I like the pledge of allegiance idea. I know it’s a bit uncool and as a ‘liberal’ I should reject the idea as jingoistic or backward but I think Helena Kennedy and the rest of the snooty elite have got their response to this one wrong.
Kennedy on Today was shocking: it was as if the last seven or eight years hadn’t happened. The whole post-war social settlement in Britain was thrown in the air when those British kids blew up dozens of their fellow-citizens on 7/7 and the idea that we can carry on roughly as before is jaded and defeatist – Kennedy’s singing loudly with her fingers in her ears. We should really be ready to try almost anything to strengthen bonds within and between the people and institutions of this country.
The reason I like the pledge of allegiance is probably for the same reason it makes other liberals cringe. It’s an artificial event, an invented marker for accession to citizenship. That’s just what we need: something simple and deliberate that says ‘welcome to your nation’! A moment in time. An unembarrassed celebration with some real emotional content —and maybe a speech you have to learn—that kids can laugh and joke about afterwards but always remember as ‘the day they grew up’ or ‘joined the club’ or whatever.
There’s obviously a risk that such an event could become a laughing stock if it’s inauthentic or too cheesy but I think that’s probably a risk worth taking. I’d like to see a debate about this—and maybe some interesting contributions to the shape and content of the event too.