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I Pledge Allegiance To No One (Story for Children)

Resist programming.

I Pledge Allegiance To No One

Author: Stephen DeVoy

Every morning Elizabeth joined her classmates in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She never thought about what it meant, she just followed through with the other students repeating the words which came out like one very long run-on sentence. It was a mechanical exercise.

Today was different. A new girl, Amy, had transferred to her school from a school in another city. When the time came for the Pledge of Allegiance, she remained sitting, drawing on her notebook. No one ever gave much thought to the process before, until that day, but it was as if someone had scraped their fingernails on the chalkboard. Everyone felt very uncomfortable and they knew it was because one student was not reciting the pledge but they did not know why this bothered them.

The students began scanning each other, looking out the corners of their eyes, with an expression of incredulity. Never, in all their years, had they seen someone sit down and draw during the pledge. Amy seemed completely unaware of the tension and happily drew upon her notebook.

As they finished, the teacher looked over towards the class and was shocked to see Amy sitting there, drawing, rather than joining in the ritual.

"Amy!" said the teacher. "Why didn't you stand up with the rest of us and say the pledge?"

Amy's head raised up from the notebook. She looked at the teacher and said, "I don't say the Pledge of Allegiance. I never have and I never will."

"Amy, you are required to say the Pledge of Allegiance in this school," the teacher stressed sternly with an intense glare.

"Actually," said Amy, very calm and content, "this school is within the United States and I am not required to say anything."

Amy had done nothing. It was her doing nothing that was in question. Nevertheless, the teacher became angry and took Amy's true and sincere statement as a challenge to her authority.

"Amy, you will stay after school," she ordered.

This incident made Elizabeth feel very torn. On the one hand, Amy seemed disruptive by not saying the pledge but on the other hand, she had done nothing - literally. How could one be punished for doing nothing?

Elizabeth decided to wait in the playground after school. She wanted to talk with Amy when Amy got out of detention. She sat on a swing and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, only this time she took the time to notice what the words were and what they meant. She found the words strange and it left her with some questions.

At about 3:30, the side door of the school opened and Amy came walking out. She turned towards the road and continued walking, not noticing Elizabeth on the swings. Elizabeth ran to catch up to Amy. A few yards before reaching her, she slowed down and then stopped.

"Hi," she said. "I'm Elizabeth. I'm in your class."

Amy turned and smiled. "Hi, Elizabeth. I'm Amy. Did you wait here for me to come out of detention?"

Elizabeth blushed, "Well, um, yeah, I was, well I was wondering about, you know, the pledge and why you didn't say it."

Amy looked down and then raised her head to Elizabeth and replied, "I'm happy to meet you and everything, but really I don't think it is anyone's business why I choose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. It's my own business and I don't need to explain it to anyone."

"You don't have to explain it to me," said Elizabeth. "I was just hoping you would because I never met anyone before who wouldn't say it. I don't even really understand the Pledge of Allegiance. I was hoping that talking with you about it would help me learn something."

The two were silent. They began walking down the street. It was fall and the leaves were turning gold and red. A dog started following them from a distance. No one knew who he belonged to, he just showed up now and then and tagged along.

"Elizabeth," said Amy. "Do you know what flags are for?"

"I haven't really thought about it," she answered, "but I was really hoping you'd tell me about the pledge."

"I am telling you about the pledge. The pledge is a pledge to a flag and that's where we should start, with the flag." Amy became animated. She was beginning to enjoy the idea of talking about it. Her reluctance was not caused by shame, it was caused by her belief that she, as an individual, has the right to make her own personal decisions without anyone having the right to demand an explanation. In this case, she saw that it would benefit Elizabeth. Since there was a reason other than a demand for an explanation, she didn't mind sharing her thoughts.

"Flags are about war," she continued. "Flags are about blindly rallying to the call of murder. My father blindly rallied to the call of murder, behind that very flag, and now he's dead. I won't let them program me in to following like a lemming over the cliff."

She was silent for a time.

Elizabeth thought about what Amy had said. She had thought she was pledging allegiance to her country, but now that she thought about the words "I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag," she could see that Amy was right.

"What about 'to the Republic for which It Stands'," asked Elizabeth.

"Whose republic?" replied Amy? Do you vote?

"No, I'm too young, but one day I will," said Elizabeth.

"Let talk about that," Amy said with a heated voice. "First of all, they are forcing you to pledge allegiance to a republic and they don't let you vote. That smacks of slavery. Later you will vote, but for whom will you vote? Two political parties have a lock on the electoral process and both represent the same class - the rich. Are you rich, Elizabeth?"

"Well, now, I'm not rich, but I'm not poor," she replied.

