The topic of the American Pledge of Allegiance came up in my Ethnicity and Identity paper recently during a great lecture by visiting Prof. Paul Spoonley in relation to immigration and how it looks different in New Zealand compared to many other parts of the world.
In New Zealand residents get many of the same rights as citizens, including the right to vote, while having the ability to stay somewhat apart from the national system of shared culture and beliefs if they so wish. The contrast was drawn with the U.S. where citizenship is the expectation of most immigrants to the country, where a national identity is all but forced upon would be citizens.
I actually recited the pledge for the class, (I wrote it out first to make sure I remembered it from my childhood indoctrination), and I noticed something I’d never considered before.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the country for which it stands,
one nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.”
What jumped out at me this time was the “one nation…indivisible” verbiage. In a time of transmigrants, multi-culturalism, multi-ethnicity, and dual citizenship is nationhood at all fixed? Is it likely or even possible for the U.S. to maintain one indivisible nation under a flag representing the country/state?
It feels like the pledge assumes a “nation-state,” not a nation(s) within a state.
One tactic is to preserve the one nation-state under a god. The “God” line has long been debated as a contentious issue and has been the primary reason some parents in the U.S. have told local primary school boards, the propagators of this particular piece of our national identity, that their child will not be required to say the pledge every morning before the start of the school day. Schools require the child be present, but allow them to stay seated, not place their hand on their heart, and refrain from saying the pledge.