January 24, 2007
An elementary student in Nampa, Idaho is in trouble with school authorities because she insists on saying the Pledge of Allegiance in English only. It apparently has been the school’s practice for some time to require its students to repeat the Pledge first in English, and then in both Spanish and German.
Last week, fifth grader Chandra Carlson of Centennial Elementary said the Pledge in English and then sat down while the school principal led the rest of the class in the Spanish version. She was immediately ordered by the principal to stand and say the Pledge “in no matter what language.” After her parents intervened, she has been permitted to remain silent while her classmates recite the Pledge in alternate languages, although she is required to stand while they do so.
Her parents are eager for her to learn additional languages, but firmly believe that the Pledge should be recited only in English, and are in full support of their daughter.
Why is this issue important? It is because a central element of the divine calling on this nation is not to display diversity, but unity. Our national seal, which appears on every single piece of American currency, proclaims our national slogan, “Out of many, one.” Thus, while we certainly can respect and appreciate diversity, our aim as a people ought to be to foster, sustain, and celebrate unity. Part of sustaining and protecting that unity is sharing not only common values but a common language.
What God has called the United States to demonstrate to the world is the kind of unity that can be created when people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds embrace a common set of values, principles, and ideals and put those virtues into practice with one another.
Some of the values that bind us together as a people are declared every time Americans recite the Pledge. For instance, we pledge “allegiance to the Republic for which (the flag) stands.” Thus, when we say the Pledge, we are declaring that, while our highest loyalty as human beings is to God, our fundamental loyalty as citizens is to the United States, and not to any other country.
We happily appreciate that Canadians’ first loyalty, as citizens, is to Canada, the first loyalty of the French is to France, and so on, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. But surely we have the right and responsibility to gently insist that all who wish to be citizens here share a similar allegiance to this land.
(This is in distinct contrast, by the way, to the practice of many immigrants from Mexico, who are explicitly urged by their own government to make continued loyalty to Mexico a higher priority than loyalty to the United States, even after they become U.S. citizens.
For instance, the U.S. citizen who represented Mexican president Vicente Fox as the head of the Office for Mexicans Abroad said in an interview with Ted Koppel that the goal of the Mexican government is to urge Mexican Americans in the United States to think “Mexico first … I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think Mexico First.”)
We also declare in the Pledge that this is “one nation,” explicitly affirming our national slogan, “Out of many, one.” We affirm that we are one nation “under God,” agreeing with our Founders that we owe our existence as a nation to the kindness and sovereign benevolence of Providence, and reminding ourselves that an abiding faith in Him is central to our national identity.
We declare that this nation is “indivisible,” affirming once again the lofty goal of national oneness and harmony, as opposed to the goal of the secular left, which often seems intent on dividing us along racial, ethnic, and cultural lines by practicing racial politics and making multiculturalism rather than unity a fundamental societal goal.
Because the Pledge was written in English to affirm the cherished ideals of an English-speaking people, it ought to be recited in English.
As one observer said, reciting the Pledge in a language other than English “may seem harmless, but it’s not. What it is doing is lessening their sense of nationalism and patriotism and dedication and commitment to this country.”
An activist advocate for immigrants, who lives in Nampa but is a native of a South American nation, objects strenuously to English-only for the Pledge. Her grandfather, it turns out, wrote the national anthem for her native land. One can only wonder how she would feel if schools in Ecuador forced students to sing its national anthem in English, and say, Norwegian, as well as Spanish.
And so we can affirm what Chandra has done, without being belligerent and obnoxious about it, and hope that the rest of her classmates join her in her silent protest. Perhaps, if the principal winds up being the only one reciting the Pledge in alternate languages, even she will get the picture.