This is a guest post by Rich Perkin.
Moving to America when I was fifteen, I started to encounter something I’d never seen in England.
There is something so American about pledges. The Pledge of Allegiance in class every morning that my teacher and I got into a fight about. Chastity pledges that kids would make in high school. The pledges one makes to join the fraternity or sorority that they’ve decided will be their social guide through university. But until recently, they seemed to be something that happened in our youth. How many people take the Pledge of Allegiance on a regular basis? How many people pledge anything once they leave university, and hope that the pictures of them doing a keg stand with a Portuguese pot-bellied pig never surface?
Until, apparently, you become a politician.
Now, pledging is all the rage. There’s a pledge against new taxes. There’s a Marriage Vow pledging to fight gay marriage, “quickie divorce” and “all forms of pornography.” I’m curious to see if any more pledges come out before the end of this election, and I hope they get even crazier than the porn one. We might as well have our elected officials pledging not to drink whisky while driving backwards through the Mall of America—that’s something I could really get behind.
As far as I can tell, there’s only one pledge our elected officials should be taking. They should be pledging to represent the American people, the people who elected them. And yet by pledging not to raise taxes, they’re actually going counter to the wishes of a majority of the electorate. By pledging to oppose gay marriage, they’re going against a steadily increasing majority of the electorate. By making a pledge against porn, they’re going against approximately 100% of the electorate.
When we elect someone to Congress, we’re choosing that person to be our spokesperson. We’re giving them the privilege of speaking for us, our beliefs. That’s why women fought for suffrage at the beginning of this century. That’s why African-Americans fought for civil rights more recently. They wanted representation, a fair say, to be a part of this country. What did they fight for, and will we all have to start fighting, when our Congress members start ignoring the oaths they took when they entered office and start signing pledges that are in no way representative of the people they serve?
There’s only one pledge I’m interested in any of them taking:
“I pledge, during my time in office, and beyond, to fully represent the desires and will of the people who have granted me the privilege of representing them in the United States Government.”
Rich is the executive producer and co-founder of the British National Theatre of America. You can follow him on his blog and on Twitter.