Saturday, January 5, 2019

I Pledge Allegiance: Flag, Republic, Nation


We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; 
one country, one language, one flag! — 
Pledge as written by Capt. George T Balch
(used in various places 1887-1923)

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, 
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. — 
Pledge as written by Francis Bellamy in 1892

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. —
Form recognized by the US Congress in 1942
with “under God” added Flag Day 1954



            The last time I was in the United Kingdom was shortly after Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, and there were still many flags flying; interestingly, and relevant here, only one of the flags I saw was the Union Jackof the UK — at a touristy location —  while the rest were the national flags of England (the cross of St. George), Scotland (the cross of St. Andrew), and Wales (the Welsh Red Dragon). The United Kingdom is one country with at least three nations, united (more or less) under the monarchy and the Parliament at Westminster. Kingdom and country are one thing; nation is another.
            The current US Pledge of Allegiance substitutes the Flag for the Monarch as a focus for allegiance, and conflates — in a colloquially correct and politically useful way — the American Republic and the United States as “one Nation under God.” 
            Especially with US President Donald J. Trump identifying himself (correctly) as a nationalist, and with nationalism on the rise in the US and elsewhere, the convenient conflation of Republic and Nation in the Pledge is not holding and perhaps should not.
            So, is, or are, The United States of America basically, even essentially, the American Republic or the American Nation (under God)?
            Citing a 1991 book by Anthony D. Smith, the Wikipedia entry has it that “A nationis a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. […] It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.”[3]And when it possesses and can hold its own territory, and establishes its own government, we have a nation-state.Stricter definitions by nationalists have usually required also one origin, one history, one religion — and, at least since the great Eurasian migrations of ancient and medieval times, one land and one descent: nationhood rooted “in blood and soil.”
            “One Ruler, One Law; One Faith” for one old formula that could work for a multinational empire or country — and tossing in Racism and one form of Romanticism one could get «Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer»: “One People, One Realm, One Leader.” And those “People” — the Folk — would be a subgroup of a Race, the Nation in Adolf Hitler’s phrase “Nation and Race” (Mein Kampfvol. 1, ch. 11).
            That’s one extreme, and not the idea of Nation meant, say, in the name of the oldest US magazine, the Leftist, The Nation
            The Right-wing extreme is, though, what’s meant by Right-wing extremists who talk of the US as part of “the Aryan Nation,” and it is a strong possibility for those who speak of the US as “a White, Christian Nation,” with “White” and “Christian” excluding Jews and other swarthy Caucasians, and “Christian” kind of iffy for Catholics. 
            Is the United States, essentially— of its essence — an English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon, White Christian (Patriarchal) Nation, with a territory? In that case we — or they(I’d be excluded) — in that case Americans, realAmericans would want a strong state to protect the Nation and Motherland, but the nature of that state is negotiable, with the traditional upshot a Leader of some sort, perhaps elected, perhaps hereditary, perhaps just, “Let the strongest rule.” 
            So it is for a minority of Americans, but in part or parts this is also the case for a fair number: those for whom America is a Nation of some sort and under God, being, clearly, a substantial number. 
            Or is America a Nation, but one where the Republic part isn’t negotiable but essential to our culture?
            Or is America essentially a Republic, like the old Roman Republic, but one that hadn’t fallen under an Emperor and, eventually, Emperors who made a state religion of the Christian Church — but instead an alternative Rome that had continued as a multi-national, religiously diverse polity, based in law and (the modern contribution) developed a written Constitution? And evolved out of a good deal of the monstrousness that was even the Roman Republic at its best. Okay: let’s imagine an evolution to us, with the American flag as a symbol and focus for allegiance, maybe just a tiny Roman-ish/American eagle at the top. 
            It makes a difference how we define ourselves.
            If the United States are/is essentially a Nation with a territory, a central task would be preserving the purity of the Nation. Not just regulating immigration: the Roman experience warns against weakness, division, and incompetence allowing an influx of whole tribes. No, traditional nationalism has a traditional hang-up with by-God purity, and it doesn’t take much penetration of foreign elements to impurify the body of the Nation. 
            If we’re essentially a Nation under a Leader, there is much to be said for the primacy of the Leader’s protecting the purity of the Nation with a beautiful if largely symbolic wall, backed by the force necessary to keep out even small groups of what must be seen as invaders. If the Leader can fulfill that most basic duty and then go on to embody and channel and to a some extent fulfill the will of the Nation, then it doesn’t matter much if the Leader himself is flawed or performs acts that in ordinary people would be criminal. The Leader of the Nation is the perfect democrat, bypassing elitist bureaucracies and institutions to perform the will of the demos: the true People, the ultimate Sovereign, and the figurative King that can do no wrong.
            If we’re essentially a Republic, especially one with liberal democratic aspirations and dedication to the rule of law, then things are different. In that case, “No one is above the law”; the President is the commander-in-chief only of the military, not of the country s/he serves; a Leader of the Folk is a danger; if you’re born here, you’re a citizen of the Republic; and for all the usefulness of “civic/civil religion,” our literal allegiance is to the Constitution and Republic, not to the symbol of the flag. 

            My oath was to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and I swore my loyalty to the Republic. There are a lot of “republicans” like that out there. We need to talk with each other and with the Nationalists; and this force of “republicans” must prepare, if necessary, to resist takeover of our country by Nationalists.

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