Paging Professor Santayana…

photo of bellamy salute The United States is all aflutter over the moral status of respect for its national flag and its peculiar, all-but-compulsory nationalist rituals. As usual, those offended by the disrespect are utterly ignorant about the actual genesis of what they defend. Turns out that not only was the author of The Pledge a socialist, but also “hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.”

But wait. It gets even worse for the putative upholders of tradition and original values. It also turns out that the “Pledge of Allegiance” came into the world in 1892 (not 1776), a year squarely within and contributory to the Nadir of American Race Relations, as a marketing scheme to sell flags and magazine subscriptions.

This is not all. Here is the original instruction on how to signal one’s endorsement of and/or compliance with The Pledge’s sentiment:

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

That gesture was known as the Bellamy Salute and was the official Pledge accompaniment until 1942, when, against the DAR‘s attempts to keep it even after a two decades of European fascism, Congress shame-facedly buried it (but not The Pledge itself).

Santayana nailed it: Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.

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