When we invited various and sundry people -- diverse in profession, geography, ideology and background -- to revise or even rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance, one told us the current wording is "just Yankee Doodle Dandy"; it could not be improved upon. Another explained that she had "a problem with the whole idea of pledges and allegiances. . . . It's a
paradigm I find dangerous." A third noted that, in such an exercise, "the line between treason and self-parody is narrow indeed." But most, in the spirit of self-expression that we celebrate on the Fourth, seemed happy to walk that line. Here are their alternative pledges -- some a mere tweak, others more inventive -- crafted by people who neither found the pledge perfect nor considered the paradigm dangerous.
I pledge allegiance to this nation of the first-person singular pronoun -- scandal to dictators and to armies of "we"; and to its Bill of Rights protecting village atheist and immigrant dreamer and the bedroom door, one paradox indivisible: nation of "I."
-- Richard Rodriguez, writer
I pledge fidelity to the democratic principles of the United States of America, based on the freedoms of thought and expression without arrogance or self-righteousness and with tolerance and respect for all.
-- Robert Olen Butler, novelist
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America -- red and blue -- and to the Republic for which it stands, despite all the extremely preposterous people in it.
-- Christopher Buckley, humor writer
When I become an American citizen, I would like to pledge allegiance to my republic of imagination where there are no borders and separations based on nationality, religion, race, sex, ethnicity.
-- Azar Nafisi, author, "Reading Lolita in Tehran"
I pledge allegiance to the not-to-be-burned flag of the United States of Halliburton and to all the special interests for which it stands, one nation, under Tom DeLay, divided between conservatives willing to defend it and liberals who offer its enemies paid vacations, with profits and pensions for just a few.
-- David Corn, Washington editor, the Nation magazine
I pledge allegiance to the flag-burning of the United States of America, and to the republic which the courts command, one nation, above God, indivisible (except for all that race, class and gender warfare), with equality and five-star beach resorts for all terrorists.
-- Julia Gorin, "The Conservative Comedian"
I pledge allegiance to the flag, but let's be careful not to brag.
We need to fix so many laws that still have fundamental flaws.
We need to find fair judges, too.
This pledge means we have work to do.
-- Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice
I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the principles for which it stands: respect for all human beings, security of human rights, care for the earth's flora, fauna and resources, and fair allocation of personal and fiscal responsibilities.
-- Joyce Appleby, historian
I pledge, not to pledge, but to work to ensure that America lives up to its ideals of liberty, equality, and opportunity so that we can really become a beacon of possibility for all. And that by our efforts we can become a more inclusive nation that is comfortable with ambiguity and our evolving role in a changing global society.
-- Lonnie G. Bunch,
director, National Museum of African American History and Culture
I pledge allegiance to the fairness for which this country stands, to its generous sympathy for the plight of its own and others around the world, one nation, sometimes divided, but always committed to respect and decency for all.
-- Joseph Epstein, writer
I pledge allegiance to my fellow citizens, with whom I will work to uphold our freedoms, fulfill our responsibilities to one another, and maintain our place as a responsible nation in the community of nations.
-- Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy
I pledge my support for the semiautonomous, evolving, complex dynamical network known as the United States of America and for those principles that maximize the degrees of freedom and independence of its human nodes.
-- John Allen Paulos, mathematician
I pledge allegiance to jet lag over the United States of America. And to the glazed public forsaken and bland, one germ-infested mob, in stagnant air, indefensible, with chattiness, strep, bloated carry-ons, bulging bellies and crying babies for all.
-- Peter Mehlman, film and television writer
I pledge to honor the common hopes of all Americans and imagine a world of equals, living many decent ways, with liberty and opportunity for all.
-- the editors, the Boston Review
I pledge allegiance to the United States of America, to its people and to the ideals which they aspire to and have fought for: democracy, equality, liberty, and justice for all.
-- Minxin Pei, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
I pledge allegiance to the myth that government knows what it's doing. And to our illusion, proudly proclaimed, that cruise missiles, when well-intentioned, bring liberty and justice for all.
-- John Brady Kiesling, former diplomat, resigned to protest the Iraq war
I pledge myself to the ideal of liberty and justice for all the people of the United States of America.
-- Greg Nagy, director, Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington
And comments from two who chose not to revise:
I love our imperfect country, and I love it partly for the ideal of respect for differences, the dignity of the unique individual. No communal incantation can embody that ideal. I don't believe that I got much from chanting sentences of allegiance in school each morning. Patriotism is not the same as piety. My classmates and I would have been better off, and it would be more in the best American spirit, if the teacher had read a different passage from "Leaves of Grass" each morning.
-- Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate
I've concluded the Pledge of Allegiance is about as perfect as imperfect humans could devise. It pledges loyalty and love to a symbol of our nation, the nation itself, and its constitutional form; it asserts unbreakable unity, acknowledges God, and aspires, at the end, to democratic perfection. Pretty good! And in only 31 words.
-- Peggy Noonan, former presidential speechwriter