Divide and Crush

18 September, 2006 at 2:04 pm (doric)

There is a blogging divide between original content and zeitgeist participation. Some people write on blogs — and I recognize that this is a gross generalization, but there are two types of people in the world: those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t, and I tend to fall into the former category — are attempting to record a particular perspective, a written oral history, if you will. Not as entitled in concept as a vanity press, but with a solid belief that the observations of the common-and-garden individual have merit and resonance. These people speak their minds, sometimes in order to order their thoughts, and sometimes to clarify a personal position, and sometimes simply to record the now. The other side of the blogging spectrum consists of popular affirmation, the participation in linkmanship. One states an opinion or a point of view by linking to a similar opinion or a contrary opinion, basing one’s contributions upon the preponderance of available opinion. This is then codified by the comments and trackbacks and linktos that given evidence that the opinionist is not alone, but part of a swarm of thought on the matter of the moment.

Mark McKinney is Crushing Your HeadAs a self-declared iconoclast, as someone who will compromise by saying that, well, at least we are all part of an archipelago and so I am too an island, I find little use for the latter technique. So I was immediately wary of my instinct to blog about Saddam Hussein’s comments last week that he would “crush the heads” of his enemies. The obvious parallel to the somewhat annoying Kids in the Hall catch-phrase leapt to mind… as did the awareness that sure the blogosphere would be rife with the reference. How surprising to find that a Google Blog search produced a scant twenty-five results and a BlogDigger search only fourteen. But still, my initial impulse was quelled by the feeling that it was too obvious, too ordinary to put to pixel.

Not so with this second news piece. Less of a lark and more of a piece of personal… something. Statementship. This item surpassed a need for communal temperature-taking and became more about me! Therefore: excellent blog fodder.

Back in March, I found myself interning at a public high school in western Massachusetts and was shocked to realize just how long it had been since I had uttered the Pledge of Allegiance. With all the recent hoopla over the “under God” portion of the Pledge and the fervent opinions about whether it belonged (depending upon whether one considers the act of adding the phrase to the Pledge to be more political and temporal than pure, or whether one believes that the United States is a Christian nation), I fixed my opinion about the issue based upon my own desire to continue to enforce the required separation of Church and State. But I had forgotten the chilly ring of a couple of dozen voices, chanting together, dully reciting without thinking about the words they intoned. A sudden realization that “the Lord’s prayer” was a declaration that I desired God’s will to be done on Earth had driven me from even again attending church services. I felt really uncomfortable standing in a room of students unthinkingly swearing fealty to the vicissitudes of State. I had attended a high school where the Pledge was not recited, and I was suddenly awash with a feeling of relief that I hadn’t been asked to participate in such mass programming.

WPA War Services poster, 1943So when I read that a school in North Carolina had quietly, perhaps intentionally, stopped requiring the recitation of the Pledge, I was highly intrigued, especially now that the state has joined “37 [others to] require schools to include the pledge in their daily schedules”. Which is in and of itself a sticky wicket, considering that the Supreme Court has ruled that requiring the Pledge “violate[s] the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of due process and the First Amendment’s requirements of religious freedom and free speech upon the state.” In fact, a school policy that required a student to simply stand quietly during the Pledge but otherwise not participate was changed in 1998 when faced with a lawsuit by the ACLU.

However, it’s no longer 1998. It’s now “after 9/11”. Which means that according to the previous link, Nebraska law has reinstated a 1949 “patriotism law” that requires, among other things, that students be instructed as to the “dangers of Communism”. It is generally considered that the words “under God” were added to raise an upright middle finger to the Godless Communists. And now that we have a new enemy, also considered to be “Godless” by our nation of fatuous Christmas-and-Easter Christians, such blatant line-in-the-sand allegiance is once again required. I tend to find myself agreeing with Dan Bern: we can’t move on, socially or politically, until the children of the Cold War and their engineered minds wither and die.

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