The Jack Boot of Conservative Correctness

During its coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, MSNBC left the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and righties went on the warpath.

The sports coverage opened with a brief, and unabashedly patriotic, clip that toggled back and forth between soldiers engaged in a flag-raising ceremony and school children reciting the pledge. After the children recited “one nation” the clip toggled to the flag-raising soldiers, and when it came back to the children it picked up where they said “with liberty and justice for all.”

The words skipped were “under God, indivisible,” which by wingnut logic would suggest NBC is both anti-God and pro-secession.

A normal person wouldn’t read anything into some skipped words, since the action of the film had moved away while the children were reciting. But then there are wingnuts. The network apologized a couple of hours later, but complaining has not stopped.

No one may violate the sacred boundaries of conservative correctness and get away unscathed.

I found it interesting that the various rightie sites still complaining didn’t clarify whether they felt insulted on religious or patriotic grounds. I take it they haven’t thought about it real hard themselves. To them, the pledge is more of a tribal totem than an expression of anything meaningful.

It’s a historical fact that “under God” was not part of the original pledge, which was written in 1892. “Under God” was added in 1952 by President Eisenhower. It’s also historical fact that earlier in the 20th century, Jehovah’s Witnesses endured considerable persecution because they refused to say the pledge, on the grounds that it violated their religious beliefs to say a pledge to any flag.

Some other Christians object to saying the pledge as well, saying it violates what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Mat 5.33-37 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

And, of course, atheists have rights, and there are a lot of religions in the world that don’t recognize the God of monotheism. Leaving out the “God” part, or even refusing to say the pledge at all, ought to be a matter of personal conscience. Things are different in Wingnut World, however. The wingnuts may pay lip-service to a God-given right to free speech, but God help you if you try to exercise that right.

For some vivid examples of what’s wrong with America, read the comments at Newsbusters. They seem to think that not saying the pledge as they want it said is an act of treason, and that NBC somehow violated their First Amendment freedom of religion by changing the words of the pledge.

This led me to reflect awhile on the way civilization has allowed even the extremely stupid to survive to adulthood and reproduce, which means advanced human societies are all doomed to self-destruct under the weight of idiocy. Oh, well.

33 thoughts on “The Jack Boot of Conservative Correctness

  1. “To them, the pledge is more of a tribal totem than an expression of anything meaningful”

    You got that right; to many patriotism is just a bumper sticker or a tee-shirt. The pledge is just something to be said before a sporting event. I remember as a kid I thought saying the pledge in unison before class sounded a bit creepy, like a cult chant. Many on the right confuse blind adherence to “American Exceptionalism” with patriotism, though now that we have that colored fellow in the white house they aren’t so ra ra ra go America anymore? I prefer to express my patriotism in other ways, such as giving to charities, buying American products (when possible), voting, etc.

  2. I keep telling people that the movie “Idiocracy” was a documentary, not a work of fiction.

    We’ll soon have a new ‘Pledge of Allegience.’
    “I pledge allegience to the flag,
    And the United States of Amerikkka,
    And to the white Republic for which it stands,
    One nation, UNDER GOD!,
    Indivisible, UNDER GOD!,
    With liberty, FROM GOD!
    And justice, FROM GOD!
    Oh, did I mention GOD yet?
    For all.
    Who are deemed worthy that is!
    By GOD!!!
    As told to us.”

    If you’re interested in the real pledge, written in 1892 by a SOCIALIST minister, and the changes since the original, you can check it out here:

    PS: maha, not to pick nit’s, but God was added in ’54. 🙂

  3. I am sure many of us are old enough to remember the days when the pledge was said with the right hand over the heart and the left outstretched in a kind of “ave imperator, morturi te salutant” pose (I probably have some spelling errors). After the recent unpleasantness of the “Big One” there were some disturbing associations and the outstretched arm was nixed. Does anyone know if the right arm was originally outstretched and shifted to the left before being discarded altogether?

    • goatherd — I found a photo on a Jehovah’s Witness site that is claimed to be of children reciting the pledge using the right-arm salute. I believe the site’s claims about JWs refusing to salute the flag because it was a National Socialist salute is, um, fanciful. I don’t think that was the original issue.

