The State of Arizona, that bastion of liberty and justice for all who look like Americans, is now contemplating requiring loyalty oaths from all students in high school.
Beginning in the 2013‑2014 school year, In addition to fulfilling the course of study and assessment requirements prescribed in this chapter, before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:
I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.
Aside from the fact that it is comically absurd to require people to “take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” — if you’re forced to do it, you’re not doing anything “freely” — it makes a mockery of the idea of individual liberty: It’s a free country as long as you are forced to proclaim your loyalty to it. (By the way, they cribbed that oath from the Constitution; it’s basically the same one that senators, congresspeople, and the vice president take when they assume office. Someone should sue for copyright infringement.)
Also, there are a lot of people who have issues with taking oaths, period, either for religious reasons or for the simple fact that taking an oath assumes you’re not already telling the truth the rest of the time. Twelve years ago I was teaching at a private school here in Miami. I had a homeroom where we gathered first thing every morning for announcements over the closed circuit TV and then the pledge of allegiance. Being an orthodox Quaker — attending unprogrammed meeting for worship and adhering to the principles of peace, truth, simplicity, and equality — I don’t take oaths, and therefore I don’t recite the pledge. I don’t make a big deal out of it; when people stand for it, I stand because I don’t want to draw attention to my non-participation.
Someone apparently took offense at my standing silently without putting my hand over my heart. The headmaster called me into the office and wanted to know if I had a problem with reciting the pledge. I explained that as a Quaker, I don’t do pledges or oaths; in court I affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc. He said that I needed to be a role model for my students. I replied politely that doing something for show when it was clearly not something I believed in would be a lousy thing for a role model to do. This did not sit well with him, but he couldn’t do anything about it, so he smirked and let me go back to my class. It’s one of the many reasons I am glad I’m no longer teaching there.
This loyalty oath reminds me of the old Red Scare days of the 1950’s when everyone had to proclaim their Yankee Doodle dandiness or else be suspected of being a commie. Where it not for the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs and had their future tarnished by such absurd paranoia, it would be like something out of a Marx Brothers movie. Haven’t the people who make the laws in Arizona got better things to do?
HT to Misty.