Taking the Fizz Out of the Pepsi Boycott

I chuckled last week when I was sent an e-mail demanding a boycott of Pepsi because its new “patriotic” labeling included the Pledge of Allegiance — without the phrase “under God.”

Protesting the exclusion of two words that epitomize the paranoia and unpatriotic nature of the federal government is pretty funny when you think about it. Couple it with the pledge’s origin and you’re delving into something downright ironic.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a socialist who was absolutely disgusted by a government like the one we live under today. He was also a disillusioned former minister who had distanced himself from his church because of their open intolerance and racism.

Bellamy believed in the political, social and economic equality of all Americans. Having seen the country divided only 30 years prior, he penned the pledge in 1892 not only as a commemoration of the ideals on which the nation was founded, but as an affirmation of the indivisible nature of the United States in spite of the Civil War.

The pledge, as originally published in the family publication The Youth’s Companion:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and
to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible, with Liberty
and Justice for all.

Notice anything missing? “Under God” was never an original part of the pledge. Even with his religious background, Bellamy knew that defining a government through religion was a bad idea. Swearing allegiance to your flag and country is one thing — swearing your allegiance to a particular deity is something else entirely.

“Under God” was only added by President Eisenhower in the 20th century to “combat” communism. It had nothing to do with respect towards God. It had nothing to do with God. Sliding in those two extra words was supposed to somehow trip up all those nasty commie sympathizers that the House Un-American Activities Committee was desperately trying to prove existed — just another stab at those “godless” Soviets.

Funny, right? Did they think having a socialist swear fealty to God would make their head explode or something?

The addition of two seemingly benign words angers me because it marginalizes the millions of Americans who aren’t Christian while insulting those Christians who don’t appreciate having their god co-opted as some ridiculous political tool, particularly when there are already plenty of other ridiculous political tools around.

In the current Pledge of Allegiance, God is used as a social pawn. Nobody should be in favor of that.

Those who argue for “a little God in our government” are the same people who think putting the Ten Commandments up in a school classroom is a decent idea. After all, telling kids not to kill or, er… covet their neighbor’s wife is society’s responsibility, right?

Our society is filled with a number of beliefs that should garner no favoritism from the government. Mention every god — as well as the possibility there isn’t one — in your pledge and you’ll get no argument from me. But don’t favor one over the other.

Why is it, even today, people are so utterly unaware of the variety of philosophies that extend beyond their tiny worldview? The religious right is a large, powerful lobbying ground with millions of members — are they all so sheltered that they have no idea other religions exist? Have they ever heard of Hinduism or Islam? Aside from the “fact” that their followers are soulless infidels, that is?

The e-mail I received said they didn’t want to offend anyone. (Frankly, I’m a little offended that a soft drink feels the need to pander to the mindless automata who feel reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is patriotic, but that’s a different story.) And Pepsi went out of its way to show its support of the United States in a way that doesn’t show rank favoritism towards any particular subculture or belief, an equality that the pledge as intended would favor. In response, a bunch of ignorant knuckleheads steadfast in their condemnation of history are repeating it right now by conjuring the spirit of Joe McCarthy to blast a company for daring to appeal to everyone.

To those who feel compelled to boycott Pepsi for this “outrage,” I ask you to direct your energy towards boycotting things that really matter. If you truly care about your country enough to organize over something that’s barely paid lip service to in elementary schools, why not focus on saving the things about the United States that make the Pledge of Allegiance true?

Right now we don’t have liberty and justice for all. Aside from the obvious social inequalities that exist around us, citizens are being jailed in secret without being told their “crime.” People exercising civil disobedience are shot in the streets with rubber bullets, and their movements are under constant surveillance. If even more draconian measures are passed, your slightest perceived connection to “terror” can strip you of your citizenship before you’re deported elsewhere.

This nation is no longer one indivisible thanks to the policies of our government. Our strength in the international arena is severely diminished. Our reputation is badly tarnished. Be honest: Do you really want to pledge allegiance to the United States of 2004?

Reading the labels on a can of soda doesn’t make you a patriot. Fighting for your rights does. If you want to funnel your energy to boycott something, start with the invasions into our personal freedoms by our elected officials.

Otherwise, find a different pledge. The real one wants nothing to do with the practices of today.