"The difference between you and the rich is much bigger than the difference between you and the poor, Elizabeth. The rich don't have to worry about working. The rich have complete access to the legal system. The rich can get away with things that you cannot get away with. The rich do not go off and die in wars to protect their republic, they send the poor and they send you."

Elizabeth thought about Amy's words. She was right. Her parents were always worried about their jobs. They were stressed. They feared becoming poor but they had no expectation of ever become rich. Amy was onto something.

Amy continued, "Look at the President. Are his daughters fighting in the war? Have you heard of the son or daughter of any wealthy corporate man that has died in the war? Have you seen any soldiers living well and enjoying the things the rich enjoy? You haven't because they are not rich. The republic belongs to the rich and it is paid for with the blood of the poor. It is not your republic and pledging allegiance to it is like a slave pledging allegiance to her master or a rape victim pledging allegiance to her rapist.

"Have you ever wondered why they make you repeat that pledge, every day? When someone takes an oath of office, they do it once. They don't do it every day. Pledges are meant to be taken once. When someone has you recite something, over and over, every day of your life, they seek to program you. I bet you never thought about the words of the Pledge of Allegiance before, have you?"

"No, I haven't. I say it like it's one long word..."

"Exactly. It is a program, not a pledge. The daily recital of that pledge is indoctrination. The Nazis used indoctrination. The Soviets used indoctrination. Cults use indoctrination. Do you want to be a robot, Elizabeth?"

"No, I don't want to be a robot," she replied.

"Then think about what you let them do to you. When the call to die for the republic of the rich goes out, do you want to march blindly off like a good little robot to die in the rich man's war or do you want to have the spine to stand up and say, 'No Way!'"?

A twig falling from a tree could have broken the silence, but none fell. The two walked in silence for twenty minutes. As they passed an apartment building Amy said, "This is where I get off. I'll see you tomorrow."

Elizabeth continued walking. She reached her housing track and looked at the rows of identical houses. Something had changed within her. She felt a sense of self.

The next day in class all of the children stood up to say the pledge, except for Elizabeth and Amy. The teacher glared at the two and said, "Do we have to go through this again?"

"Yes," Elizabeth replied, "I pledge allegiance to no one."


nice story 10.Dec.2004 09:16

but

the vocabulary and sentence structure are a little too advanced for grade school children, i think.

heh 10.Dec.2004 11:32

iggir

reads sorta like a Chick comic...

Could it be rewritten? 10.Dec.2004 13:17

Working Class Mama

I really enjoyed this. My son does not recite the pledge of allegiance either. It would be nice to have a story written for younger children to help him understand better and not feel so alone. This version seems to be written for preteen and older children.
In fact, it would be nice to have children's stories on more social/political subjects for anarchist parents. I've had a hard time finding books like this. Maybe someone could start a children's book writing collective or something.

yeah 10.Dec.2004 14:00

...

that would be soooo cool! Too bad Ursula Leguin didn't do any childrens books (to my knowledge)

I know how you feel 10.Dec.2004 14:00

Ather Masood

Bismillah.

Because the same thing happened to me in eight grade and then in Sophmore year of High School. Wonderful.

Salam.

simple story is all too true 10.Dec.2004 14:04

pledge 2 no one

Yes the vocabulary may be a little big for grade school
Yes a little "chick comic" style is noticed
BUT the point is clear as first grade recess
And the facts and the story, do create a lesson that should ring home to any age
The cute story explains, in an easy to understand way, the "follow & don't question way" allot of Americans live.
I intend to read this to my 12 year old and to some adults too.
The point is very clear and the value of this short story is rich with ideas.
This is an interesting short story that shows that the simple minded way we teach to ignore the "plain as day" signs that we are losing our vision of freedom and liberty and blindly following like good little sheep should without making a choice or standing for up for our real freedom (like in the story these two girls did)

this wasn't written for children 10.Dec.2004 16:29

sleeping giant

It was written for people like me.

People like me didn't realize I lost the very liberty, I thought I had. People like me thought that I lived in a free society. People like me that were so caught up in their own world, that they lost the one they thought they lived in.

So now, people like me need to be talked to like children, because that is what I feel like. An innocent child that has been lied to and deceived. I see many people like me, don't like to accept that, what makes me differen't? I don't know. Perhaps it's because when someone show's me the sky is blue...I can see it with my own eyes.

Thank you for this bed time story, I'll make sure to read it to all the kids in my sandbox, I think they'll like it.

