath-taker. It’s really a territorial marker. They make your kids say the pledge to remind you that they are allowing you to live in their country. And that their patience has a limit.

  • Michael Heath

    Kevin Kehres writes:

    The entire ‘pledge’ thing is so silly. As if a real traitor wouldn’t eagerly and gladly recite the pledge while holding the flag and weeping hot tears of ‘patriotism’.

    The venues I’m in that recite the Pledge are in no way motivated to reveal ‘real traitors’.

    Instead the people that administer such pledges are looking for everyone to piss pledge as a demonstration that they sheepishly submit to the imagined hierarchy of the Christian god overseeing a Christian Nation. It’s little different than conservative Christians wanting Christian plaques and monuments on government property. That’s in order to mark their territory on the government just like how other mammals piss on a target to mark “their” territory.

  • Michael Heath

    Glenn E Ross writes:

    I have never understood why you must repeat the pledge. I mean if you actually mean what you say when you recite it, isn’t once enough? Does it have a shelf life? If I recite it today is it no longer valid after a day, a week, the next full moon, a new president?

    it’s a ritual. Please recall that most Christian sects assert they know the Truth. But in their church services they don’t spend any credible amount of energy discovering what’s true and credibly testing their current beliefs. Some churches and sects act out as if they are. Some non-regular programs are frequently promoted to the community to get people to come to church, but these are the worst sort of kubaki theater because the whole motivation is to get the sheeple to more deeply submit to dogma that was already predetermined. Instead their energy is predominately devoted to rhetoric and ritual which asserts that which they already believe.

    From this perspective, the Pledge is little different than chanting the Lord’s Prayer in church, or singing along to a hymn that makes absurd assertions that are never actually tested and whose veracity fails even mild scrutiny, e.g., Jesus Loves Me or Amazing Grace.

  • Steve Morrison

    I must object to this notion that schoolchildren lack a sophisticated understanding of the loyalty oath they are taking! Back when I was in school, we were well aware that we were pledging allegiance to one nation, under guard, and to the republic for Richard Stans. (And of course, we thoroughly comprehended the lyrics of the Dawnzer Song.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    So, what’s to stop us from just skipping over those two words now?

  • steve84

    The pledge is completely crazy in its entirety. It’s something straight out of a totalitarian society. Then there is the insanity of pledging allegiance to a damn flag.

  • khms

    Whenever there’s a discussion of the pledge – as has been noted, a kind of ritual usually associated with authoritarian regimes – I think of William Tell.

    In any case, let me propose that a land with a pledge cannot possibly be a land of free people. It is, instead, a land of subjects.

  • eric

    Chiroptera:

    Maybe if they can somehow convince Kennedy that saying the pledge will force a closely held corporation to believe that it is funding abortions against its sincerely held religious beliefs?

    How about this: JW-controlled company (they are opposed to pledges) objects to being forced to pay taxes which in part fund teachers leading these events. Since money is speech, making you pay for it is like making you say it, which is against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

    ***

    @8, @11, @12 – I think we’re going a bit over the top here, folks. Yeah its a minor ritual at least partially intended to build social cohesion. It’s also said just as a reminder to kids: we’re a nation together, a republic, liberty and justice are things we strive for. No, I don’t like it. No, I especially don’t like the “under God” part. I’ll be glad if it loses its appeal in our culture, whether by direct or indirect means. But when you talk about the pledge being an instrument ‘they use to remind you you live in their country,’ or to get ‘the sheep to submit to the hierarchy’ or ‘the sheeple to submit to predetermined dogma,’ you sound a bit crazy. The Man is not listening to my conversations, the black helicopters aren’t following me, and there is no singular or monolithic ‘they,’ no ‘hierarchy.’ Some people want to use it to instill secular and nominally good values. Some want it to instill sectarian values. Some just like the tradtion. No need to make soccer moms into Mussolinis.

  • apostate

    I’m not sure trying to make “under God” optional is the best course of action. If it were to succeed, it would then be more difficult or impossible to remove later. By making it optional, you make it much harder to challenge on the grounds that it is religiously exclusive. Perhaps our best option is to bide our time and wait for the courts to change their mind. As more of the younger, less religious generations work their way up the judicial system, we will have a better chance to remove the phrase entirely.

  • Deacon Duncan

    I like this idea, but it needs more options. How about, “Class, when we recite the pledge, and we come to the part that says, ‘under God,’ you may choose what to say. You can say ‘under God,’, ‘under gods’, ‘under gods and goddesses’, ‘under gods and spirits of departed ancestors’, or even ‘under the Flying Spaghetti Monster’ if you wish. Or of course you can skip that part entirely.” Kids are creative, they’ll think up ways to make this a lot of fun. In fact, I bet it will be so much fun that parents, teachers, and school administrators unite to eliminate the pledge altogether, just as they should do.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    khms “I think of William Tell.”

