October 23, 2018

Why Do We Pledge Allegiance to the Flag?

“The origins of the pledge cannot be understood apart from the “flag movement” of the 1880s, which itself cannot be understood apart from the Civil War. Just as U.S. (that is, Union) flags became more omnipresent during the war, so “loyalty tests” also spread. People suspected of disloyalty were often arrested, eligible for pardon if they submitted to an “oath of allegiance” swearing to “support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign,” and to “bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same.” Such oral and signed performances were thought to be rehabilitative, making real Americans out of those whose devotion was questionable or had wavered.

During the war, the practice of oath-taking and pledging did not extend beyond captured Confederate soldiers and their suspected Northern sympathizers, but the “cult of the flag” that emerged two decades later began to stir a desire in many Americans to have more citizens—maybe all citizens—demonstrate their respect for the flag. Schools, in particular, became a site for organizing around this impulse. For example, in the last 1880s in New York City, George T. Balch, a West Point graduate and veteran of the Civil War, organized a number of flag-related patriotic ceremonies for schoolchildren, and in his 1890 Methods of Teaching Patriotism in the Public Schools, he published the first known pledge to the U.S. flag: “We give our Heads! —and our Hearts! —to God! —and our Country!” Around the same time, Charles Homer of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) began encouraging the GAR to promote “flag presentation ceremonies” in schools around the country.

In October 1888, a popular weekly children’s magazine, the Youth’s Companion, started running advertisements selling flags, and in 1890 it sponsored a promotional essay contest for students on the topic “The Patriotic Influence of the American Flag When Raised over the Public School.” The winner from each state would receive a large flag for their school. That same year, James B. Upham, head of the magazine’s promotions department, concocted an idea for a national public school celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. He took his plan to the National Education Association, which appointed a steering committee chaired by Francis Bellamy, minister of Bethany Baptist Church in Boston and a Christian socialist, as well as an editor at the Youth’s Companion.”

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"Now I’m starting to wonder how I can go at all. And I’m also wondering why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends."

"It's going to be a letdown. Not only is it likely that the final report will not reveal that the president has been a KGB agent since the late '80s, as at least one mainstream liberal columnist fantasized."

"The JFNA GA may say they want to talk, but there are some parts of Israel which have the feeling that this American Jewish organization is not really interested in hearing what they have to say."

“What responsibility do you think young, famous women have today to be activists?” I asked Bateman. “Are you tempted to leverage your fame for political reasons?”

"For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. "

"On its face, voting by phone makes sense. Nearly ninety-five per cent of American adults own mobile phones, and rely on them for all sorts of secure transactions."

"Allegations of sexual harassment brought down Bill Gothard, a leading figure of the Christian right. But his fall also revealed the diminished influence of fundamentalism in the Trump era."

"Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition."

"Kids have a habit of imitating their parents’ criminal behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that by one measure, 10 percent of families account for two-thirds of criminals."

"SFAH doesn’t make an argument for local or slow food per se, but that’s what we see. The dishes are simple, with few ingredients, made traditionally and with pleasure."

We think of archeological finds as being clues to the ancient past. In a new book from Ulrike Sommer, archeology's effects on present-day national narratives are excavated.

"That the highest God speaks for six days and then has to rest from fatigue at the seventh is a patent absurdity: ‘It is not fitting for the first God to be tired or to work with his hands or to give orders,’ he writes."