Many decent people believe that the recitation in public schools of "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America is unconstitutional because state and church are supposed to be separately constituted in our free country, where anything goes providing it is not prohibited by civil law. Whether or not god approves of anything legally done is practically moot since god was identified with the will of the People, for whom the political state is church.
Nonetheless, when courts rule favorably on a complaint against the inclusion of god in the Pledge, god-fearing folks tend to make quite an uproar over the ruling. A few of them invariable leave a message on the plaintiff's answering machine, promising to burn his house down.
A recent judicial ruling against "under god" in the Pledge was vehemently protested during a prime-time televised performance, by highly esteemed politicians on the floor of the Senate - they finally recited the Pledge in unison. Their singular speeches together with the choral recitation was amusing to those of us who have reason to be cynical - the senators appeared to be clowning around in a senatorial ring of a congressional circus.
No doubt many television viewers were laughing on their couches in the privacy of their homes, although they dare not publicly say so. Since confessions used to be publicly made and more got done as a consquence, I now confess that the scene struck my funny bone. After a succession of guffaws, I reigned in my bouncing belly and made this little imperial command to myself:
"Don't laugh at this comedy! The senators might be fools, but they must be wiser than the people who elected them."
I adopted a serious demeanor and walked over to my neighborhood university library to look up the history of the Pledge of Allegiance in the encyclopedia. First of all, I was annoyed to discover that the library did not have the Americana.
"The absence of the Americana has unpatriotic implications," I complained to the librarian. She was merely amused, and said I had made an inference that was not an implication in the strictest sense because no valid logical relation between the propositions could be demonstrated.
Her jargon got my goat - I was reminded of the rude clerks at Shakespeare's in Manhattan: they had a bad habit of correcting customers' mispronunciations - but I counted to ten and grudgingly looked up the original pledge as quoted in the Britannica.
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The Youth's Companion, Sept. 8, 1892.
Reading on, I learned that the phrase "my flag" was dropped from the pledge in 1924, and "the Flag of the United States of America" was substituted.
Furthermore, the United States is one of the few countries given to ritual flag display and pledge recitation designed to inculcate state patriotism in classrooms; the ritual was imposed to counteract the propaganda of certain disgruntled immigrants who were bent on stirring up trouble.
Finally, "under God" was interposed in the pledge in 1954 because Cold War patriots wanted to distinguish the United States from its ungodly socialist opponents who did not appreciate the capitalist god and the imperialist policies of His elected representatives. In any event, after repeatedly reciting the Pledge, children were supposed to know whose side god is on.
Our side. And that is no laughing matter.