Columns - 2002

    Out on The Pledge

    By Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    I've been gratified to read that someone tried to address a great threat to the very fabric of our nation. No, not performance fleece, the other very fabric of our nation.

    As you might guess, if you read the end of this column first, I'm talking about the verbiage of our Pledge of Allegiance. Specifically, the phrase "under God".

    This phrase has troubled me since childhood. Throughout my life it has made me uncomfortable in school, scouts, and scuba gear. (Actually, other things make me uncomfortable in scuba gear; mainly, the scuba gear.) I wanted to question it, but felt I could not. I wanted to mouth the phrase while saying the rest aloud, but it would have been noticed.

    Finally, after all this time, I can take advantage of my position as a trusted columnist and say that I never liked "under God".

    Why? Because I was taught that God is everywhere. What's this "under" business?

    I wasn't taught that God is only in the heavens, which some think is a huge palace floating on the clouds, cleverly hidden from view when airplanes fly by. I was raised with the knowledge that God is everywhere: up, down, left, right, and even in those Twinkies on the kitchen counter. (I also learned at an early age that Twinkies go great with Hawaiian Punch.)

    But why stop with this one phrase? I'll tell you why every word of the Pledge of Allegiance has to go.

    I Look at how ego-centric America has become since the Pledge was written. People are worried about the Pledge promoting deism, when the biggest problem in this country is meism. Besides, philosophically speaking, who is "I"? Too deep for a simple pledge.

    Pledge This word conjures probationary membership in a fraternity or sorority. I'll be the last person to be anti-Greek. I was a fraternity president for two years, interfraternity council secretary, regional governor, and just a few years ago had a decent pita for lunch at Yiassoo (Greek for "Greek fast food place in California"). But many people out there don't go greek, and they must be considered.

    Allegiance How do you measure allegiance? How did Joe McCarthy? Or Paul McCartney? Too vague. But the main reason to get rid of this word is it's just too hard to spell.

    To Another spelling issue. How often people confuse the usage of "to", "too", "two", and "tutu". We can't perpetuate this kind of confusion in something as important as our people's oath to the proud symbol of our country.

    The Do you know how many languages don't bother with definite articles like this one? (If so, let me know. I'm on an airplane and can't log on to look it up.) If they don't need it, we don't.

    Flag When I was young I watched The Match Game. Being from Birmingham, when I learned the Pledge I thought it had something to do with fellow local Fannie Flagg. Sure, I know better now (though I wondered recently during one episode in which she wore a sweater with a sequined flag on it), but I could have been spared minutes of confusion. Let's call it something else.

    Of Did they never hear of apostrophes? Every word matters, so why detract with a needless word like this? Remove "of" and say something like "America's flag" instead. It's cleaner, and doesn't pull focus.

    The Been there, cut that.

    United Commercialism. Did you know that United Airlines' real reason for potential bankruptcy is that they must pay a nickel every time someone says the Pledge? Help save the airline industry!

    States Is this the fifty geographical states, or the states we often find ourselves in (alert, chaos, grace, sullen, Wyoming, etc.)? If you assume it is geography, we're really a bunch of states, a district, and a few protectorates. What about the district and protectorates? Where's their representation? They're not good enough to pledge the flag?

    Of Too many short words are repeated, used redundantly, and said over again. Annoying, isn't it? Isn't it?

    America There's North America, South America, Central America, Latin America, and Captain America. We're a small percentage of the Americas, but we brazenly call ourselves simply "America". And the brazenness is spreading. The people of North Dakota (all five of them) want to (I'm not making this up) drop the "North" and just be "Dakota... the one that happens by coincidence to be directly above South Dakota".

    And Everyone pauses before this word, implying a comma. My technical editor always tells me that a comma cannot be used as a conjunction. For example, she won't let me say "do this, then do that." She makes me say "do this and then do that." I hate that rule. Keep the comma.

    To We've covered this. It's still here?

    The We cut this word twice! Are you not listening?

    Republic A few words ago we were states, now we're a singular republic. How can we be both? Of course we can be, but unless the Pledge comes with footnotes from civics class, we should eliminate the confusion this could cause people who flunk civics.

    For Another word that can be a number? This could be "for", "four", "fore", or "four score and seven years ago".

    Which If having the word god in the Pledge promotes deism, might people think that this word promotes witchcraft? It sounds the same, though it's spelled differently. Of course, in witchcraft, it's all about the spelling. But we better not take the chants.

    It There have been many uprisings in recent decades against using only "he" when talking about God, a generic person, and Michael Jackson. If we keep "it", to be inclusive it must be augmented to "he/she/it".

    Stands This is highly insensitive to the disabled among us who cannot assume a non-sitting position.

    One "One", "won," ... you get the idea.

    Nation First we were states, then a single republic. Now we're a nation, too? Does anyone else smell an identity crisis on a grand scale?

    Under We've already covered this.

    God Help us.

    Indivisible If you consider your basic math terminology, with this word we are calling our great nation a "zero".

    With Multiply this times height and you get the area. I got a bad grade in geometry and don't like being reminded of it, so away with this word!

    Liberty Have you noticed the liberties people take these days? You'd think the first amendment says "Freedom to be a jerk, freedom to drive poorly, freedom to be bad parents, freedom to doctor books, freedom to overbook doctors". People think they're free to do anything they please, let's not encourage them.

    And Better word usage, but we nixed it once so we better be consistent.

    Justice The Supreme Court has nine Justices. The Pledge indicates one Justice. Did the writer of the Pledge do ANY research?

    For All Baseball has been America's pasttime since before players have been calling their own strikes. But do we really need to take this opportunity to report the score of the Mets-Dodgers game after seven innings?

    Send your suggestions for a rewrite of the Pledge to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. As you write, put a time limit in the Pledge. Such a great number of flags flew after September 11, but most of them are gone again.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley. His play Retrograde is in the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival anthology, available everywhere. For more information, past columns, other writings, and other current events , visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.