  4. Sorry, I should have read cundgulag’s link first. So, the switch to the extended left arm was an attempt to dispel unpleasant associations, which was not quite dissociative enough. The other distinct possibility is that I am “misrememberizing”. This memory goes back only to my kindergarten and first grade years, but, I am pretty sure, in a codger sense, that it is the way my elementary school performed the salute.

    The pledge also seems to have been popularized by flag manufacturers. It’s a “free market’ kind of thing.

  5. Where do I go to file my protest about the Pledge of Allegiance being demeaned by its use for something trivial for B-roll introducing coverage of a golf tournament?

    U.S. Open, U.S. Shmopen, it’s a frigging commercial sporting event that has nothing to do with the civic life of our nation, and it’s a ridiculous place for the Pledge of Allegiance. Sure, they play the National Anthem before sporting events, but that’s a salute to honor the location, and doesn’t involve making a loyalty oath.

    If we’re going to have the ritual, we ought to respect it, and not treat it like some kind of Harry Potter-ish magic spell, or secret handshake that lets you in to the club.

    I’m insulted that MSNBC used the Pledge at all, with or without God. Of course, I have a life and no need to justify my existence by seeking proof that the other side is out to get me, so I’m going to just move on with my life, instead of ginning up a blogstorm.

  6. biggerbox,
    “Of course, I have a life and no need to justify my existence by seeking proof that the other side is out to get me, so I’m going to just move on with my life, instead of ginning up a blogstorm.”

    That’s a wonderful explanation of one of the key differences between Conservatives and Liberals. Basically:
    We don’t think absulutely ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING is a slight that we need to wail, gnash our teeth, and rend our garments over.

    Liberals – What? That? No…
    Conservatives – NO slight is too small!!! And everything you don’t agree 100% on is a slight.

  7. Wish I could feign surprise, but I’m not that talented a thespian.

    Mr. Shatner, Master Thespian, said it best: “Get a life, people.”

  8. This led me to reflect awhile on the way civilization has allowed even the extremely stupid to survive to adulthood and reproduce, which means advanced human societies are all doomed to self-destruct under the weight of idiocy.

    That’s the opening premise of Idiocracy. Not only do the stupid survive and reproduce, they out-produce and eventually out-number the intelligent members. Go rent it.

  9. It just so happens that the History Channel ran a program on Saturday, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” so the picture of thousands/millions of German’s with out-stretched arms pledging undying allegiance to the Nazi Party and its leader is fresh in my mind. Is this what the right-wing is demanding from the American people?

  10. I may be the oldest commenter and I can only recall the right hand over the heart/left breast and the left arm hanging at my left side.

    I never have heard of an extended left or right arm.

  11. Chief,
    Yeah, I’m with you. I remember the hand over the heart. I don’t remember any raised hand or arm.

  12. @Felicity – Yes. We’re just lucky someone hasn’t yet emerged from right wing ranks with the stature of that individual all those Germans were saluting. But I fear that day or something like it is coming.

    I don’t know if it was the same “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” that you saw, but some months ago, I saw a similar show that told history from the perspective of the German people – from their old letters and magazine articles, home movies, etc of the day. It was one of the most impressive and revealing history shows I had ever seen. You really experienced the rise and fall of Naziism from the emotional and factual experience of the German public, as it occurred. What is scary, is that the Nazis managed to pull Germany out of the ruins of the Depression, so much so, that by the late 30s, people everywhere were referring to “the German Miracle”. Time Magazine named Adolf Hitler “Man of the Year” in 1935 for this achievement.

    What I fear is that with the coordinated right wing takeover of various statehouses, and all the draconian legislation being passed, is that the wing nuts too will accomplish their “American Miracle”. It will mean destitution for millions, and the end of what we think of America, but they may pull it off. Early in Hitler’s rise, his Nazi party banned the unions (they had to eliminate all leftist competitors, which included the communists). An eerie parallel to all the anti-union, anti-Democratic Party legislation being passed at the state level.

    OT, enjoy Tom Tomorrow’s Never-Ending, Conservative Carnival of Crazy.

  13. I’m 79 and I don’t remember the out-stretched arm AND I quit saying the Pledge the day it included “under God” since I can’t possibly believe that God would possibly take credit for creating, let alone rule over, any nation on earth, such as they are.

