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All across the land today, the Stars and Stripes will be flown in much greater numbers than any other day of the year except, perhaps, Memorial Day. And as part of Fourth of July ceremonies in school stadiums and other public venues, millions more Americans than usual will say the Pledge of Allegiance to those flags before the music, speeches and fireworks.

The pledge has quite a curious 122-year history, having been written by a utopian socialist and tweaked a few times, adding "under God" in 1954 and remaining there despite the complaints of civil libertarians and atheists. Mostly it gets said in school settings. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that students cannot be forced to say the pledge or punished for not doing so, but peer pressure in the service of public expressions of alleged patriotism can be a powerful force. Even when you're a kid who wonders what nation is being discussed when "liberty and justice for all" is mentioned.

What most people invoking those familiar words may not be aware of is that the pledge to Old Glory has at least 12 counterparts in pledges (or salutes) to state flags. I'll dare guess that not one in 500 residents knows the words to their state pledge or even whether their state has one. Texans know. State law requires the recitation of both the national pledge and the state pledge every morning in public schools (with the proviso that individuals may opt out). You can bet, however, that if you're a teacher and choose not to recite, you'll be looked at askance come performance review time.

Most of these state pledges are fluffy say-nothings, perfect for mooing in unison at 8 AM. For example:

Rhode Island (adopted in 1910): "I pledge allegiance to our State Flag, and to the Republic of which Rhode Island forms a part; one Union inseparable, with honor and reverence for both State and Nation."

But then there's Alabama, which adopted its pledge in 2001: "Flag of Alabama I salute thee. To thee I pledge my allegiance, my service, and my life."

Read more about state flag pledges below the fold.

Whoa! Pledging one's allegiance and loyalty to an artificially demarcated territory within the U.S. is a tad much already. But pledging one's life to the state and the state flag counts as fundamentally creepy. Sadly, the Alabama leaders who drafted that pledge probably didn't do so tongue-in-cheek, as they should have done given the state's history 150 years back. Rather they did it with deadly seriousness.

Alabamans aren't alone. Tennesseans had previously done the same: "Flag of Tennessee, I salute thee. To thee I pledge my allegiance with my affection, my service and my life."

Not much left for the family once those three are surrendered.

The Tennessee pledge was adopted in 1986 without repealing or otherwise superseding the gentler flag pledge that the state had adopted a mere five years previously: "Three white stars on a field of blue. God keep them strong and ever true. It is with pride and love that we salute the Flag of Tennessee."

Check out the rest of the state flag pledges' weird grammar, punctuation and capitalization:

Georgia (1935): "I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands; Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation."

Texas: (1933, 1965; and 2007 when "under God" was added): "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."

Arkansas (1953):  "I Salute the Arkansas Flag With Its Diamond and Stars. We Pledge Our Loyalty to Thee."

Virginia (1954): "I salute the flag of Virginia, with reverence and patriotic devotion to the ‘Mother of States and Statesmen,’ which it represents—the ‘Old Dominion,’ where liberty and independence were born."

New Mexico (1963): "I salute the flag of the State of New Mexico and the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures."

South Carolina (1966): "I salute the flag of South Carolina and pledge to the Palmetto State love, loyalty and faith."

Michigan (1972): "I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, two beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice to all is our ideal."

Mississippi (1972): "I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God."

Oklahoma (1982): "I salute the flag of the State of Oklahoma. Its symbols of peace unite all people."

South Dakota (1987): "I pledge loyalty and support to the flag and State of South Dakota, land of sunshine, land of infinite variety."

Louisiana (1999): "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of Louisiana and to the motto for which it stands: A state, under god, united in purpose and ideals, confident that justice shall prevail for all of those abiding here."

Kentucky (2000): "I pledge allegiance to the Kentucky flag, and to the Sovereign State for which it stands, one Commonwealth, blessed with diversity, natural wealth, beauty, and grace from on High."

Ohio (2002): "I salute the flag of the state of Ohio and pledge to the Buckeye State respect and loyalty."

North Carolina (2007): "I salute the flag of North Carolina and pledge to the Old North State love, loyalty, and faith."

If you live where there is no state flag pledge, count yourself lucky. Or, if you can't stand the thought of being without, you could check out the possibilities the late Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen encountered when he asked readers to submit their ideas in pledgeless Colorado 10 years ago. An example he received:

"I swear a solemn oath of allegiance to the Colorado state flag and to the currently smaller government for which it stands. One conservative State, under the Christian triune God, with lower taxes for the high-income victim class and fewer services for the low-income lucky duckies..."

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