Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

Why we don't salute like Nazis anymore

The flag code was codified into law during Roosevelt’s presidency but he appears to have had little to do with it. Certainly, the hand-over-heart salute was not done “in honor of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far of places,” as Romney put it.

The problem was the salute that had been traditionally associated with the pledge had begun to look very much like the Nazi salute — and the United States was then at war with Germany.

Francis Bellamy, who wrote the pledge in 1892, had included instructions for the salute while reciting the pledge. For decades, children were taught to salute the flag with their arms straight out, with the palm up.

Years later, German Nazis and Italian fascists adopted salutes that looked similar to the Bellamy salute. Increasingly, some school districts, especially in New York, became uncomfortable with using the Bellamy salute.

Some school districts dropped the Bellamy salute, but it did not become an issue until Congress in June of 1942 passed a law mandating the Bellamy salute for use with the pledge. Suddenly, school districts found themselves not in compliance with the law and backlash developed.

Ultimately, Congress amended the law just six months later, in December of 1942, and adopted what was known as the “hand-over-heart” salute, supposedly attributed to President Abraham Lincoln.

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