It's time 10.Dec.2004 16:50

I dusted off trin@resist.ca

my old attempts at writing short stories for children from an anarchist's perspective. Much of what I've just read here reminds me of how simple it is to get points like this across, if one just takes the time to realize just how simple EVERYTHING can be between ppl when communication is open. Yeah so, I'd like to gather anyone interested in starting up some kind of 'collected works' for children's stories, something each of us can contribute to, whereby we can print it off real inexpensively and distribute it to local bookstores and coffee houses which are frequented by parents with young children. I promise not to write all boring-like I am here too, lol. At any rate, it'd be really cool if a lot of us would write more of what's on our minds, the things which we could explain to children which seek to empower them, instead of just shopping around for things which are already out there on the shelves which seek to encourage conformity in children.

http://subvertical.org
971-404-9449

this is brilliant 10.Dec.2004 20:41

lotus

this is one of the best thing's i've read on indymedia in a long time. thank you so much for writing it. it really reminded my of my childhood when I didn't want to pledge.

i do think that Amy's sentence structure is a little bit complicated. but overall, it's awesome.

it reminds me of myself at that age 10.Dec.2004 23:13

cameron remembering_emma@yahoo.com

when i was that age, grade school and on, i was ostrisized for not saying the pledge. like others i could see through the lies as i have always been part of the poor working class. so i was shuffled through school, always correcting my teachers with the knowledge i gained through people like noam chomsky, emma goldman, and howard zinn. i can remember when i got suspended in the 5th grade for say that christopher columbus was a murderer and a rapist. keep the stories coming and i will too. i understand about teaching the next generations, myself having a 6 year old niece. i try to impart morals such as free association, mutual aid, respect for life, and independance in thought. i too will be writing more children oriented books. i would be totally interested in starting a childrens book collective. i live right outside seattle and the left bank books collective at the pike place market would totally be down (i bet) for distributing those kinds of books. get in touch with me, we can work out some plans.

peace, love, revolution
cameron


What a great idea! 10.Dec.2004 23:50

Catalina Eddie

And exquisitely subversive too. Kid's stories; I can already hear the howling of the rulers. Ya know, it's one thing to piss them off, which it definately will, but it's a deadly effective way to subvert them. I've never written stories before, but I'm inspired to try. Let's all post stories here and see what we can get started.

Vancouver

Working Class Mama 11.Dec.2004 05:15

.

Maybe _you_ could start a children's book writing collective or something.

You don't even need a face to face collective. You could write another version of this story and publish it here with a Creative Commons license. Someone could make it better.

Someone could make it six years old. Someone could make it eight. Someone could make it eighteen. Someone could make it eighty. Someone could make it Chick. Someone could make it Punk. Someone could make it Bourgeois. Someone could make it Marxist-Leninist, Maoist, or Stalinist. Someone could even make it PNAC or Born Again.

We, our species, are natural story-tellers. Most stories are more than 4,000 years old. We just keep changing the names. If you can avoid saying "*ickey *ouse", you can say whatever you want.


BTW Ursula Le Guin has written stories for children :

 http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Bibliography-Plain.html

I like the one about the Red Horse.

Samizdat 11.Dec.2004 05:44

.

Samizdat : Russian, sam (self) + izdatelstvo (publishing)

Self-service photocopiers are everywhere, dirt-cheap. With a little practice, you can walk up to a machine and make ten or a dozen copies before anyone has a chance to disapprove.

Just write "Creative Commons, copy me freely for non-commercial use" at the bottom.

 http://creativecommons.org/
 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

 http://commoncontent.org/

XOXOXO 11.Dec.2004 06:16

truth grunt

Hugs and K.i.s.s.-es

KISS has always been my favorite. You don't have to be a rhode scholar to cut through the BS. Common sense usually works best.

Keep it up

Pledge... 11.Dec.2004 09:07

melee swirlofgirl@gmail.com

I pledge a grievance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the republicans whom I can't stand
One nation under smog indispicable [sic]
WITH LIBERTY
FOR JUST US NOT ALL

-NOFX


Pledge was Political 11.Dec.2004 14:40

North Portlander

I just finished a fascinating book, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, the story of the World Columbia Exposition in Chicago, 1893 and the associated serial murders by Dr. Holmes, who ran a hotel and pharmacy near the fairgrounds. One of the promotional gimmicks associated with the Exposition (and there were many) was the recitation, by school children, of a "pledge" which was the forerunner of the Pledge of Allegiance. The original pledge was written by Frances Bellamy and sponsored by the magazine, The Youth's Companion. Prior to that, the first mention of a "pledge" was in June 14, 1889
when Colonel Balch introduced an American Flag Salute at his NY kindergarten. Until 1942, the pledge was recited with a raised stiff right arm, but because of its resemblance to the Nazi salute, this was changed to a right hand over the heart when the Flag Code was adopted by joint resolution of Congress. Every child was legally obliged to say it. In 1943, in West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially reverses Gobitis and declares unconstitutional state laws compelling public school children to recite Pledge. In 1954, after a three-year campaign by the Knights of Columbus, President Eisenhower signed a Congressional resolution on June 14, adding wording "under God" to Pledge. In 1978, the 3rd Circuit Court of the U.S. Court of Appeals, declared unconstitutional a New Jersey law requiring students to stand during the recitation of the Pledge.

