Perspectives: Doing our homework on the pledge

OPINION – Peer pressure is a tricky thing. This is particularly true as it applies to young people.

At one time or another, most of us received the timeless parental admonition, “If your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?”

This can be good advice, especially when one’s peers are encouraging participation in risky or unethical behaviors. Groupthink tends to bring out the worst in people where the sense of safety in numbers tempers any sense of personal responsibility.

However, when individual responsibility is applied to practices that many consider patriotic, people tend to lose their minds.

Case in point, my friend’s son attends high school in Southern Utah. He is a clean cut, respectful young man.

Recently, after researching the history and origin of the pledge of allegiance, this young man decided that he no longer wishes to participate. This is a matter of personal conscience rather than a protest against a perceived wrong.

Instead of standing and joining with his classroom at the start of each school day, he chooses to sit quietly at his desk until the class has finished the pledge.

The reaction of his teacher and some of his peers has been revealing.

His teacher has applied gradually increasing levels of threats and coercion to get him to take part in the pledge. Last week, this culminated in the teacher threatening to “physically remove” the young man from his classroom if he would not participate.

At least one classmate wrote an impassioned note to the young man describing how disrespectful he found it to fail to participate in the pledge. He accused my friend’s son of “spitting in the face” of those who’ve served in the military to defend the flag.

Perhaps you’re feeling a sense of outrage or disgust as you read of this young man’s refusal to take part in the pledge of allegiance. Maybe you’re questioning his motives or dismissing his decision as attention-seeking.

Why is that?

I ask this because a lot of good, otherwise reasonable, people seem to reflexively lash out with anger when someone declines to participate in patriotic ritual. It’s as if they feel a duty to defend the flag from some unjustified attack or disrespect.

But is it really an attack?

If your blood pressure is rising at the thought of a high school student peacefully abstaining from the pledge of allegiance, I have a few questions for you.

How and when did the pledge of allegiance come into being?

What do you know about Francis and Edward Bellamy, the brothers who gave us the pledge?

What was their stated purpose for incorporating this pledge into the daily routine of public school students?

Would you recognize the Bellamy salute that originally accompanied the pledge?

If we cannot answer these questions, then why are we getting bent out of shape over something most of us recognize only because we were trained to do it by rote?

Getting angry over something which we ourselves do not understand is not the mark of a rational thought process. Treating a peaceful act of personal conscience as an act requiring violent correction doesn’t reflect well on whatever it is we think we’re defending.

Is the American ideal of liberty and justice so fragile that it cannot withstand a single student failing to participate in a group loyalty oath? Or does the danger stem from the fact that this particular dissent is playing out in a compulsory government education system?

If my friend’s son were disrupting or otherwise preventing the rest his class from taking part in the pledge, that would be unacceptable. But how is sitting quietly while others recite the pledge offering offense or disrespect?

How can we claim to be honoring a symbol of freedom when even peaceful acts of personal conscience cannot be tolerated?

Difficult as the thought may be, the people who are getting worked up over his nonparticipation are not the ones thinking or behaving rationally. Most have never considered that there may be a reasonable explanation for his decision.

Unlike the individuals who are decrying his lack of patriotism and expressing disgust at his perceived lack of respect for the flag, he actually did his homework before making an informed choice to abstain.

Even when presented with the information that led him to opt out of the pledge, too many of his critics claim that he’s still wrong for not going along with the rest of his class.

It’s as if they’d rather be wrong with the crowd than risk standing alone for following the dictates of their own conscience.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • Hippononymous September 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I never thought I’d live to see the day where I fully agree on an issue with Bryan Hyde.

    • native born new mexican September 28, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      I agree with Bryan also. When I am in a group saying the pledge i usually stand and not make a big deal out of it but I only say the parts of the pledge I agree with ( like the republic part) and skip everything i don’t want to say because I don’t agree with it – like that part about one nation indivisible. I believe that secession from England was a good thing and I believe the southern states were right and had the right to seceded. I wish the liberty and justice part was true. It is not offensive. It just is not true. I won’t be forced to think and act differently.

      • 42214 September 28, 2015 at 9:29 pm

        You always whine about our unjust country. Whine about lack of liberty, Whine about fairness. Name a country in your opinion that has a better justice system than the USA.

        • native born new mexican September 29, 2015 at 8:54 am

          Why don’t you show me ( prove to me) how the justice system in this country is fair and honest 42214. Make a good case for me and every one here. If you are saying the justice system in this country is no worse than other corrupt countries that is a pretty awful statement. We torture people or we have other countries do the torture for us. We arrest and hold people with out charges. We have extremely corrupt trials. That is if you can get past being forced to plea bargain because you can’t afford to defend yourself against the corrupt court. We kill people on the side of the road or in their homes before they even have a chance to show their guilt or innocence. We steal their money through illegal asset forfeiture. We condemn and take their property through eminent domain laws. We tax them as many as three and four times for the same item- tax them till they are broke. The list is much more lengthy. No we do not have justice for all. We have almost no justice. So sad!

