Speech Delivered at USGA Meeting

The Charger Bulletin


Danforth delivered this speech at the October 26 USGA meeting. Due to time constraints, Danforth was unable to finish. The Charger Bulletin has chosen to publish the entirety of the speech for the reader’s knowledge.

My name is Timothy Aaron Danforth. I am a natural-born American, a Christian, a Veteran, and a Patriot. I will not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and this is why:

In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote a special salute to a company his school’s flag ceremony which embodied his immense patriotism. It was instantly popular, as it gave voice to the passion of so many Americans. However, the Superintendents for Education were opposed to equal rights for women and African Americans, and the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution felt that the language was too vague. So, against Bellamy’s wishes, the pledge was changed in 1924 by the National Flag Conference.

Finally, after Bellamy’s death, the Knights of Columbus pressured Congress to include the words “under God” in the pledge as a means of using this patriotic oath as a national public prayer. So, in 1954, this time ignoring the objections of Bellamy’s children on his behalf, the pledge was again changed to its currently recognized form:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

This newly reformed pledge is not only meaningless, but deeply insulting to me, to the point that even writing it is enough to make me angry.

The very first change took away the individual duty of tis oath by replacing “my flag” with a non-committal “the flag” in the name of being more specific. This robs the pledge of its power to unite, because it replaces a personal responsibility with general conformity, and utterly undercuts the gravity of the words being spoken. After all, if you are on American soil, and looking directly at the American flag, what other flag could possibly be meant? Beyond that, the fact that the word “equality” was removed to justify unconscionable treatment of fellow human beings is despicable beyond explanation.

Further, the phrase “under God” is an affront to the very Liberty that my America stands for. Living in America right now are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics, and hundreds more. The America I fought for is the land of the free, not the land of the Christian. To offer such a blatant and shameless favoritism to only one of the hundreds of religious faiths represented in America makes me so angry that I become physically ill every time I think of it. Let me set the record straight, right here right now: The United States of America is not, never was, nor ever will be a Christian nation; it is a Free nation, whose people may live by whatever faith they are drawn to. Christians are not special, and deserve no special treatment.

Finally, and most significant, I will not say the pledge of allegiance because the lies it tells taste foul in my mouth. “Liberty and Justice for All” it proudly proclaims, while the LGBT community continues to live as second class citizens, having less than half of the civil liberties afforded to every other “normal” member of society, while those who torment them for being who they are receive no punishment for their cruelty. In America, women are still being paid 20% less than men for doing the same work. And in a national where murderers walk free because they could buy the best legal services, where men, women and children are arrested and harassed by the very police that are supposed to be protecting them simply because of their ethnicity, where children are given crueler sentences than adults for lesser crimes simply because the prison systems need the revenue—while all of these exist, and are commonly known to even the most ignorant, how can I dare speak of “Liberty and Justice for All?”

To my ears, the pledge of allegiance has become a macabre, a hollow litany. Yes, it can be viewed as a motivation to achieve the standards it purports but, from what I have personally witnessed, more often than not it is used by the cowardly to cover their shame and justify their malfeasance with a false skin of patriotism, and to strengthen the ignorance which insists that “everything is just fine the way it is; our pledge says so.” Reciting the pledge has nothing to do with supporting our military or demonstrating devotion to our country; if you want to support the troops, then ask a soldier or sailor or marine or airman what they need to feel that you support them, and then do that. If you want to demonstrate your dedication to this country, get involved in national politics on a regular basis and actually try to affect positive change. Spouting a paragraph of patchwork prose does not absolve anyone of their duty as a citizen of America.

I fully understand that many, many of you vehemently disagree with me, and that is exactly my point: No one can rightly claim that my objection to the pledge is illegitimate, just as I cannot claim that any of your support of it is illegitimate…which is exactly why imposing it on anyone against their will is, in every way, wrong. It would, of course, seem to be a reasonable compromise to merely afford the opportunity to say the pledge of allegiance, but make no effort to enforce recitation. This answer, however, does not solve the problem; it merely changes it. Can any one of you say with absolute certainly that, while you proudly recite this pledge, you will not notice who around you sits silent? Can you truthfully profess that you will pass no judgment on them?

I will save you from having to lie by telling you the truth: No you cannot, because it is the very nature of every living human to define the world around them by making judgments about everyone and everything in it. These judgments would build, week after week, accumulating pressure until, finally, something breaks and a rift is opened between people who used to be close friends, and now feel compelled to oppose each other at all costs: all because of a minor difference in opinion.

The USGA decision was unjust, biased, and given much, much too short a time for discussion and deliberation which the issue’s complexity required. The solution is not to ompose an act which many find morally reprehensible on them against their will, nor is it a solution to partially impose and loosely enforce the same act which would not only serve to feed animosity and breed dissension. The USGA has functioned smoothly and without major incident without the need to recite the pledge of allegiance: if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it!