Bret Hrbek


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Forced Pledge Meaningless to Patriotism
Flag should be symbol of freedom, not coercion

By Bret Hrbek


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 We're having a debate here in the Commonwealth of Virginia over whether or not the schools (i.e., state) should require students to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Can you believe it?  Here, in the state which gave us George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, our legislators want to require citizens to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth.

I can only imagine the embarrassment that our Founders must have for their successors in the Virginia General Assembly.

Requiring people (especially those who are required to attend government-run schools) to pledge their allegiance to the flag runs counter to everything the flag supposedly represents. 

To me, Old Glory is the icon of freedom.  It is the symbol of the choices we have in our country to live our lives without fear of persecution by the state because of our beliefs.  It represents the image of our individual states and people bonding together in a mutual respect and belief in individual rights.

But that's all it is:  a symbol.

The concept of requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance may be grounded in good intentions.  But it is those same good intentions that pave the way to hell.  They are the same intentions that lead us to the same debate, year after year, of whether flag burning should be banned.  They are the same intentions that distract us from the real problem of diminishing liberties by government intrusion to the window dressing of our republic.

Do I think Americans should say and believe in the Pledge of Allegiance?  Of course.  Do I think people should burn the American flag?  Not under most circumstances.  But making these oaths and symbols sacred cows runs counter to their very point.

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I know.  What harm would it really do?  Reciting the pledge and enforcing
respect of the flag could very well change the culture.  It might bring us
back to a day where patriotism was alive, everyone liked Ike, Donna Reed
made cookies and father knew best. 

But at what cost?  Our liberty.

Many of the leaders of the movement to ban flag-burning and require the Pledge of Allegiance to be said are former military men. They are men of honor who were willing to live and die for the freedoms we all cherish. Ironically, if successful, they would slowly begin the transition to the enemy they vowed to defeat with their life if necessary. 

No one would question their patriotism, loyalty or intention.  And patriotism has its place in our lives.  The pride and patriotism I feel on our national holidays celebrating our freedom is overwhelming.  But we cannot and should not sacrifice liberty for the sake of patriotism. 

The Germans did that all too well.  German patriotism nearly ended the world.  I've argued in the past that we have already experimented with socialism too long in this country.  History has already shown us the effects of mixing socialism and national patriotism.  The combination is lethal.

What happens when the crescendo of the two forces meet here in our country?

I shudder to think.  Am I over dramatizing First Graders reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?  Perhaps.

But there are ways to re-instate respect for these symbols of our freedom without limiting the very liberties they celebrate. 

If our schools and parents would teach our children and fellow citizens the values the flag represents, respect for these symbols would ultimately follow.       

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Bret Hrbek, 2001

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