The Pledge of Allegiance Feels Funny

When social conventions become standard procedure, and taboo to question.

The Pledge of Allegiance Feels Funny

It’s interesting the things we accept without understanding their foundation. For example, the fact that women are basically required to wear makeup (speaking of foundation), while men are prohibited from wearing makeup unless they are on television. I don’t know how this practice started, and I'm not going to dive into that at this time, but I do know that there are more than a few people that could benefit from a little cover-up to even out their skin tone from time to time, and it wouldn’t hurt to put a little color in those cheeks too.

When social conventions are accepted as a ubiquitous standard procedure, people look at you funny when you don’t follow them. The suburbs in the midwest are a great example of this, as we have entire entities called HOAs, which are custom designed specifically to get people to act with conformity. For example, In a suburban housing addition, you can get funny looks when you don’t care for your grass properly or use the wrong tool to do some yard work. If you didn’t pick up your dog’s fecal matter, you would be the subject of shame in backbiting conversations by your neighbors as they pass by the chat with one another on neighborhood walks. You’ll likely get a passive-aggressive note asking you to change at some point too. Some even more unconventional choices may draw even more than just funny looks and dirty letters. Like parking on your grass or not waving at someone driving through the neighborhood. You can be excommunicated from the neighborhood text groups for that kind of behavior.

The suburbs are not the only place we see social expectations arising. We see them everywhere. As the practice becomes accepted as normal, in some cases, it becomes decorum, and you are ostracized if you do not accept and follow the standard. Consider the office setting for white-collar jobs. When you go to work on Monday, you are expected to ask people how their weekend was. When in meetings, If you meet with someone you don’t see every day, you’re supposed to shake their hand at the beginning and end of your meeting.

What about other areas of life? In the shopping setting, if you see a window washer cleaning the glass at a retail establishment, it is customary to tell this window washer that he missed a spot and then awkwardly laugh to signal that it was a joke and they should think it is funny. If you are at a red light and are caught staring at another driver, it’s appreciated if you give them a quick nod with a closed-mouth grin to demonstrate that you are polite and were not strange for staring at them.

Social conventions get even more weighty when you get into certain chapters of life, such as college, career, and raising kids, but very little could be more impactful to one’s life than pledging your undying commitment to a 10-inch by 19-inch piece of cloth.

Perhaps it made sense in the 1890s when the socialist (yet Baptist) preacher Francis Bellamy penned the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a method of marketing the magazine “The Youth’s Companion,” which he wrote for, presenting his ideas of racism and other political theories promoted within the publication. Thankfully, he and the magazine only marketed to children, so their ideas were contained to a relatively small audience. The magazine, the largest circulated publication at the time, offered flags to readers who sold subscriptions, and promoting the idea of saluting those flags with an oath was a nice enhancement.

By World War II, Congress had adopted the pledge as an official invocation of the state and made it a law for schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class. If it perhaps has concerned you that the history of the pledge of allegiance may have a checkered past, there’s no need for worry because they added the words “under God.” This served as an effort to differentiate us from Nazi Germany, which was also very proud of its flag at this time and of pledging oaths of allegiance to their divine no matter what they may direct their people to do. This addition of a religious element proved effective at whitewashing the propaganda and created room to sufficiently shame everyone who chose not to participate in reciting the oath. The lack of conformity makes people uncomfortable. Even today, people in the suburbs look at you funny if your hand is not on your heart while it is being recited. To this day, it is required by 47 states to make time for the pledge in all public schools. It’s not brainwashing, of course. It’s patriotism and a commitment to textiles.

If you still have concerns, here is a Tweet from Senator Ted Cruz standing before a flag in his office on Flag Day, looking completely normal, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag for publicity.