  14. The Pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian (spoiler alert for righties, clap your hands over your ears lest head explosion injures bystanders) socialist. Bellamy, after being fired from his Boston pulpit for too fervent championship of liberty and justice for all, including working stiffs, was toiling in the promotion department of Youth’s Companion when he came up with the Pledge as part of a drive to put American flags into every classroom, both to profit from sales and to promote the magazine.

    Pushing adoration of the flag tied in with the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage of discovery to the New World. Columbus Day accordingly was to be marked in every school room in the nation by the Pledge to the flag, preferably purchased from the magazine. This evolved into a daily routine.

    Until the rise of German fascism in the 1930s, the “Bellamy Salute” was used. Unfortunately, it resembled the Nazi “Heil Hitler” greeting, so it was dropped in favor of the hand-over-the-heart gesture of reverence. Bellamy saw the pledge as an antidote to the ultra-radicalism he feared was being spread by anarchist-minded new immigrants from Italy and other Mediterranean venues. Nevertheless, he was a firm believer in liberty and justice for all, even if particularly so for native-born Americans. The normally slightly more sensible Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the “under God” bit during the McCarthy era red scares in the early 1950s. Fortunately, Bellamy did not live to see that. As a traditional Baptist and a Socialist, he probably would not have approved of mixing God and mammon for political gain, although rendering what was Caesar’s unto Caesar was just fine by him.

  15. I lived in a very rural area and started school in ’57. I am 59. I’ll ask my older sister what she remembers. Maybe there was some variance, but we extended our left arm with the palm facing inward and the right hand over our hearts. I remember it being a bit tedious and being relieved when we could be more relaxed.

  16. When fascism comes to America, it will be carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag.

  17. “Not only do the stupid survive and reproduce, they out-produce and eventually out-number the intelligent members.”

    That’s why Planned Parenthood is this year’s NPR to the GOP.

  18. Them righties got a pretty shallow interpretation of what patriotism is. It’s sort of like guys who post pictures of their genitals on the internet thinking that that’s the all encompassing measure of being a man. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular by that analogy, just trying to point out that the righties are missing the fullness of what patriotism is by trying to monopolize and exploit it by the use of ritualistic symbolism. ex…GOP American flag lapel pins.. just in case somebody might wonder if you’re a true American. I’m more American than you?

    It’s all nonsense!…I remember some Russian,perhaps Dostoevsky, who said we are “born to the land”…and that idea kind of sums up for me what the essence of patriotism is …that’s one of the reasons I found it so disturbing when we slaughtered Iraqis fighters in Fallujah and then labeled them as terrorists for defending their homeland. Their defense of their homeland was to me a natural call to patriotism that we all experience.

  19. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

    I’ve never been to a high school reunion, and I wouldn’t remember more than a couple of people from that time by name. But still, I wish I could peek into their lives to see how they wound up. I grew up with the “hippie” generation. You know, the one that cheered when Jimi Hendrix played “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock on his electric guitar, and this so upset my conservative Republican parents. We laughed at them.

    Anti-war protests. End discrimination, support the Black Panthers. Yeah, we children of the ’60s were all about peace and love, sex, drugs, rock’n roll. Joints were sometimes rolled with American flag rolling papers. Che Guevara posters hanging on the wall of every hippie apartment. Earth Day. We so radical, our parents so square.

    Fast forward from the 1960s to now. My high school friends are ultra-right-wing nuts. Love guns, love war, love torture. Drive SUVs. They’ve got Jesus. Waiting for The Rapture. Abstinence-only sex education. Waving the flag. They want to throw all teenagers into jail for smoking pot, having abortions, or even having sex before marriage (which every one of them did).

    Even my two brothers vote Republican. By today’s standards, my parents were flaming liberals.

    If you’d told me 40 years ago it would be like this, I would have thought you crazy.

  20. If you’d told me 40 years ago it would be like this, I would have thought you crazy.

    Ditto here. I just thought the future would only get better and better. In much the way that I thought “couldn’t we all just be reasonable”.

  21. goatherd…It’s strange that mention “misrememberizing”. When I was in Thailand I used to go to the movies quite often, and before the movie started an image of the King was projected on screen while the Thai nation anthem was played.All the movie goers would stand at attention while that opening segment was conducted.
    I have a very vague recollection or possibly a complete misrememberizing of a similar experience here in the United States while our national anthem was played before the showing of a movie. I’m not certain whether my recollection is a real or imagined experience…Have you, or do any of the commentors here remember such a time when the national anthem was played in theaters at the opening of a movie. My earliest remembrance of going to the movies would be seeing the movie The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston back in the mid 50’s.