    He made a pass at me once. I replied, “William Tell, I don’t appreciate your overture.” Then the Long Ranger arrested for wordplay.

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    #1 @cgm3: Having recited the pledge (with “under God”) all through my elementary school tenure, I find the experience has rendered the pledge a rote exercise without meaning to me, just a set of words.

    This was my experience growing up in the UK, having to recite the Lord’s Prayer, sing a hymn, and stand through a Bible reading, prayer, and benediction, almost every day of my school career. And this was in a supposedly secular government funded school too.

    But curiously enough, when I first came to the US and saw school children standing, facing the flag, putting their hands over their hearts, and reciting the Pledge, I found the sight far more chilling than all the religious nonsense we were put through (basically a 10 minute church service) every day, probably because I remembered seeing strikingly similar images from the classrooms of communist nations around the world.

    For me, forcing kids to Pledge still feels much more akin to brainwashing than forcing kids to attend daily religious observances. I guess it’s a combination of kids being expected to actively participate in the Pledge (as opposed to suffering in silence during prayers) and the state–and by extension, the government–being a far more tangible entity than God, making it far more obvious that the Pledge can be used as a tool for government control.

  • Glenn E Ross

    eric @18 sez:

    “@8, @11, @12 – I think we’re going a bit over the top here, folks.”

    Number 8 here. You certainly read a lot more into what I wrote then intended. I wasn’t implying anything nefarious in reciting the pledge, just the reasoning for the constant repetition. It does seem rather childish to constantly recite a pledge to what may be noble sentiments, to the point that the words and phrases lose all meaning and it is the act of recitation that has import.

    Ok, now I have directly implied nefarious intent. (Can one ‘directly imply’ anything, or does ‘imply’ imply indirectness?)

  • royandale

    “loyalty oaths are something we should have left behind when we grew beyond McCarthyism

    When was that, exactly? I must have missed it.

  • Ray, rude-ass yankee (Whimsy, I has it)

    When I am at any event where they recite the pledge I always chuck the “under god” part for “one nation, indivisible, with equality, liberty, and justice for all. I like that version better.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    eric @ # 18: The Man is not listening to my conversations…

    Keep telling yourself that.

  • vereverum

    IMHO it’s idolatry.

    “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…” (Ex 20:5)

  • http://thorgolucky.com/ ThorGoLucky

    Forced to recite a nonsensical pledge because FREEDOM.

  • Synfandel

    For a perspective from just outside the US…

    Back in the dark ages of the 1960s when we still had a pledge of allegiance (to Queen Elizabeth II) in Canadian elementary schools, as an overly-serious child of five I refused to recite it because I had a very clear understanding of what a promise was and had never met the dear old lady (who, to be fair, wasn’t all that old at that time). Ditto for the Lord’s prayer, because, never having been subjected to religious indoctrination at home, I was a natural atheist from the cradle and felt that praying was silly.

    I recall a few fellow students whispering to me that they thought I might get in trouble for not participating, but nothing ever came of it. The teachers didn’t give a rodent’s bottom. To them it was just a ritual they were required to conduct that was best got out of the way as quickly as possible so they could get on with actual teaching. I understand both the pledge and the prayer have long ago fallen into disuse in our schools.

  • Synfandel

    Thanks for the reminiscence, Synfandel, but what does that tell us about the issue in question?

    I suppose what I’m getting at is that the whole issue of pledging and praying in schools really and truly goes away only when society matures enough to recognize their futility—or at least their inappropriateness. This is going to take longer in US schools (obviously, as it’s still going on), because of the powerful themes of religion and patriotism in the American psyche. In the meantime, the school pledge, while inappropriate, is relatively harmless and the CFI and the AHA have bigger fish to fry.

  • sceptinurse

    @14 Steve Morrison

    That would be the the “Dawner Lee Lie” song?

    I spent 4 years in a private Baptist day school. We started every morning with pledging the American flag, the Christian flag, and the bible. And then we had prayer. Our teachers also proselytized ruthlessly and any time you had a one on one with them they really pushed praying to receive Jesus.

    And I went there from several public schools that weren’t pushing “under god” in the regular pledge.

  • A Masked Avenger

    The main effect of the ritual on me was to permanently fuck my ability to tell my left hand from my right. Hint: it is not the hand I fucking write with.

