The most common argument I’m given by folks who support the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is that no one is forced to recite the Pledge at all if they don’t want to. When I point out that this is hardly an option for many children because it will result in harassment from their fellow classmates—particularly if they leave the room during the Pledge as some people suggest—I’m told repeatedly that such harassment is rare if it happens at all. To anyone with half a brain this line of argument is obviously transparent, but you’d have a hard time convincing the people who make it that this is so.
That’s why I find this news item from the folks at WingNutDaily so interesting. It seems that during the funeral for former President Ronald Reagan, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was caught on camera not reciting the Pledge with everyone else. Not only didn’t the Governator not recite the Pledge, but he also didn’t sing the National Anthem, though he did stand at attention during both rituals. Needless to say this has caused quite a stir:
His silence during the pledge prompted phone calls to Joseph Farah’s WorldNetDaily Radioactive program, and a host of letters to the editor after Farah publicized the incident in a June 21 commentary.
“He needs to explain himself and apologize for the poor etiquette and unpatriotic attitude he displayed during the Reagan funeral,” Farah wrote. “It was a slight not only to the United States of America, but to the late president.”
Some of the reaction letters to WorldNetDaily include:
- “My wife and I both noticed [Schwarzenegger’s non-pledge] at the time and we thought: ‘How rude!’ Something else we noticed and commented on amongst ourselves was, when everyone was standing and singing along to the National Anthem, Arnold again had his lips firmly locked closed. It does make you wonder just how seriously he takes the citizenship oath.” (Brian Davis, Indianapolis)
- “I, too, noted that Arnie didn’t participate. I was wondering who would bring this matter up. The U.S. has made his successful life possible. What is wrong with this man?” (Paula Moore)
- “Not only did Margaret Thatcher say the Pledge of Allegiance, she sang the National Anthem through to the end. Neither Arnold nor Maria did. Even if you can’t sing, you can mouth the words.” (Shellie Grant)
- “Arnold swore an oath to ‘absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty,’ yet clearly has not done so. Then again, as governor, he swore to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States,’ but that hasn’t stopped him from embracing ‘gun control’ and endorsing Dianne Feinstein’s quest to make permanent the ban on semi-autos. So much for oaths. Like most politicians, it appears his primary loyalty is to himself. (David Codrea)
- “Arnold will just explain it away or ignore it. Sad, sad, sad.” (Jim Harrison, Westerville, Ohio)
A lot is made of the fact that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did recite both the Pledge and sing the National Anthem as though this somehow made Schwarzenegger’s silence all the more scandalous. Now if a fully grown adult and elected official can’t keep silent during the Pledge and the National Anthem (for whatever reasons he may have had) without getting this kind of backlash, much of which calls into question his patriotism, then how the hell do these people expect me to buy the idea that kids aren’t going to get harassed?
Combine this with the big uproar when Rep. Jim McDermott left out the words “under God” while leading the House in reciting the Pledge back in April and news items from the same month about a student in Washington who was punished by school officials after he left the words out while reciting the Pledge over his school’s PA system and you have to wonder how someone could suggest that anyone, let alone a kid in a public school, can decide not to recite the Pledge or to leave out the words “under God” without fear of harassment for their decision. This all puts the lie to the popular Conservative claim that no one has to recite the Pledge as it’s currently written and that there’s no pressure from others to do so.