Pledging allegiance

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.

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  1. I did mine in a dusty lawyers office, hiding my shame.
    That said – how about we reform the constitution, dump the monarchy and we all swear allegiance to the Republic on the same day. Make it a new start for the nation. I mean, it’s not rocket science, we’re a fucked up little country where the people who have it (control, money, status) don’t want to let go of it. Pledging allegiance to that lot is not worth the paper it’s written on.

  2. I guess that’s probably the most likely reason for it to fail as an idea: because people need to feel that their allegiance is reciprocated and that they genuinely do have a stake in what happens around them otherwise it’ll just be a piece of theatre to no purpose…

  3. The kids will remember the day they grew up! You sound like the most embarrasing dad ever.

    Most people’s ‘welcome to the nation’ moment is when they leave their mother’s womb and that should be enough for anyone.

  4. I am the most embarrassing dad ever – and I have three willing witnesses to prove it. I think I’d have agreed with you until things fell apart om 7/7. What I’d like to see is a rather formal, slightly over-long and not-at-all ‘relevant’ ceremony that makes explicit the bond of citizen and nation. Part of the problem, I think, is that half the nation takes that bond for granted and the other half doesn’t know it exists – or doesn’t believe it’s real.

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