          • 42214 September 29, 2015 at 9:51 am

            As expected, did not answer a simple question. What country has a better system. All you did was the usual, WHINE. Woe is Me, Woe is Me.

        • JediJames13 September 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm

          Yes we do have a lack of liberty, and we should address it, you can call it “whining” all you want.

  • BIG GUY September 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I regard failing to recite the pledge as unpatriotic, regardless of the pledge’s authorship. Look at the words, not their source, Bryan. I’m sure there are wonderful messages and ideas that you and I would readily accept in the Koran and the teachings of Buddha even though we don’t endorse or embrace their source.
    I do not condone threats to force citizens to recite the pledge. But this young man by his actions encourages other young people to engage in less well thought out acts of rebellion and protest. Soon our high schools will be resonating with the “micro aggressions” that progressives have unleashed on college campuses.

    • wilbur September 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Too late – they already are.

  • anybody home September 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    What exactly is your problem with the source, Bryan? My only problem with the pledge was the added words “under God” as a vaccination against presumed Communism in the 50s. Silly.

    Otherwise, the words of the pledge resonate as just the kind of country I would hope we all strive for – one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. What’s wrong with that?

    How about elaborating on just what it is the young man objects to? You’ve done better columns, BH.

  • anybody home September 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Maybe next you’ll write about why we sing the National Anthem before sporting events. What’s up with that?

  • sagemoon September 28, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Bryan, you left me hanging. Now I’m super curious what this young man’s reason is for not participating in the pledge. What did he discover during his research?

  • ladybugavenger September 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    The whole pledging to a flag seems odd to me…(like brainwashing)

    Pledge. a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something: a pledge of aid; a pledge not to wage war. something delivered as security for the payment of a debt or fulfillment of a promise, and subject to forfeiture on failure to pay or fulfill the promise.

    Allegiance; loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual cause.

    FYI: use to say the pledge of allegiance everyday at school…..still waiting for the justice for all part. There’s no justice in corrupt political figures like the LA county board of supervisor ( who’s term ends in 2016) where’s my justice!!!

  • KarenS September 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I have two thoughts regarding this column by Mr. Hyde. As usual, Mr. Hyde lumps people into categories. His frequent use of the word “the masses” to describe people is a good example. In this same vein, he has decided that most people would see the young man in question as unpatriotic. To the contrary, I would think that most people would just be curious as to the reasons that the young man chose not to say the pledge. In my opinion, curiosity, rather than condemnation would be the most common response.

    Secondly, it is fairly obvious that the reason the young man has chosen not to recite the pledge has to do with what he found on google. A casual search reveals “horrifying” tidbits such as that one of the pledge writers wrote a fiction book about a socialist society. Horrors! And that the “Bellamy salute” was adopted by the German Socialist groups and became the Hitler salute.

    The young man should have done a little more research and found these words about the pledge that was written. “It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution… with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…
    “The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands’. …And what does that last thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches.”

    I am proud to repeat the Pledge of Alligiance. This is a free country and free speech is an honored and cherished tradition and the law of the land. So, the young man can do whatever he wants for that minute each day. What a wonderful country!

  • .... September 28, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Just a short comment. the young man has not violated any laws. it is his freedom to choose. to do or not. as a veteran I was glad to serve this country to protect this young man’s rights.

  • Rainbow Dash September 28, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I have not said the pledge in years, having stopped in high school on the grounds that the pledge of allegiance became a prayer in, I believe, 1947 or ’48 ( yes I said I believe, Im too lazy to google it right now), Please excuse me if Im off by a year or two. Every male member of my family except for my brother has served in the Armed Forces going back to WW1. America is not, never has been and hopefully never will be a “Christian” nation or nation of any other “church”. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I agree with Bryan Hyde! I stopped saying it my senior year of high school and have never said it since and my reasons for not saying it have only expanded. My story differs from the one Bryan told because Ive never bneen perscuted for my actions. I’ve never had anyone write me a note or threaten to physically harm me in any way though Ive gotten one or two cross looks over the years. I work in a school in Southern Utah, the school were I work has students recite the pledge before the national anthem is played over the loudspeaker every morning. No one has ever raised a fuss, asked me about it or even given me a cross look where I work. It is a non issue.

  • anybody home September 28, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    To the editor…why have my two comments been blocked (above)? Have I been blacklisted or something?

    • anybody home September 29, 2015 at 8:32 am

      thank you for whatever you did to stop the blocking…

    • Joyce Kuzmanic September 29, 2015 at 9:31 am

      Nope, they were probably just in queue for moderation, anybody. 🙂

      • Rainbow Dash September 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm


        I would like to know, why have you have allowed these comment sections to become troll havens? I admit that I am not always as nice as I should be(Im surprised some of my comments made the cut, honestly) but many are outright rude (Yes Ive been in that category too).

  • GrandmaB September 29, 2015 at 7:33 am

    For the very first time, I agree with Mr. Hyde. Blind patriotism was one of the things Hitler used. If you felt at all critical of your country you were killed. That simple. We haven’t gone that far, but we are not too far away from it from the reactions this young man has gotten. The teacher, if she is a teacher, should understand.

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