In a welcome move by the city of St. Louis Park in Minnesota, the city council recently voted 5-0 to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings in order to be more accommodating to a newer, more diverse group of citizens. (Two members of the council were absent and did not vote.)
“I hope it’s not too controversial,” Council Member Tim Brausen said. “Our community tends to be a very welcoming and increasingly diverse community, and we believe our citizens will understand. I don’t think we’re going to be any less welcoming by not starting our meeting out with the standard ritual.”
Brausen said in an interview there was concern that saying the pledge intimidates some newer residents, owing to increasing political polarization and the national controversy over federal immigration policies.
The council members didn’t specify any one aspect of the Pledge that might be unwelcome, though I can do that for you. Not everyone believes we’re a nation “Under God.” Not everyone believes we in a country that provides “liberty and justice for all.” And the ritual itself suggests an acceptance of the status quo — do you really want to pledge allegiance to a nation that’s currently run by Donald Trump, or do you want to fight and make things better?
The Pledge, just like an invocation, adds absolutely nothing of value to those meetings, anyway. Anyone who wants to say it can do so on their own before the meetings begin.
While Brausen hoped the decision wouldn’t be controversial, we know how seriously the Christian Right treats symbols of patriotism (as opposed to actual patriotism). One FOX News contributor is already sounding the alarms saying that anyone bothered by the Pledge would be “better off living in another country.” (Because only conservative Christians are welcome here, apparently.)
Brausen added that there were times they might still say the Pledge at meetings, like if Boy Scouts are in attendance. That’s a dumb reason, but whatever. The council was right to get rid of the ritual. The most popular comments underneath the article in the Star Tribune, overwhelmingly opposed to the decision, shine a light on why it needed to be eliminated. People equate saying the Pledge with being a good citizen. That’s completely backwards.
The people who refuse to say the Pledge out of a desire to see change has far more love for the country than those who offer blind allegiance to a symbol without thinking critically about what it’s saying.
And if they want to debate that theory, they can do it outside of a city council meeting.
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