You know which one I'm talking about. The big one. The one that not only is the supreme measure of a person's patriotism, but also the one that supposedly requires the least. What? That's the reaction I seem to get also every time I hear an argument about which words it should contain, who should say it, and why it "doesn't matter" if you don't say it. Something smells like rotting fish, and I think it's the presumptuous position that you can be a fascist and love freedom at the same time. That is nothing new. Fascists all the way never considered themselves as opponents of freedom. They thought that their system would provide freedom by simply excluding its enemies. The fascists' enemies that is; not the enemies of freedom.
So I still have couple of years before my son is going to enter the school system. He is still innocent. Meaning he has no religious beliefs yet or an opinion on religion. When he finally enrolls in kindergarten this will of course change. A new rote will be introduced. The Pledging of Allegiance to the Flag. It's bad enough that it is rote patriotism thrown at little children, but considering that it also is the first rote introduction to religious concepts that further causes me trouble. The concept is simple enough: "God". You can find it in the most impersonal deist beliefs. You can find it in historical displays. It's a concept that can exist as a simple empty frame without any implications to it. But this view of the phrase exists nowhere except in poor justifications for existence for those who do not desire the word. The real frame is not empty but full of clauses, intentions, assumptions, negations, justifications, and any other concept a person can come up with. The term in real use is anything but an empty frame, waiting for your to fill it.
As such, most I can do is prepare my son for the first encounter. Before the encounter, a belief in a 'God' is just something someone else happens to have. They might believe it strongly but it is still expressed as only personal belief. It is not until the recitation with a intent for patriotism that the concept is lifted from personal beliefs to societal assumption. Any patriotic person in the society is assumed to have it. This where a rational defender of the phrase expresses that it is only voluntary. While this is written in the law, the law is not followed anymore than your average highway speed limit. While every once and a while a teacher or another authority figure might get ticketed for violating the law, the vast majority of offenses are overlooked. The actions of peers are ignored, as they usually are when we think of teenagers. They are not interfering with our adult world, they are simply playing around by the rules of their childhood realm. This is not where strict laws can be enacted. Children very rarely suffer institutional punishments. The rehabilitation is left for the the parents, for that indeed is their job. But as more adults express their assumptions of the Pledge, and considering they already consider atheism a blasphemous sin worthy of eternal damnation, they will hesitate to raise their hand against their for-once divinely acting child.
As such it is up to me to perform my parental responsibility and teach my son to react to his detractors, who do not believe in the spirit of the law that allows dissent, to act swiftly and strongly for his own behalf whenever questioned for his actions, or lack thereof.