“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” I remember being taught these words and speaking them long before I was old enough to understand what they meant. I asked my parents, as they were trying to help me memorize the pledge before school, what that first line meant. They told me that it meant that you pledged to respect the flag of the United States and to be a proud, patriotic citizen of this country. Even as a child, as soon as I was old enough to really understand what each word in the pledge meant, that first line bothered me. Pledging allegiance to a flag, an object, didn’t make sense to me. It was only a symbol. It defied logical understanding to devote myself to a thing like a flag. So when I said the pledge, I decided that though I said I was pledging my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, that I was really pledging my allegiance to the country itself. That worked for me throughout much of my time in school – it felt right, and I felt like a truly patriotic person. I cared about my country enough to become interested in the political process though I could not yet vote.
That being said, allegiance to the United States itself felt right to me until the time that I learned about fascism. When I heard about the things that happened in Italy and Nazi Germany during World War II and prior, I was horrified. Those leaders were elected, chosen by their people to lead them and to govern. Pledging allegiance to my country could mean following leaders like that, if such a leader was ever elected here. Knowing that, I no longer felt comfortable with allegiance to a country considering that that country might eventually be ruled by someone without the best interests of its citizens in mind. At the same time, my religious understandings began to become more important to me, and so my allegiance grew to be to God through my faith, not to a specific nation. However, my allegiance was not only to my religious principles as though I was somehow throwing away my nationality, but also to this nation’s principles. Principles like democracy, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness are what I owe my allegiance to from my country, rather than any single person in power or to the country itself, should it ever stray from those ideals. Allegiance to such principles has served me well – at the end of the day, whether the president is conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, whatever race or ethnicity or voting record, so long as that person acts based on those principles in the best interests of them, I then can give my allegiance to that person even if I disagree with how they go about it. Granted, this also gives me a critical view my country’s actions throughout the world, but I feel that is part of being a good citizen as well.
Of course, when I decided to pledge my allegiance to my country’s principles rather than to its leadership, I never thought that this nation would be threatened by fascism. Yet, here we are with a president-elect who, among his numerous flaws, seems to be a fascist based on the manner in which he has acted and attracted voters. Comparisons have rightly been made between Donald Trump and fascists like Mussolini and Hitler, who rose to power based on the popular vote and despite systems of checks and balances in their nations ended up as dictators in fascist regimes. Now, I am not saying that Donald Trump is a fascist, nor am I saying he will be a horrible president (though it certainly appears that way based on his actions since becoming President Elect). I am saying the comparisons between the manner in which Hitler and Mussolini rose to power and the manner in which Donald Trump was elected are alarming. As such, it seems to me that we must watch Donald Trump carefully, more so than any other president in the history of our nation, and based on his actions choose to what degree we follow him as our elected leader – or treat him as a fascist threat to this nation.
Therefore, now that the Electoral College has confirmed Donald Trump as our next president, you have a job to do as well. Ask yourself where your own allegiance lies. Is it with the nation itself? Is it with Donald Trump or whoever happens to be president? Or is it with the principles that have guided the United States of America through the centuries? Over the coming months and years of a Trump presidency, you may just find your allegiance tested.