Salon’s David Niose veered dangerously close to radical territory Monday with a vitriolic attack on the Pledge of Allegiance of our own nation.
“The Pledge of Allegiance must go: A daily loyalty oath has become a toxic, nationalistic ritual,” read Niose’s headline.
Niose remarked that it was not surprising that “anti-intellectualism” is on the march when “we make students salute national greatness for 13 years.”
He told the story of Alicia, an “ordinary, intelligent” high school sophomore who sat out the Pledge for unclear reasons and whose teacher accused her of treason.
The “attacks on pledge dissenters” have to stop, he said.
Who is being disrespected when a student opts out of reciting the Pledge? Niose rejected the response given by many teachers who told their students that forgoing the Pledge was disrespectful to the troops.
“We may be a free country, but any kid who chooses to sit out the collective exercise of exalting America runs a risk of official ostracization,” Niose lamented.
In other words, better to do away with the Pledge than risk discomfort to the fraction of a percent of people who don’t want to say it.
Niose has a number of problems with the Pledge. He is the legal director for the American Humanist Association, whose boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance disagrees with the words “under God” in the Pledge.
Some people do not think patriotism should be associated with belief in God, he pointed out.
Some, however, including Niose are uncomfortable with the patriotism itself inherent in the Pledge. Guilting kids into saying it for the sake of American soldiers makes it a “tool of American militarism,” and “nationalism.”
While all students have a freedom of speech right to not participate, some teachers tell the kids that recitation is mandatory. However, most merely tell students that it is disrespectful.
This “intolerance” shows that “the daily pledge exercise is far from a benign, unifying activity that instills healthy values,” Niose concluded.
It is “downright toxic, a nationalistic ritual that too often instills a venomous attitude of chauvinism.”
Most Americans from every ideology would shy away from attacking the Pledge of Allegiance as toxic, nationalistic, and even chauvinistic. If we are embarrassed by our own Pledge, what is left?