Mind you, I’ve never even voted Democrat. I guess I’m coming off more Libertarian or Cardinal Party than Conservative.
Argument for the affirmative:
The Pledge demands that the user be loyal to the political state, regardless of the actions of that state. No mention is made of critical judgment being used to evaluate the morality of participating in or supporting the actions of that state.
“…and to the republic for which it stands.” What if that republic decides to do something you consider immoral? Will you participate in that action because you recited a couple sentences a few thousand times as a kid?
The PoA is a Cold War relic, from when commies were “around every corner” looking to corrupt the youth, and it was considered almost unthinkable by the masses at large that the US would be doing something immoral. This despite the history of dealings with the American Indians, Central America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Fruit#History_in_Central_America), etc.
Is the US Federal government your moral compass? To what would you pledge real lasting loyalty? Your school? Is that leadership infallible? Is your church’s? Is any organization led by actual people? Even the Bible doesn’t ask for an unquestioning pledge of loyalty for something as valued as marriage.
Now, some of you might argue that the PoA is to the idea of the USA, to the ideals behind the organization. Haven’t these things changed quite a bit in the past? Aren’t they likely to change in the future? Aren’t there large debates currently about the practical outcomes of the differences in interpretations of what America “means”? There are fundamental disagreements between different schools of thought and moralities, and the power structure is likely to shift in the future, meaning that the America you get 20 years from now may be significantly changed from the one you have now. Are you willing now to swear loyalty to that one, even if you are willing to pledge yourself to the current version?
As for the ones of you who say that I’m being too literal in my interpretation of what the PoA asks of you, I ask you to actually write out the words and read them as if you have not encountered this before. Pretend you’re from another culture entirely, and compare it to the kind of things you’ve heard of from totalitarian states. Remove the phrases “United States of America” and “one nation under God”, and what’s the substantive difference between it and something from the Stalinist USSR? Phrases like “with liberty and justice for all” are routinely used by some of the worst governments in the world. Saying them doesn’t create the reality they describe.
The PoA was not written in another language, or by people distantly culturally removed from us. There’s not room for argument about the true meaning of the words. We are being asked to swear loyalty to a political structure that is in constant flux, that may do any manner of things in the future, and has a past record that contains numerous immoral actions. To give over your moral judgment to another is the action of a child. Adults with reasoning and judgment abilities are required to make their own moral decisions. We value not the Soviet or German or Ugandan citizens who remained loyal to their governments regardless of the governments’ attitudes and actions, but those who used personal morality to be disloyal to that structure when its morality ran aground. In blind loyalty, there is no true morality, only blindness.