One aspect common to totalitarian regimes is the forced loyalty oath. Nazi Germany, for example, forced all pastors, civil servants and soldiers to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. In the Soviet Union, in Communist China, and numerous other nations, the state demanded that people swear loyalty to the government as a condition for a jobs, for education, or to receive any service that the state had arrogated for itself. Typically regimes demand routine public displays of loyalty before everyday events such as sporting events, theater performances, or the beginning of the school or work day.
Why do totalitarian regimes demand that people publicly announce their loyalty and subservience? The answer is simple – the totalitarian regime typically does not have the people’s willing loyalty. Rather, they must compel the people’s loyalty. And, if they can’t have the real thing, a fake version is just fine. The forced loyalty oath is a sign of a unpopular regime, that fears the people because it acts in a manner that not in the people’s interest.
Is the forced loyalty oath ineffective? Are totalitarian regimes fooling themselves, making people say empty words that the people don’t believe? To the contrary, the forced loyalty oath is common because it is very effective, being one of the cruelest attacks on freedom.
The forced loyalty oath attacks the freedom of speech. With it, the regime seizes control of a person’s mouth, and compels that mouth to say words that its rightful owner wishes not to say. The monstrosity of the crime arises from the fact that it is through our words that we construct society. It is with our words that we build our bonds with our fellow men. We are social animals, we need to talk to our fellows for our basic sanity. That is why one of the cruelest punishments that men visit upon each other is solitary confinement. Seize control of a man’s words, and you have effectively imprisoned him in his skull. That is why I feel that the right to speech is second to the right to life.
While most people recognize that that the freedom of speech is the right of every person to say whatever he or she wants to say, they often forget that it also includes the right of every person to not say things that he or she does not want to say. Forcing a person to say what he does not want to say is as bad as gagging him and silencing him.
We can decry pictures of children standing at attention wearing the red scarf of the Young Pioneers uniforms or the shorts of the Hitler Jugend as adults order them to pledge their undying loyalty to a state that plunders them and enslaves them. However, the sad fact is that while many Americans who would condemn other nations in a heartbeat for demanding such false displays of loyalty are supporters to a systematic version of it being practiced here at home.
Every day, millions of children living in the U.S. are compelled to utter the following words:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”
Allegiance is a state of loyalty or devotion. A declaration of allegiance is not something to be taken lightly. It is a modern form of a declaration of fealty, the oath that a person took under feudalism that bound him to obey his lord’s commands, even unto death. The oath these children are ordered to make is loyalty not to any idea or set of principles, but to a flag, a symbol of the state. Change three words, and a Cuban child could utter it in devotion to Castro, a North Korean to the government of Kim Il Sung, a Scottish child to the British Queen or a French child to the Republic. This emptiness did not go unnoticed to the public who demanded that politicians correct the matter. They did not want to give it any principle that would challenge the legitimacy of the state, so they decided to add a loyalty oath to God to distinguish it. Of course, God is conveniently very lax in enforcing such oaths and so no practical impediment to the power of the state. Furthermore, I am told that the champions of adding a religious component to the oath carried the day by arguing that no “godless communist” could take the oath, marking them for ostracism.
It is not surprising that public schools make this demand of children. From their inception in 1642 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, U.S. government schools have had on main purpose: to indoctrinate children in the religion or mores that the state feels most useful. Useful skills like reading and writing, critical thinking, knowledge of the arts and sciences are all secondary to the goal of indoctrination. In the case of Massachusetts, the schools were originally intended to induct the children into the state’s official version of Protestant Christianity rather than the heresies of their parents. In modern times, the religion is not some strain of Christianity, but rather the worship of the state. One can see this in the original version of the pledge, which is short and to the point:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands:
I will be loyal to the state and obey it’s commands.
The state is the people
People are not allowed to secede or withdraw from the state.
With Liberty and Justice for all.
Standard boilerplate conditions that all states, from Iceland to the People’s Republic of North Korea, claim to establish for the people under their control.
The details of the pledge are damning. The person who makes it is claiming not only loyalty to the state, but a loyalty that is devoid of any principles and irrevocable under any conditions.
The change to add “under God” does nothing to lessen the totalitarian nature of the pledge other than to make the laughable claim that the state is subservient to God.
The United States was originally founded as a nation of conscience. We can see this in an odd passage early in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1794. This was the treaty which reestablished diplomatic relations between Britain and the United States of America. In it the U.S. government made the following pledge towards British subjects remaining in the former colonies after the British Army evacuated it:
“All settlers and traders, within the precincts or jurisdiction of the said posts, shall continue to enjoy, unmolested, all their property of every kind, and shall be protected therein. They shall be at full liberty to remain there, or to remove with all or any part of their effects; and it shall also be free to them to sell their lands, houses or effects, or to retain the property thereof, at their discretion; such of them as shall continue to reside within the said boundary lines, shall not be compelled to become citizens of the United States, or to take any oath of allegiance to the Government thereof; but they shall be at full liberty so to do if they think proper.”
Every few years, some organization sues a school district because it compels children to state the pledge with the clause “under God”. These suits invariably claim that it violates the clause in the U.S. Constitution forbidding the establishment of a state religion. Unfortunately, these lawsuits miss the main point. The human rights violation is not that children are forced to pledge their loyalty to God – t is the fact that the children are forced to make any loyalty oath at all!
The pledge of allegiance is not compatible with a free country. Written by a socialist who sought to indoctrinate children with the idea that they should be servants of the state, it opposes the very principles underlying the Declaration of Independence. It is the duty of every patriotic American, whose loyalties are to those principles rather than some flag or body of men, to oppose it. Let the enemies of freedom distinguish themselves by compelling people to take oaths against their will. Let us once again embrace freedom and expel the rotten pledge of allegiance from our schools.