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(warning: another post about the Pledge)

I've talked to my boss about the Pledge issue, and he tends to make the de minimus argument -- that is, the unconstitutionality of the words "under God" is so small as to be negligible. Basically, those words aren't important enough to be worth going through the violent backlash that the decision has created.

This is essentially a pragmatist (as opposed to idealist) perspective. The difference, as I see it, is in what you take as given. An idealist looks at the whole situation -- a sort of outsider's, or bird's eye, view -- and considers how it ought to be arranged. A pragmatist considers only his or her own actions as variables, and asks what he or she personally should to to create the best outcome, given the likely actions of everyone else. When an idealist hears about people being robbed in a dark alley, she thinks "people shouldn't rob others. I should be able to walk through dark alleys in safety." When a pragmatist considers the same situation, she thinks "given that there are robbers in the alley, I should probably stay out, or maybe carry a gun to defend myself." Both perspectives are necessary -- thee problem of crime would never be addressed without idealists, but without pragmatists we'd all stroll into dark alleys with $50 bills hanging out of our pockets because we know we're not the ones at fault.

The reason I bring this up is because I consider myself a strong pragmatist. My initial reaction to a situation is usually "ok, how can I deal with this," not "this situation should be different." So why am I taking a clearly idealist position on this particular issue (the Pledge), and looking at the pragmatist argument as dodging the question?


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