No One Wants to Look Like a Nazi

Today’s expression isn’t verbal, it’s a gesture. I ran across this in a Smithsonianmag piece:

“[America’s salute to the flag originally required you to] raise your right hand, flip your palm down, point it toward the flag in a salute and recite the words. These instructions might seem unthinkable today for obvious reasons—they’re reminiscent of rows of Nazis saluting their Fuhrer. But believe it or not, they date from the beginning of the Pledge itself.

The stiff-armed salute came from the 1890s along with the words to the US Pledge as part of an effort to heal the wounds of the Civil War with a shared ritual in schools, and to assimilate immigrant children. But when Nazi’s adopted the same gesture, in 1942 Americans dumped their 50-year tradition (along with other symbols ruined by Nazis.) The US Flag Code was adopted because every American needed instruction in the new salute, though it can’t be enforced as a law.

The Pledge, by the way, was originally

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands—one nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all.” Francis Bellamy reportedly wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in two hours.

Congress added words including “under God” in 1954 to distinguish the United States from “godless Communism.” So both the words and gesture of the Pledge were modified in response to America’s enemies. I could accept going back to the original words, but I must admit my skin crawls at the original gesture.

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