OCC Excommunicates the Pledge

In a meeting on Wednesday night, Orange Coast College student trustees voted to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from their meetings, citing an incompatibility between nationwide submission to God and justice for all.

Student trustee Jason Bell explained his position to Reuters:

"That [under God] part is sort of offensive to me. I am an atheist and a socialist, and if you know your history, you know that 'under God' was inserted during the McCarthy era and was directly designed to destroy my ideology." Bell said the ban largely came about because the trustees didn't want to publicly vow loyalty to the American government before their meetings. "Loyalty ought to be something the government earns through performance, not through reciting a pledge."

McCarthyism, named for Joe McCarthy (see Good Night and Good Luck), ran from the late 40's to the late 50's. It was on Feb. 12, 1948, that Louis Bowman inserted "under god" into the pledge at a meeting of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, of which he was a board member. So Trustee Bell's got his time frame right.

The pledge was first published in 1892 in The Boy's Companion. As years went by, especially in the lead-up to World War II, there was an increasing demand for a flag salute statute to, you know, cement loyalty to Vespucci-land. 31 years later, in 1922, that pledge found its way into legislation through the Flag Code [Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1]. In 1925 over 40,000 Ku Klux Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. in support of this Flag Code.

What a lovely history lesson, one utterly lost on Christine Zolos, president of the Orange Coast College Republicans. Zolos told Reuters of her disapproval of the trustees' decision: "The fact that they have enough power to ban one of the most valued traditions in America is just horrible."

Most valued traditions, my lily-white ass. This is a tradition so valued that it's undergone change after update after revision in the scant 84 years it's been in common usage. Originally, the salute was a straight-armed, flat-palmed gesture, but in December 1942 Congress amended the Flag Code to the familiar hand-over-heart move so we wouldn't look like a bunch of Nazis. Klansmen and Nazis—these are a few of our favorite things?

Perhaps (no, certainly) I took things too seriously as a child, but I remember being painfully conflicted every single day of my grade school career--all thanks to that damn pledge. I was raised Secular Humanist; I didn't believe that I was under God. If I went ahead and said, "under god", I felt like a liar. If I kept quiet, I felt like an outcast. I wonder how all the little Buddhist kids in Irvine feel about submitting to God.

These days, though I understand why God might favor the missionary position, I wonder whether he'd like to be on the bottom every now and then.


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