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What began last year as a one man protest during the National Anthem at professional football games has become an issue rivaling repeal of Obamacare and a potential war with North Korea. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at a Forty-Niners game last fall, it was interpreted as an isolated event by a has-been quarterback. Last week, a growing number of protesting players drew a foul-mouthed response from the President of the United States and their protest became a political football.

protest pledge

But the players are protesting against the wrong symbol. They should be boycotting the flag salute, formally known as the Pledge of Allegiance.

Protesting players insist their refusal to participate in the weekly ritual honoring the flag during the National Anthem stems from a resurgence of racism in America, from the frequent fatal shootings of blacks by police to the president's equating neo-Nazis with those protesting hate. If that's their cause, they ought to be protesting the Pledge of Allegiance. which is recited daily, not weekly, in nearly every school and at public meetings across the country.

The daily ritual imposed on public school kids for decades is no more than an attempt at brainwashing, predicated on the assumption that constant repetition of certain ideas will eventually result in conformity to values that the powers that be want instilled in all Americans.

As usually sung, the Star Spangled Banner contains nothing about liberty and justice for all, which seems to be the concern of the kneelers. Other than the difficulty in singing parts of the anthem, there is little in it that might be offensive.

Why protest against the Pledge of Allegiance? Several clauses rankle, but particularly "one Nation," "indivisible," "liberty and justice for all," and, not discussed here, "under God." But more than the specific wording is at fault. The daily ritual imposed on public school kids for decades is no more than an attempt at brainwashing, predicated on the assumption that constant repetition of certain ideas will eventually result in conformity to values that the powers that be want instilled in all Americans.

Take the Pledge's wording as it stood before 1954, that is, before "under God" was added. Before that change the pledge read: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

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"One Nation... indivisible." That clause, recited as a personal pledge, is a promise that the individual uttering that line agrees that the Union cannot be dissolved by secession or rebellion. The former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who must have said the Pledge a thousand times by now, would have a difficult time squaring his view that Texas could secede under certain conditions, with the Pledge he has so often recited.

Gun rights advocates and Minute Men argue that ownership of all types of weapons is necessary in the event that they must protect the citizenry from the government. They have a lot in common with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and the Confederate secessionists. Yet, they probably recite the Pledge's "one Nation... indivisible" clause without question. One can hardly support both the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge.

Jefferson ably explained the conditions under which an existing government can be overthrown. IF those conditions exist again - and some on the far right argue that they already do in the U.S., then a dissolution of the existing government is justified, or, short of dissolution, parts of the country could peacefully secede. But in reciting the Pledge you renounce both the right to dissolve or secede from the Union. Do those urging California's secession recite the Pledge?

"Liberty and justice for all." The lack of that seems to be what Kaepernick last year and a flood of NFL players this year are protesting, but those lines don't appear in the National Anthem, only in the Pledge. If that's the real basis for a protest, why aren't black kids, and other minorities, refusing to say the Pledge in school?

The show of solidarity among professional athletes may encourage a mini-revolt against the Pledge of Allegiance by a much larger group than minority players. Kids already have the right to opt out of the flag salute at school, but few do because of peer pressure. Perhaps the timorous will be inspired by the action of sports heroes in defying convention by refusal to honor the flag and the anthem.

Will some school kids now join the football players in protest, kneeling during the daily flag salute? And won't Minute Men, Patriots, and Tea Party adherents join them in protest?

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Ralph Schaffer