    But pace eric, I agree with @8, @11, @12 . Not that anyone is “watching,” as if Big Brother were keeping count of insufficiently indoctrinated kids. But that its function is not mere “social cohesion.” If it were, we could recite a lovely poem about our love for our fellow person, like:

    No one is an island, entire of itself; every one is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any one’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

    Instead the ritual takes the form of a loyalty oath. And not to one’s home soil, or one’s neighbor, but to the “flag” and the “republic” and the “nation.” Intentionally or not, it equates one’s home and one’s neighbors (two common meanings of “country”) with one’s government (increasingly, the only meaning that matters). It subverts social cohesion and channels it into devotion to the state. Such that one could rationally tell critics of the government that they hate their country and should leave it.

    In a nutshell, it’s propaganda.

    I have more or less identical musings about “patriotic” invocations at sports events, often accompanied with a stirring display by the Air Force–usually on the jumbotron, but occasionally live. The undercurrent of military triumphalism, of jingoism, of implied hatred for “America’s enemies,” meaning the designated enemies of the administration, always disturbs me. On one occasion I witnessed the perfect storm–a flyover by fighter jets, a homage to active duty military in the audience, and a singing of “God Bless America” after the anthem, surrounded by my neighbors clutching their hats to their chests and weeping openly, that I actually did become physically ill. Fortunately I made it to the bathroom before vomiting, or I don’t know what would have happened to me.

  • magistramarla

    As a teacher, I always left out the under god part and several of my students happily followed suit.

  • busterggi

    Synfandal @ 29) You pledged allegiance to a cruise ship? Canada really is laid back.

  • John Pieret

    Steve Morrison @ 14:

    Okay, that made me laugh out loud the way Modus often does. But then Modus @ 21 made me laugh out loud again.

    I think the only fair way to decide who gets the internet is a nude mud wrestling match.

    I’m selling the tickets …. and, by the way, I’ve got the winner!

  • sailor1031

    when this pledge is mentioned I’m always reminded of loyalty oaths – as in Catch-22. It seems to have about as much significance.

    it’s considered a critical part of a student’s formation as a good citizen.

    Too bad for all those of us who didn’t go to school in the USA then. I guess we’ll never be good citizens – except maybe of our own nations.

  • eric

    @20:

    I like this idea, but it needs more options. How about, “Class, when we recite the pledge, and we come to the part that says, ‘under God,’ you may choose what to say. You can say ‘under God,’, ‘under gods’, ‘under gods and goddesses’, ‘under gods and spirits of departed ancestors’, or even ‘under the Flying Spaghetti Monster’ if you wish. Or of course you can skip that part entirely.” Kids are creative, they’ll think up ways to make this a lot of fun.

    I believe the preferred fun option when I was growing up was “One nation underpants…”

    Getting rid of the sectarian part of the pledge and the pledge itself is something we should fight for because its the constitutional thing to do and because its counter to our general ideological dedication to personal freedom, respectively. But I think most kids have been dismissing it as an empty symbol for many decades, and the actual endorsement effect is typically minor.

    Now, the endorsement aspect gets much, much, stronger when teachers/leaders do what it is already illegal for them to do, such as punish people for sitting down during it or for not saying the ‘under God’ part. So enforcing students’ or meeting participants’ rights to refusal without consequence is very important It is especially powerful when such a defense (of your right to refuse) comes from within the government, from the teacher or from a board member themselves. When that happens, you’re giving the student/meeting attendee a lesson in the “we, the community may disagree with what you say, but we’ll defend your right to say it” department.

  • http://www.jafafahots.com Jafafa Hots

    When was that, exactly? I must have missed it.

    It was a six-week window back in the summer of 1974.

  • http://www.jafafahots.com Jafafa Hots

    “…my country Tissoffee, sweet land of liberty…”

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    Every time this topic comes up I’m reminded of this brilliant excerpt from Catch-22:

    When fellow administrative officers expressed astonishment at Colornel Cathcart’s choice of Major Major, Captain Black muttered that there was something funny going on; when they speculated on the political value of Major Major’s resemblance to Henry Fonda, Captain Black asserted that Major Major really was Henry Fonda; and when they remarked that Major Major was somewhat odd, Captain Black announced that he was a Communist.

    “They’re taking over everything,” he declared rebelliously. “Well, you fellows can stand around and let them if you want to, but I’m not going to. I’m going to do something about it. From now on I’m going to make every son of a bitch who comes to my intelligence tent sign a loyalty oath. And I’m not going to let that bastard Major Major sign one even if he wants to.”

    Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers. To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twenty-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.

    Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

    “The important thing is to keep them pledging,” he explained to his cohorts. “It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ means.”