Friday, May 16, 2008

Here is the story of 3 middle school students suspended for refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (Yes, this story's been out there for a while now. Cut me some slack for being late in getting to it; I've had a hard week.) I sympathize completely with those students because back when I was in school, I didn't recite the pledge, either. Not for any religious reasons. Just because I think it's wrong to require it.

It astounds me that in a free country, anyone still thinks it's appropriate to require people to pledge allegiance. Requiring a pledge of loyalty is antithetical to the very idea of a free society. Requiring someone to pledge allegiance doesn't establish that the required party respects her country or her flag or whatever it is that you want her to respect. All it shows is that she respects your power to inflict punishment or shame if she refuses. To be truly meaningful, a pledge of allegiance must be absolutely voluntary, uncoerced by school officials or peer pressure.

I went to a pre-school graduation a few days ago where the Pledge was recited. I believe I was the only person who chose not to stand and recite it. Does that make me less of a patriot? Or just a free-thinker who expresses her love of country in her own ways? I resent the intrusion of the national anthem in every sporting event I attend, as if that will make me more of a patriot to engage in that show on a daily basis. I don't think it does. I certainly don't think it makes me less of a patriot that I wish most regular sporting events would stop playing the anthem before every single game.

What I really object to is the notion that there are certain things that we all must do to prove our love of country. Never mind that the flag is not a terribly meaningful symbol to me, I need to stand and salute it. Never mind that the national anthem is usually not sung well when sung at a baseball game, I need to stand at rapt attention with my hand over my heart. Never mind that Congress bastardized the Pledge of Allegiance 50 years after it was written to add two words that seemingly exclude me from being part of the nation, I need to stand and affirm my loyalty. Do these things and your patriotism cannot be assailed (regardless of your stances on things like first amendment rights, police powers, etc); Don't do these things and you obviously hate your country and should move.

Here's the thing: I really shouldn't have to prove my patriotic credentials to anybody. I spend each and every day defending the damn constitution, after all. But nobody else should have to prove their credentials, either. Because I'm such a patriot, I affirm and defend the rights of those students (and anyone else) who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance on command. What truer form of patriotism can there be than standing up for (or in this case sitting down for) our individual rights not to be forced by our government into making any statement?

1 comment:

Blaine said...

I agree with you that their should be no punishment or judgement upon a person for not standing for the National Anthem or doing the pledge of Allegiance. But I have to say in my personal life I never really but much thought into it, I just stood up at the ball game and did the pledge every morning in school and life went on. I guess my thought always was that I just didn't care either way it might be an empty gesture or it may really mean something to you, and it doesn't bother me to take part.

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