Monday, July 4, 2011

I Must Be A Bad American

I was hoping to discover that I am a mutant because mutants get to have their own comic book and move franchises, but, alas, I have to accept that I am a bad American.

My first clue came when I learned that I hate parades more than good Americans.  I dislike Macy's Thanksgiving parade, the Tournament of Roses parade, local Independence Day parades, Moscow's May Day parade, and every other kind of parade one can name.  I had thought that I could still claim I'm a good a American because I love baseball, hot dogs--currently, I'm partial to Sonic's Chicago Dog--apple pie, and I drive GM or Ford vehicles, but those superficial exhibitions of good and decent American-ness are trumped by two other factors.

First, I want to change the national anthem.  I have this weird idea that a national anthem lyrics should be about the country as a whole not a poem based on a battle in the War of 1812.  If we're going to sing about battles, we probably should sing about the Battle of Saratoga that decided the Revolutionary War or The Battle of Gettysburg that turned the tide and preserved the Union during the Civil War.

I'm not totally alone in my desire to change the national anthem.  There's an online petition drive to change it to "America the Beautiful." As of today, there are 167 signatures.  Michael Kinsley wrote a column advocating change and analyzing replacements in 2009.  His list included "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "This Land Is Your Land," and "Simple Gifts."  I'd be fine with any or all of these, but a non-scientific poll responding to the article showed 86% want to leave the anthem as is.  I had hoped that the Christina Aguilera Super Bowl gaffes would start a push for a change, but no such luck.


I have and even weirder idea that I can't shake: one should pledge allegiance to the country before one pledges allegiance to the flag of the country.  MC at the Dakota War College wants Americans"to stand up like a first grader, place your hand over your heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance." Cory at the Madville Times is more nuanced.
As a dedicated American, the first great nationality based on rational choice rather than blood, I prefer to pledge my allegiance like a rational adult, not a first-grader. I want the words coming out of my mouth to be intelligent and sincere expressions, not knee-jerk reactions and conditioned recitations.

I enjoy leaving out the robotic pauses that strip the Pledge of meaning. (There is no comma after allegiance, flag, or republic. Try it: say the Pledge not as bad poetry, but as a sentence you would say to a friend at the kitchen table.) I especially enjoy emphasizing the most important words: the last six.
Both discuss the "under God" phrase.  I think Terry Eagleton gets it right when he writes, "[s]ocieties become truly secular not when they dispense with religion but when they are no longer greatly agitated by it."  I think the same is true for societies of faith; they are not greatly agitated by those who do not wish to make bold displays of belief. (HT Andrew Sullivan.)

Frankly, I think there's much more poetry and expression of faith in opening and conclusion of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Even with the word pledge in the last last sentence, it would probably be tough to write a pledge of allegiance based on these lines.  On the other hand, the Constitution's Preamble contains the makings of a fine pledge.  It wouldn't take much to change
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
to
I pledge allegiance to the Constitution and people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
I'd much prefer reciting that pledge that affirms greatness and requires citizens to have duties, but I guess that makes me a bad American who's ashamed of his country.

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