The holiday season is ending. That means no more Christmas music, gathering with our families, nor good food aplenty. While it’s undoubtedly sad to wave goodbye to our favorite time of the year, we wanted to bring to everyone’s attention an incredibly important holiday that we all missed: Pledge of Allegiance Day. It takes place every year on December 28 and reminds us to honor and revere that thing we all said daily in elementary school. We celebrated it, did you?
Just kidding – we didn’t celebrate Pledge of Allegiance Day.
The origins of Pledge of Allegiance Day are unclear, but the history of the Pledge itself is well-documented. In 1892, Francis Bellamy penned the Pledge as a means of honoring his country’s flag. Originally, Bellamy meant it to be used across the globe by citizens in this way – there was no mention of the United States in the original version, seen below:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. So, the Pledge came to read:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A few decades later in 1954, President Eisenhower encouraged the addition of, “under God” to the pledge in response to growing atheistic sentiment. This created the modern Pledge of Allegiance, reading:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It’s apparent that our country continually perverted and diluted Bellamy’s pledge, meant to be shared by the whole world. Bellamy’s family even objected to the 1954 revision for this reason. This is demonstrative of our country’s fascination with hollow patriotism, or the act of supporting our country while ignoring its many flaws, many of them inherently wrapped up in our collective tribalism.
There are a lot of “unofficial” holidays spanning our calendars. For example, March 6 is National Dentist’s Day and September 21 is National Pecan Cookie Day. But those same months also boast National Anthem Day and Uncle Sam Day, respectively. Such observances, however meaningless, reinforce the idea that every American symbol and institution are worth celebrating. Not every country has a flag pledge and even fewer force children to ritualistically recite it day in and day out. Why does America have an utter, inescapable fascination with appearing patriotic?
Because true patriotism means reforming some of these symbols.
This country is far from perfect. We are dealing with severe economic inequality, racial disparities across sectors, and a general hesitance to enact meaningful reforms at every turn. Permitting such superficial expressions of patriotism shifts debate away from dealing with these issues. It lets people claim pride and adoration without working toward improving our situation. In doing so, we shift debate and discourse away from improvement – a genuine way to express your faith in what we can create together.
That idea is at the heart of all reform: We are stronger together than we are apart. Moving forward together, as difficult as it seems, is possible if we abandon these false expressions of patriotism. Talking heads tell us that kneeling during the National Anthem is unpatriotic, even though that demonstration is meant to improve the country. If we reject some of these holidays and hollow observances, we can focus on what’s important. And that’s moving forward, together, to improve people’s lives.