History:
 http://www.historyofthepledge.com/history.html

Bellamy and draft of the first pledge:
 http://www.historyofthepledge.com/pledge.html
Draft copy of the first pledge
Draft copy of the first pledge

Here's a political "Dr. Suess" type poem 12.Dec.2004 07:52

Jody Paulson

The Monkey Cage
by Jody Paulson

There's thousands of monkeys who live in a cage
Filled with anxiety, hunger and rage
The cage sits on top of a shelf in a lab
Where monkeys are fed all the food they can grab
Some monkeys, however, grab more than the rest
They've fought over food and proven the best
The weak monkeys starve, which then makes them weaker
The meek monkeys beg, which then makes them meeker
The big monkeys fight and they scratch and they kill
All over assurance that they get their fill

But things aren't as dim as on first glance they look:
At the edge of the cage there is a light nook
Where bright, daring monkeys imagine a way
To exit the prison which locks them away
It seems that this side of the cage might come loose --
But pushing with just these few monkey's no use!
Everybody must push! They must make them see!
If all monkeys push hard, then all monkeys are free!

They cried to the others, but they were drown out
By the yammering, clammoring and thrashing about
Of monkeys who jockey for status and mates
All caught up in jealousies, hungers and hates
And none of them heard what the bright monkeys said
It's hard to think free when you need to be fed

There were some, however, old ones in the back
Whose interest in life had begun to go slack
Who listened to all that the bright monkeys said
To which they replied: "Pooh-pooh, use your head!
"We're 'locked in a cage?' Well, that could be quite true,
"But if so, generations of us and you, too
"Were born here, lived here and died in the crowds
"So all of you take out your heads from the clouds!
"Things are as they must be, and always have been."
And with that things resumed at the back of the pen

The bright ones, however, did not lose their scope
And turned to the big monkey leaders in hope
"ALL monkeys must push? Not a chance in the world!"
said a white monkey, pained as his saga unfurled,
"The browns are at war with the black monkeys now
"And for US to help THEM our new pact won't allow ..."

"Do you honestly ask that we all push for free?
"Some slacker might push much less harder than me!
"Or worse, they'd be robbers who'd steal all our lunch
"That we'd all leave behind to go push with the bunch
"-- And further, I must say I don't think it's sage
"To be telling our monkeys they're 'locked in a cage'
"I don't see it as such -- monkeys have what they please!
"(As long as they're strong and can keep what they seize)"

"They're attacking our system! I'll bet its a plot!
"Call out the guards and start purging this lot!"
So the guard monkeys charged, adding more to the fray
Between black monkeys, white monkeys, brown monkeys, gray

The cage shook with violence, right close to the ledge
Of the high top shelf ... then over the edge
Those monkeys were silly, don't you agree?
Except when those monkeys
Are you
And are me

(PS --Thanks for your great story! But I'll agree that Amy sounds like a very intelligent high-schooler.)

A new pledge may be better than none ! 12.Dec.2004 21:34

soggy

I like everthing I read here , comments and all...when I first began to act, on my own behalf, against reciting the Propaganda Pledge in school, I was threatened, when I still refused, then I was asked to please just stand silently...soon my friends , just a few, also refused, it felt like a real acknowledgment of our freedom...at first we were silent, then we would substitute our own subversive language...and sometimes just repeating words that sounded like fah que....but I've often thought, and even drafted a few attempts at a real pledge..one of personal liberty and freedom, one that would take the same meter and become a substitute that could replace the 'borg pledge' .....I'd like to see that......I don't do the 'blood spattered banner' song either... The collective for kids books is good.soggy

Them chiluns ain't as dumb as we think they is 12.Dec.2004 21:46

El Bizarro

I'm not from the US, so I don't know what ages kids there go to "grade school" but I have to say that I think a lot of people underestimate the intelligence of children. Sow the seeds...


Not for kids (even ones that are the same age as the 'heros' of this story) 02.Aug.2005 21:03

Vickie

While this is a great story to be told to everyone, I have to agree with the others. The vocabulary used here is far too advanced for other children to understand or to even be the actual words of those elementary girls that were supposedly speaking.

Yes, Vickie is right. Vickie's children are too unintelligent for this story. 08.Jan.2007 20:34

Hummm

Yes, most children are morons. Thanks Vickie.