  22. @Swami
    In my movie-going experience, dating back a bit before 1950, I can’t recall the National Anthem ever being a standard thing at the start of a movie. In fact, the first instance I can recall was in 1969, and it was in London and the wrong National Anthem. (The nerve of those Brits! Their own “To Anacreon in Heaven” isn’t good enough for them?)

    As to “under God”, I too refused to say that stuff from the day it was made official. At the time, I’d just clam up at that point. But only a few years ago I learned of an early version of the Pledge, which has you diverge from the mob for only a few words, and then you’re back in the unison. I recommend it highty:

    … one nation indivisible, with liberty, equality, and justice for all.

    Sorry about the fraternité, but it’s still good.

  23. This was the discussion topic yesterday on the local lib radio talk show.

    First of all, I grew up in the 60′, HS class of ’72.
    I was an altar boy (never molested or propositioned by a priest).
    I was a Boy Scout from age 11 until age 16, when I decided I liked girls and spending money more than merit badges.
    Our Scout group was sponsored by our Catholic church.
    We started our meetings with the Pledge and reciting the Scout Oath.
    It seemed appropriate to me then, and I suppose if I was a Scout leader now, it would still seem OK.
    The Boy Scouts of America is an organization one is free to join, and they have rules and traditions. If reciting the pledge and Scout law is not your style, you can go join another group.
    TheAdult Scout Leaders in our troop were dads who enjoyed camping, I rember the sounds of Bud cans opening and laughter from their tents they were good normal guys taking care of their kids and having a good time in the process.None of the dads went around quoting scripture, none displayed racist attitudes, or pushed nationalism/ gingoism. It was camping, hiking, and having fun.I was onced told by my scout master to lighten up, there’d be plenty of time for regementation if we decided to join the military some day.
    Sporting events (and concerts, etc. ) are events one generally pays to gain admission. I really don’t see the reason why they start with the pledge or the singing of the national anthem; perhaps no one every really thought about it.
    I would not be offended if baseball games started with “Take me out to the ball game” or concerts started with “Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung. I’m there to have a good time, not to wallow in nationalism.
    I love my wife, but I don’t carry a banner around with her name and likeness, I don’t start every meal singing her praises; hell, I don’t even wear a wedding ring.
    Candide’s comment about 40 yrs ago is spot on; on the local level, we have a high profile trial of a young mother accused of killing her young daughter. The demands from the public to just “take her out and put a bullet in her head” ( no need to waste the taxpayer’s money) are truly disturbing.God Bless America (is that a demand, a request? I never really understood that line)

  24. erinyes: thanks for the link. I’m using that in my high school gov’t classes next year as we try to figure out what the difference is between citizenship, patriotism and nationalism. I’m a little trepedatious, however, since the end of collective bargaining means that I might have to simply be a cheerleader for the good-old USA. I can probably keep my job if I slam Obama and the ADA, however.

  25. It is interesting how selective the righties are about the Pledge. They get all cranked up if you don’t include “under God”, but when someone like Rick Perry talks about succession, the passage about “one nation, indivisible” seems to slip their minds, and they don’t make a peep about him breaking his pledge, and how disloyal he is.

    Funny how that works, huh?

  26. My question is, why did NBC even USE the pledge?
    For what earthly purpose?
    Yeah, it was The US Open, but the kid leading the tournament by a mile was from Ireland, and no American was anywhere in sight on the leaderboard.

  27. I remember reading several decades ago in a book about famous Supreme Court cases that some religious group had had trouble in Nazi Germany regarding patriotic salutes, etc. and were then faced with legal challenges here in the U.S. I’m guessing it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses; a little Google’ing found this on Wikipedia:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. Members of the religious group refused to serve in the German military or give allegiance to the Nazi government, for which hundreds were executed. An estimated 10,000 were sent to concentration camps where approximately 2,500 of them were killed. Historian Sybil Milton concludes that “their courage and defiance in the face of torture and death punctures the myth of a monolithic Nazi state ruling over docile and submissive subjects.”

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