To the editor:
When the story about the Pledge of Allegiance first made international news, my Russian colleagues were shocked, but not because of the religious implications of the phrase "under God" nor because the "under God" phrase had been inserted during the Red Scare of the 1950s as an anti-Communist move.
No, my Russian colleagues were stunned that, in America, we required a loyalty oath of our children. They told me that even at the height of Communist repression, children in Russia were never forced to make a public loyalty oath on a daily basis. Then they asked me to explain how it was that an open democracy like the United States could have such a repressive institution.
I honestly did not have an answer for them. The pledge is so ubiquitous in our nation's schools that most people don't even think about it at all, let alone think about it as a forced loyalty oath recited by minors. But maybe that is the point -- it is so ubiquitous that we no longer even think about it.
During the past 15 years, I have watched my Russian colleagues struggle to bring democracy to their country. They sacrificed a lot to participate in the pro-democracy movement that toppled the Soviet regime. That is why they were entitled to an answer, yet I can find no reasonable explanation as to why we celebrate our democracy by having our children recite a public loyalty oath on a daily basis.