Over the years I’ve found that most Americans are not receptive to criticisms of the Pledge of Allegiance. Such criticisms typically elicit funny looks if not outright scorn and ridicule.
On the few occasions I’ve offered the case against the Pledge, I’ve attempted to dispassionately lay out my reasoning. I point out that there is little that is more antithetical to the principles of the American Revolution than pledging eternal devotion to a central government. Can we really picture the people who fought the British for the right to self rule standing, heart over hand, and pledging fealty to a flag?
This is when the funny looks start.
But I press on. I point out that the Pledge runs directly counter to our country’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Would the men who wrote and assented to the statement that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it…” swear devotion to one, indivisible nation?
More funny looks.
I then point out that the Pledge was authored by an avowed socialist, Francis Bellamy, in 1892. I note that Bellamy’s goal was to instill in children and immigrants the un-American idea of one nation under the rule of one sovereign government.
Then comes the scorn and ridicule.
But today I feel vindicated, because the Pledge’s innate incompatibility with the Constitution is on full display in a small city in Washington. In light of the voters of Washington state approving marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, the city council of Sequim, Washington recently voted 4-3 to put a six month moratorium on marijuana dispensaries.
The rationale for the moratorium is particularly troubling. The Peninsula Daily News reports that councilman Erik Erichsen stated that he “voted against the zoning laws because of the federal prohibition on marijuana, noting he pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag at the start of Monday’s meeting, which pre-empts state law.”
There you have it. A non-legal oath that was written a full century after the Constitution is more important than the Constitution itself. What Erichsen is essentially saying is, “Sure, the Constitution gives no authority to the federal government to pass such laws, but since they did the Pledge of Allegiance requires me to support their enforcement.”
But Erichsen wasn’t finished. He bemoaned the fact that the federal government has stated its intention to not interfere with Washington’s law, saying “I’m sorry we have federal officials who do not wish to support our laws.”
Now, I wouldn’t expect a guy who thinks that the Pledge of Allegiance trumps the Constitution to understand this, but unconstitutional federal laws aren’t “our laws.” They aren’t even laws if you listen to the founders, one of whom called unconstitutional laws “merely acts of usurpation.”
I sincerely wonder if Councilman Erichsen has the same view of all federal laws. I wonder if he wishes that the federal government would enforce all gun laws or all healthcare laws. I wonder if there are any federal laws of which he would oppose enforcement. The answer to these questions would tell us whether he is a raging statist or just another partisan lackey.
Ironically, Erichsen’s case would have actually been stronger had he argued that his city should have the autonomy to determine its own policies, irrespective of state or federal law. Since the city of Sequim is a political subdivision of the state of Washington, this argument would have been legally problematic, although not any more so than his dubious assertions about the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution. But if he had made such an argument he would have at least been arguing along lines that are consistent with the American ideal of self-government.
As it stands, Erichsen is not only wrong, he stands in opposition to the founding generation. They understood that an all-powerful, sovereign central government would pose a constant threat to the liberties of the people. That is why they did not institute such a government. Unfortunately Erichsen, like his ideological progenitor Bellamy, doesn’t understand this.
Politicians like Erichsen are as much to blame as politicians like Barack Obama for the downfall of American liberty and the decline of the Constitution. Federal officials are already willing enough to ignore the Constitution. They don’t need state and local politicians, the intended guardians of the peoples’ rights, to make sorry excuses for them.
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