How Do You Say the Pledge Nowadays?

It’s come to my attention that school is starting already. I recall being in a school auditorium as a youngster when they added the words,
‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Doak and Mr. Burke, Civics and
History teachers, were up there trying to get it right while teaching it to a couple of hundred kids.  Kids who were still on shaky ground from learning it the first time. That would have been in the mid-1950s:

Mr. Doak:  “Okay.  This isn’t complicated and shouldn’t take long.  Just say it like you always said it, but after, ‘one nation’, pause, then say, ‘under God’, then pause again before going on.

“Try it.  I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation,

under God,

with liberty and justice for all.”

Cacophony of 300 kids lost mid-way through.  Mr. Doak pauses with a frown waiting for the noise to die down. Mr. Burke’s frowning too.  He nudges Mr. Doak.

Mr. Burke:  “Eh, John, hold on a minute.  I think it’s supposed to be ‘one
nation under God’, not ‘one nation with a pause, under God with a pause.”

Mr.Doak:  “Ralph, look at it.  The comma’s in front of and after ‘under God.'”

Mr.  Burke: “John, that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to sound like some run-on sentence.  This is the Pledge of allegiance!”

Mr. Doak:  “Ralph, I know what it is.”  Doak scowls and turns back to the 300 lost faces.  “Let’s try it again now.”

Burke:  “No, no, no, John.  Let’s try it one time my way.”

Doak grinding his teeth:  “Ralph, we have to get this over with.”

Burke:  “I’m not the one holding it up John.  We’ve got to get this right.  What you’re telling them is wrong.”

Doak:  “Who’s in charge of this, Ralph?  When Livingston said one of us has to do it you didn’t volunteer to get up here and explain it.”

Burke:  “Neither did you.”

Doak:  “No, but I eventually agreed to.  You just agreed to come up and help.”

Burke:  “Never mind.  Tell them to do it any way you want to.  The Pledge is yours!  I have nothing more to say.”

Doak:  “Good.”  Turns back to the 300.  “Okay, let’s try it again.”

The question of whether the framers of the Constitution would have thought a child having to say, ‘under God’ is a fairly weird one, by hindsight.  But not because the placement of the commas is a major issue.

The reason it’s weird lies in the fact that the question of whether this nation
is indivisible was never considered by the Supreme Court, never mentioned in the US Constitution.  The founders put off any debate about the indivisibility issue because every member knew that no state would agree to become a member if the decision was irreversible, whatever the circumstances.  So, while it was discussed, it was also pointedly not discussed in loving detail.

Half century later it was discussed, however.  The discussion began at Fort
Sumter and ended with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. That avoidance by the founding fathers of an inevitably crucial issue was decided by force of arms, one half, (the half possessing an army) of the nation believing it was indivisible, the other half believing it was divisible. The stronger half forced the weaker half to accept indivisibility at gunpoint after a lot of bloodshed.

Thus, the Pledge of Allegiance came into existence after Lee’s surrender at
Appomattox. The winning side forced each surrendering Confederate soldier to say a pledge accepting indivisibility as one of the precepts of citizenship, followed afterward by many generations saying the pledge from early childhood since then.

But the US Supreme Court was never asked whether that Pledge acknowledging indivisibility was Constitutional, which might have saved a hundred thousand lives, legs, arms, and a whole different approach to US governance.

Instead, they’ve been asked repeatedly to decide the easier matter of whether it’s a violation of a child’s civil liberty to utter the words, “Under God”.

Old Jules

Civil War Songs – Oh I’m A Good Old Rebel

Battle Cry of Freedom — Civil War song on mountain dulcimer

Fife and drum – Battle Cry of Freedom – 145th Gettysburg

Note:  The flag with a Native American waving a weapon flies summertimes near the booths along IH10 as it passes through the Laguna tribal lands.  Although the Laguna universally despise the Acoma neighbors neither tribe has engaged in warfare against anyone since 1597. 

14 responses to “How Do You Say the Pledge Nowadays?

