Return to nonfamous.com index page

July 16, 2004

Junk mail for the soul

I like junk mail. It’s not that I am persuaded to buy things that are advertised or that I rely on mailbox ads to inform or influence my purchasing decisions. I just like to see how people are willing to spend direct mail budgets for promotion to consumers. Sorting through the flyers and envelopes tells me that my local economy isn’t dead. It makes me hopeful for the future. I get the usual stuff, offers for painting, maid service, check printing, local restaurant coupons. It’s all pretty mundane, but comforting. Every once in a while though, I get something that makes me sit back and say, “What the ----?”

Today, I was sorting through one of the two envelopes of multiple coupons that show up in my box and was thrown off a step. An advertisement telling me to “Let them know where you stand,” and “Order yours today!” For only $12.95 plus shipping and handling I can buy a t-shirt that has the US flag and the words, “Stand for the Pledge” on the front and on the back is printed the pledge of allegiance with the words “under God” printed in all caps and contrasting ink. Well, it’s pretty obvious where this organization stands on the issue.
I, since graduating junior high, have never said the pledge. As an indoctrination tool the pledge is pretty handy. Even if you don’t really know what it means or get the words wrong when it is first taught in elementary school, by the time you’re 13 you’ll never forget the thing. For those of us raised post-1954 the words “under God” are stuck there by years of repetition. Even if the words eventually are removed, I would probably say them out of habit. Of course, I would have to actually recite the pledge again and I doubt there are any circumstances under which I would ever…oh, hello, Attorney General Ashcroft, would you like to borrow my copy of The Children’s Story by James Clavell or perhaps, The Anthem by Ayn Rand?
Hey, even I understand and appreciate the cultural value of religion. I spent 11 years in plaid polyester listening to nuns. You miss the meaning of a lot of jokes and trivia questions without formal religious education. You underestimate the perversity and cruelty of authority figures and guilt just isn’t the same if you haven’t been instructed within the confines of religious dogma. So, now that you know this about me, you’ll understand why I had to find out more about these t-shirt guys.
The website for this group is www.minutemenunited.org (the photo albums are especially instructive). It was started by a former high school football coach who was fired from his position as the result of a suit brought by the ACLU alleging that the coaching staff was forcing the players to pray, join a particular church and listen to long sermons in the locker room. There were also accusations of speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands. That would have been a pretty impressive half-time show. On the Minute Men United site they claim the out-of-court settlement was a victory for Coach Dave. Upon looking into the case a little further, it is clear that the school district agreed to the settlement, fired this guy and is now subject to serious fines should any of this type of behavior be reported in the future.
So what does an unemployable high school football coach do? He starts a ministry exhorting his followers to harass, harangue and generally despise anyone that disagrees with him. The pledge of allegiance isn’t his only issue. He and his United Minute Men are taking their brand of morality into battle against the separation of church and state (they picketed in support of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama), reproductive choice and homosexuality. They don’t even like W very much. Next week in their effort to “save America” they will proclaim Jesus Christ “King over America” in Columbus, Ohio. Apparently, a federal republic can’t maintain “moral clarity” only the divine right of kings will do for these guys.
I won’t buy the t-shirt. Not because the funds would go to support this organization or that I disagree with their opinion. I won’t buy this shirt for the same reason that I don’t buy the porcelain kittens or printed caftans. But I will recycle the paper.

Posted by terry at July 16, 2004 10:04 PM | TrackBack
Comment spammers: see our Unauthorized Advertising Policy and rates
Comments

Even when I was growing up in a conservative Christian home—with complete certainty that our cosmological view was Right—I still found it strange that we said this thing every day in my otherwise non-churchy classroom that included the phrase "under God". I knew most of my fellow students weren't churchgoers, so it seemed strange for them to say that. I probably didn't think much about this in kindergarten, but certainly by fourth grade or so.

I don't think it was too long afterward that I also started to think the whole pledge to a flag was a lot like idol worship, forbidden by said god. And, huh, didn't the opposing side in most of the wars I've read about also invoke "God"? What's that about?

Posted by: Gary on July 17, 2004 03:43 PM

Yay! A Terry post! Here's to many more soon. More topically, I ran across this alternate pledge recently and REALLY love it: "I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the Republic it established. One nation from many peoples, with Liberty and Justice for all." No silly flag idolatry, no conflation of God and Country (which whenever I do, gets Yale added as well of course!) and a nice nod to our multicultural heritage (and future). Put that on a t-shirt with a kitten!

Posted by: jay on July 18, 2004 10:51 PM
Post a comment