10 June 2005

As Unamerican as Pepsi!

Got this in the mail this morning:

Don’t buy Pepsi in the new can. Pepsi has a new “patriotic”
can coming
out with pictures of the Empire State Building, and the Pledge of
Allegiance on them. However, Pepsi left out two little words on the
pledge, “Under God.” Pepsi said they didn’t want to offend anyone. In
that case, we don’t want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate
office, either. So if we don’t buy any Pepsi product, they will not be
offended when they don’t receive our money that has the words “In God
We Trust” on it.

This is apparently an urban legend, as documented at many urban legend sitesHere’s the best one.

The pledge of allegiance, as originally written, did not have the words
“under God” in it.  Those words were added in the mid-’50s,
as part of that Red Scare, to contrast the nation to “godless
Communism.”  Interestingly, it was almost entirely the work
of the Knights of Columbus.  And as you will see from the
history below, it depended on some scare-mongering of a sort, raising
the spectre of little Muscovites being able to recite it in present
form.  (It’s interesting that God seem to show up in the
public discourse much more at the most uncivil, most divided times of
our history.  Everyone seems to want God for their side, when
they feel beleaguered, not when peaceful.)

I
don’t really drink soda, so it’d be hard to participate in this
boycott, but I also think that this is a silly
issue, and that there are far more pressing ones to get excited
about.  Failure to say the pledge of allegiance will not lead to a
mass movement of disloyalty to the nation.  We seemed to get on
quite well as a nation for 120-odd years before it was introduced, and
another 60 or so before God got invoked.  And somehow the nation
remained coherent and fairly religious without a daily morning
reminder.  There’s a lot of talismanic superstition surrounding a
number of our national symbols, as if their destruction (flag-burning,
pledge alterations, invocations of God in money and such) would lead to
a cosmic necessity to destroy the nation.

Also, boycotts like this often seem to assume some sort of
covenish machination on the part of the company, when it’s usually just
incompetence or a tendency for some people to see conspiracy everywhere.  More often it seems to be the latter.

Some interesting background history:

In
1953, the Roman Catholic men’s group, the Knights of Columbus mounted a
campaign to add the words “under God” to the Pledge. The nation was
suffering through the height of the cold war, and the McCarthy
communist witch hunt. Partly in reaction to these factors, a reported
15 resolutions were initiated in Congress to change the pledge. They
got nowhere until Rev. George Docherty (1911 – ) preached a sermon that
was attended by President Eisenhower and the national press corps on
1954-FEB-7. His sermon said in part: “Apart from the mention of the
phrase ‘the United States of America,’ it could be the pledge of any
republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar
pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow.” After the service,
President Eisenhower said that he agreed with the sermon. In the
following weeks, the news spread, and public opinion grew. Three days
later, Senator Homer Ferguson, (R-MI), sponsored a bill to add God to
the Pledge. It was approved as a joint resolution 1954-JUN-8. It was
signed into law on Flag Day, JUN-14. President Eisenhower said at the
time: “From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will
daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural
schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the
Almighty.”  With the addition of “under God” to the Pledge, it became
both “a patriotic oath and a public prayer…Bellamy’s granddaughter
said he also would have resented this second change.”

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