  1. Interesting topic. I have thought many times about “under God,” but never about divisibility.


  2. Morning Roxanne: Thanks for the visit and comment. I’ve entertained a suspicion for many years that the motive behind adding the words in the 1950s was to push the indivisibility issue into the background.

    If you remove ‘under God’ there’s no question ‘one nation, indivisible’ is what the Pledge is all about.

  3. Because I do not believe that there is anything indivisible, I do not believe in a supreme being (god) and I definitely do not believe in blindly following a government into chaos like the Germans did I guess I’m not part of this discussion.
    It seems to be believed that if the strong kill enough of the weak the rest will become loyal servants but I think that only works if you kill all the weak.
    We have taught or tried to teach our children and grandchildren that it is our country and loyalty can be shown in many ways. Saying empty words you don’t understand or don’t believe in front of a flag that is after all just fabric and cloth is not necessary.

    • Hi OF: Thanks for the visit and remarks. I don’t disagree with what you’ve said except in one respect: You and I have taken that oath countless times in our lives beginning almost before we knew the meanings of some of the words. You and I were also taught oaths mean something, and you and I both spent a lot of years believing what we’d been taught.

      For that reason, while we mightn’t be a part of this discussion, our part in it might be called indivisible. At least insofar as oath-taking and our having done it long after we knew the meaning of the words.

      Either oaths don’t meaning anything, or you and I are a couple of liars. I don’t say the oath anymore, but I can’t escape being a liar in that regard.

    • Yeah, I remember this being potiend out a while back when there was a big hullabulloo about kids in school declining to recite the pledge because of the God reference. (Actually, I think that seems to be a recurring thing that comes up every now and then).While I do think that’s a legitimate reason to not recite the pledge, I’m not a huge fan of it anyway for other reasons, so I don’t mind much either way.

  4. Good Mornin’ Jules. I love those old rebel songs. Here is my favorite. This song is not the love song made famous by Hoyt Axton and Johhny Lee. This is a war song…..
    ps.~We got some rain last night!!!!!!!

    • Hi Michael. Thanks for the visit. Glad you got some moisture.

      Roy Rogers – Tenting Tonight (On The Old Camp Grounds)

      I read somewhere once that ‘Tenting Tonight’ was written for the 50th reunion of the soldiers who fought on both sides at Vicksburg. Interestingly, that reunion of the Vicksburg troubles resulted in a lot of casualties inflicted by canes and fists, according to the news reports of the time.

      Old troubles die hard I reckons.

  5. I wouldn’t say it anymore because it doesn’t mean the same thing no matter what you add to it or take away from it.

    • Morning to you tffnguy: Yeah, nobody’s asked me to say it in a longish time, either. I’m not sure it ever meant the same, by hindsight. I’m not inclined to take oaths of any sort now I’ve got enough life behind me to wonder why anyone ever wanted me to take one and suspect their motives.

      Thanks for the thoughts and visit.


  6. This is an interesting discussion. Here’s a post we did on the Pledge awhile back. Bellamy’s original should have been left as it was.

    • Hi Cletus. Ever examined the difference between the Bellamy pledge and the pledge surrendering Confederacy forces were required to take after the Appromattox surrender?

      Nice link, interesting read. Thanks for the visit.


    When I was a kid, no one ever told me that saying the Pledge of Allegiance was taking an oath. It was just something you had to do to make it through the day. I no longer say it and won’t say it. I’ve learned I can make it through my days without doing what other people think is the thing to do. I love my country with all my heart but I don’t agree with the idea of taking any sort of oath. I shouldn’t have to. I live in a free country until they take it away from me.

    • Hi blueskiessunnydays. Thanks for the visit and read. I’d guess nobody much bothers to tell kids a pledge is an oath. I don’t recall anyone ever telling me, except in vocabulary class tests, maybe.


  8. Because I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian sect (perhaps cult), and did not say the Pledge as a child, I can vouch for its ability to make a day more bearable during a time when Communist was the worst kind of insult.

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