Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pledge Is A Spray Wax

I'm sure most of you have seen or read about Will Phillips, the 10-year-old Arkansan who refuses to say the Pledge Of Allegiance until queers are accorded full equal rights. Naturally, I'm solidly behind Will and his family. In numerous parts of the country, there are pockets of rational dissidence, places where weirdoes and freaks may fully breathe and madly dance.

Growing up in a world of immediate connections, Will sees that he's far from alone. We older geeks from slower days had less if no awareness of kindred spirits. You had to leave home to find sameness, oddness; to feed inspiration and desire. I'm sure it's still this way, only less pressing, given the technology. Why move when you can IM or text?

Most astonishing to me about Will's defiance is that children are still pledging allegiance. To what? Some mythical, mystical concept that has no real bearing on our lives? I understand conditioning children's minds to be obedient to their masters and accept hierarchy as the natural order of things, endorsed by God. A corporate oligopoly needs a steady stream of managers, consumers, and disposable labor. But surely there are better methods than the archaic Pledge. Then again, I sometimes underestimate the American hunger for fantasy. Me of all people, right?

Will's protest is aimed at the "liberty and justice for all" line. If gays cannot wed or enjoy full medical rights, then that part of the Pledge is incomplete. It's a noble stand, but America has never truly committed to "liberty and justice for all." State mechanisms have been forced to adapt to grassroots pressure, which is perhaps the true genius of our system. If you cannot contain or suppress popular discontent, embrace it, celebrate it, then reshape it to fit the status quo. Nothing will really change, but a brighter, newer feature will lend that impression, and for many, that's more than enough.

Obama's election was perhaps the most cutting edge example of this practice. Elites bray that this shows how egalitarian America truly remains, while liberals, however frustrated, still want Obama to be the savior of their limited imaginations. For all the blog blab about "pushing" Obama from below, most liberals have no intention of seriously challenging Their President, adjusting their rhetoric to accommodate what is being shoved down their throats.

You see this in their acceptance of what is laughably called "health care reform." Liberals mock reactionaries' bizarro hatred of Obama, but their love of the man's image is no less ludicrous. Indeed, it's more destructive. As right wingers twist themselves into swastikas while claiming to oppose such symbols, liberals have largely abandoned whatever antiwar feelings they had under Bush. In some areas, they have endorsed extended war and destruction. Again, I don't know why reactionaries despise Obama so. He's killed off major antiwar sentiment and marginalized those few who bother to protest. McCain/Palin would have never pulled this off. Clearly, Wall Street put its money on the right team.

Does this mean that Will Phillips' courage is for naught? I wouldn't say so. Critical thinking and dissident action is needed at all levels. But as Will ages and encounters the numerous social filters that weed out miscreants and undesirables, his critical thinking will be severely tested, if not shredded and used for imperial mulch. He will have to make tough choices. I want to remain optimistic, but then, optimism brought me to this anxious state in the first place. A shaky republic I can barely stand.