Do you have a pledge?

We got to see Eddie Izzard at the Majestic Theater in Dallas last week. Izzard is one of the most intelligent and funniest comedians I’ve ever seen (live or otherwise), and we were looking forward to him for months. The acoustics were unfortunately pretty bad in the Majestic and with my hearing being worse than I thought, I only caught about 15% of his show, Force Majeure. Still, I did hear a few off-hand references to one of his iconic shticks: Do you have a flag?

If’ you’ve never heard it, he talks about the British sailing around the world, planting a flag in the ground and saying “I claim India for Britain!” Now, the response was “You can’t claim us, we live here! Five hundred million of us!” {pause} “Do you have a …”

Oh, here, just watch it for yourself:

So, on flags…

Usually around the 4th I see Facebook spam from folks saying something on the order of, “I grew up saying ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance…blah, blah, blah…liberals trying to ruin America…blah, blah…repost if you’ve got the guts…” Either I’ve done a good job filtering that stuff from my feed or it didn’t make its rounds this year. And in its absence, I haven’t had to point people to a piece I wrote in December 2009 (A little Pledge of Allegiance history) if I feel it necessary to try to help raise the awareness of the misguided to the origins of Bellamy’s oath.

The Pledge is a peculiarly unique instrument of nationalism. I did a little research and it turns out that there doesn’t appear to be any other country that has the ritual of swearing allegiance to a flag. Now, some dictators demand oaths of allegiance to them as people. But not to flags.

I’d never thought about that before. It really sounds rather odd to anyone not indoctrinated in the ritual of standing up and reciting a solemn promise to a flag. Texas has own pledge to the state flag which is even more baffling (I think that’s because I’ve never been in favor of states’ rights and besides, having lived in several, I have allegiance to none).

And here’s something else to chew on as you ruminate about pledges: I’m pretty sure that the Star-Spangled Banner is the only national anthem about a flag.

Hockey fans, Toronto Blue Jays fans and sometimes Buffalo Bills fans have probably heard “O Canada“, which is aboot the land. The French anthem “La Marseillaise” is about rebellion, countering attackers, lots of battle stuff (and while it does mention flags in the sixth verse, they aren’t the focus). Italy’s is about joining the army and being ready to die. England doesn’t have a national anthem, but in a pinch (or at sporting events) it wants God to save its Queen or King…not sure from what. Germany’s is about the Fatherland, China’s is about the Republic, Sudan’s is about being soldiers for the country. Check out Argentina’s…definitely carrying a chip.

But ours is the only anthem about a flag.

I’m continually honing my questioning skills and now that they are coming to bear on something I’ve not considered before, I can’t help but see from outside the box. If asked to explain to a visitor, or immigrant…I can give a history, but not the rationale. In my 2009 post about the Pledge’s history, I had not “decided whether swearing to a flag makes sense”. I think I’ve decided now, and as I noted then, I am nonetheless a patriotic Republic supporter who still doesn’t think “liberty and justice” have been afforded to all.

I guess the next time we go out and acquire a land that already has people living there, through an accomplished mission or something, we can claim it in the name of the People of the United States by planting a flag and when the occupants protest we can ask,

“Do you have a pledge?”


One response to “Do you have a pledge?

  1. Pingback: True Patriotism in America | Random (and not) Musings

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