“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America….” Many of us can remember standing and reciting this each morning at school. But how many of you have thought about its origins?
NPR’s Shirish V. Dáte raised this question last week in reaction to Mitt Romney’s use of the Pledge of Allegiance in his campaign.
When Mitt Romney uses the Pledge of Allegiance as a metaphor for all that’s good and right with America, how many in his audience know that the two-sentence loyalty oath was penned not by the Founding Fathers in 1776, but a fascist preacher more than 100 years later?
Or that the original recommended posture was with a straightened arm raised upward and outward? Or that it was changed to the hand over the heart during World War II after the Nazis adopted the original as their salute?
Though Dáte makes several points about the use of the pledge in politics, the sociological point is that its use becomes so institutionalized that we (regardless of our political affiliation) don’t even question its origins.
And what are the precise origins of this custom? Well, Francis Bellamy (the “fascist preacher” noted above) and his friends asked President Benjamin Harrison to incorporate the pledge, which he wrote, into the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus’s arrival in America. It has been used ever since, with one change. In 1954, President Eisenhower added “under God.”
For more on the use of the pledge in politics, see the rest of the blog post here.