Last week’s post on the history of our Pledge of Allegiance (What Do You Know About our Pledge of Allegiance?) brought me new information. It also got me chewing on something I’d not spent much time with before.
Just what is this thing we have our school children do, and
why has it become such a fixture in our landscape?
How important is the pledge to how we see ourselves as Americans?
And, given that, how DO we see ourselves (us Americans)?
It probably won’t come as a surprise to discover that the pledge itself was conceived as a marketing ploy to help the Youth Companion magazine sell flags. I can’t quite wrap my hands around WHY they wanted to sell flags back then, but sell flags they did.
I never really thought much about flags until my Kazakh colleague Gulzhahan noticed them during her visit in 2007.
“You have so many flags,” she proclaimed on our drive to Ohio. “Why do you have so many flags?” And, in asking other foreign-based friends over the years, it turns out that yes, the US seems unique in the number of flags we proudly display. In her country as in other countries I’ve visited and asked about, flags are generally for government buildings.
My exhaustive research earlier this evening revealed that flags on private homes became prevalent during the Civil War, in the North. It was a way to show support for the Union cause. Why it continued after the war ended escapes me.
A local newspaper in Gilroy California — where I first got wind of the flag selling motive — The Gilroy Dispatch (June 12, 2012), noted at the end of their article that
On Flag Day, let’s remember that the banner of red, white and blue is an icon symbolizing our American republic and our shared values. In creating the Pledge of Allegiance, Bellamy in no way intended for American children to vow fidelity to a piece of cloth. Instead, he wanted citizens to see the flag as an emblem of America’s spirit of unity.
“America’s spirit of unity,” they said, calling the flag “an icon symbolizing … our shared values.”
It’s stirring to see our red, white, and blue flying majestically against a clear, blue sky.
So here are my questions for today. Why does it stir us? What are those shared values? Are there truly core values that might unite our polarized society?
You see, I’m not convinced that we share core values anymore. And I’d like you to convince me.