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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance: Its Days Are Numbered in Emeryville

Emeryville Patriotism in the Age of Trump

Publicly Administered Loyalty Oath 
At City Hall Should Exit With Trump's Entrance

"I pledge allegiance to the United States...".  "Without benefit of critical thinking, I swear my loyalty"- how's that sound, especially now that Donald Trump will wield near supreme power?  How about, "No matter what Donald Trump has planned for us, I pledge my allegiance to him".  How's that sound?  Those stand-in pledges can now be construed to be at the black heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, an un-American loyalty oath wherein the speaker unthinkingly gives up his or her own agency to do the bidding of the federal government (and by extension, its executive).  Starting on January 20th the beneficiary of that bidding has a new neo-fascist face most Emeryville residents will be uncomfortable with.
The American loyalty oath, before bootcamp-like in its coercive adherence, now suddenly seems positively Pyongyang-like.
The eagle wants us to make a pledge of allegiance:
to ban pesticides and end habitat destruction. 
That is unless the Emeryville City Council does its patriotic duty and dispels with the public administering of the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council meeting; something they have pledged, so to speak, to consider at the Council meeting on January 17th.

A change in how our local government sanctifies its democratic legitimacy is shaping up.  Mayor Scott Donahue is directing the Council to consider all manner of loyalty oath Pledge replacement possibilities to satisfy the function of bringing the community together at public City Council meetings including the singing of the Woody Guthrie classic 'This Land is Your Land' and/or the public recital of Walt Whitman poetry.  It represents an important shift away from the banal provincialism of Emeryville reliant on kitsch sophistry as it is to a more aspirational civic engagement as it could be.

Many towns in the Bay Area don't do the loyalty pledge before their public meetings.  Indeed, there's no law saying the oath must be administered, so why do we do it?  We can see plenty that's put at risk by administering the oath but nothing that can be gained that couldn't be gained by a less authoritarian and demanding avowal such as the populist unifying hosannas from Mr Guthrie or Mr Whitman.

“May we think of freedom, 
not as the right to do as we please, 
but as the opportunity to do what is right.” 
- Walt Whitman

Besides the oath being un-American, we've noticed the City Council, while asking us to join them in reciting the oath, don't like to say it themselves.  Even former Councilwoman Nora Davis (how we love to say that), the premier conservative on the Council, stood silently as do her colleagues whenever the oath is being administered.  It is the crowd in the Council chambers, cowed as they are, that freely give away their agency hands on hearts and sign on to relinquishing their critical thinking rights so wantonly as they speak the words.  The hypocrisy of this Council on this score has been blinding; if you're going to ask us to say the pledge, don't you think at least you yourself should say it, City Council?

Under God
Kicked to the curb: Jesus wants us to
continue praising him at City Hall.
Nonetheless, now it would seem, those days are behind us.  We like the Mayor's idea especially of having the community unite in song with the palliative effects brought on from This Land is Your Land with its Trump-canceling collectivist vision of our community and country.  This will likely get the right wing all agog and agitated, a nice side benefit.
The Council will also consider various non-theocratic pledges, for instance from a contest held by TheHumanist however inspiring as some may be, those represent just more of the same; a pledge.  The government should not ask our community to pledge it anything.  Loyalty is to be earned, not coerced.  We urge the Council to reject the Pledge of Allegiance being replaced with another pledge, even one that kicks Jesus to the curb.

We hope this City Council rejection of the American loyalty oath will spill over to the School District where it's needed at least as much as at City Hall.  We have long been agitating against the Council led administrating of the McCarthyist loyalty oath especially at the School Board meetings.  How blinkered is it we have to ask, that the School District spends so much time teaching the value of critical thinking skills to the students only to subvert that message every School Board meeting when everyone enters collective amnesia and again nearly on automatic, goes through the anti-critical saccharine display of phony rectitude and piety.   Back in the dark days of 2011, the School Board was on the verge of dispensing with the loyalty oath but reactionary forces rose up to make sure the District stayed on the straight and narrow with God and country.

It shouldn't take the terrifying idea of President Trump to spur the City Council into action on this and we're not sure if that's indeed what was instrumental in their turn around; really it doesn't matter.  We just welcome rationality in association with public policy at City Hall and we applaud the Council for this symbolic but still important rejection of heretofore unneeded and unhelpful nonsense.

We're a community here that has allegiances we'd like to proclaim, yes, but we're a community that has allegiance to redwood forests, gulf stream waters and the collectivist idea that the land was made for you and me.


  1. You're a good writer Brian. English major? I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you. The Pledge serves an important role in bringing the community together. The God part has nothing to do with Jesus. It could be Budda or any other deity. Besides people can opt out. I don't even say the God part. Singing is out for me. I've got no voice and I'd be too embarrassed.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Not English, rather Art and Rocks.

  2. Some may think the pledge brings the community together, but it leaves out anyone with a problem with wording in the pledge. What actually brings the community together is the community gathering itself, not the pledge. I'd drop it.

  3. Love of, and allegiance to, country comes from within, not as a product of some conformist oath. I say drop it. If it must remain, I'd prefer that "One nation under God" be changed to "One nation under the Milky Way."

  4. Love the Woodie Guthrie song and its well=meaning sentiments but, in truth, this land was *not* made for you and me. Nor does it "belong" to you and me, nor to humans as a species. But I do think that having something to say or do at the start of the meeting that unites attendees as a community would be a good thing.

  5. trump wants to jail those who exercise their right to express their freedom of speech by burning the United States flag. Before he is sworn into office he needs to recognize his allegiance must to the United States Constitution, not to a flag.

    Although the oaths differ in form between the various federal positions, each of them has as its centerpiece upholding the Constitution. None of them reference a flag.

    The current Pledge of Allegiance, more appropriately named “The Flag Salute,” fails to convey the central importance of our Constitution. I believe a more appropriate pledge of allegiance would begin: “I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the Republic which it defines.”

  6. I just dislike that it is said so mindlessly and not actually practiced in daily life. "with justice and liberty for all". I've been mayor and chair of a number of boards where we "have" to say the pledge. I always make a point of the content and ask the attendees to imagine that kind of place, how we get there, what we do each day to make it happen. Most everyone I know leaves out the "under god" part. Silence. Not a bad alternative.