Jim Watts: Pledge of Allegiance loses some meaning in uniform recitation
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 5:30 AM
It is probably to my shame to admit this, but I haven't recited the Pledge of Allegiance in years.
I remember the Pledge being a part of the daily routine in elementary school - everyone standing beside his or her desk, hand over heart, speaking those 31 words in unison.
On Sunday, I happened to attend a meeting of the Tulsa branch of the English Speaking Union, which opened with the members reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
And what struck me about that brief little ceremony was how the way the pledge is recited really hasn't changed over the years.
The pledge itself has changed - four times, since a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy (whose brother Edward wrote the novel "Looking Backward," about the utopia he envisioned the world might be in the year 2000) first came up with it in 1892.
Originally it was "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." "My flag" became "the flag" and phrases such as "The United States of America" and "under God" were added later.
The way we say the pledge - the way I remember saying it as a child and the way it was spoken by the members of the English Speaking Union - is no doubt a product of pedagoguery, with the phrases of the pledge divided up in such a way to make it easier for people to recite the pledge in unison.
But sometimes I wonder what we lose in the pursuit of uniformity. As we tend to recite the pledge, it sounds like this:
I pledge allegiance.
To the flag.
Of the United States of America.
And to the Republic.
For which it stands.
And justice for all.
In other words, it becomes a kind of free verse - an e.e. cummings poem but with better punctuation and capital letters in all the right places.
And I have no doubt that those who recite the Pledge of Allegiance in this manner - the way they did it as children themselves - do so with complete sincerity and patriotism.
And yet ... and yet. Just once I'd like to hear someone recite the Pledge of Allegiance not so much by heart as from the heart, with a cadence that is individual, that stresses different syllables, that makes the sentiments contained within these 31 words sound as meaningful as they actually are.
Original Print Headline: Pledge loses meaning in uniform recitation
An American flag is seen on a house in Owasso at sunset. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file