What on earth are we doing when we ask little children to recite the words in our “Pledge of allegiance”?
What are we doing?
Have you ever listened in when very young kids are trying to repeat these words? I have. I was a teacher for almost 30 years.
“I predger legiance to the flag on the United States of American.”
“And to the republic of Richard Sands…”
“One nation, underground….”
What are we doing?
We are asking children to join a club they don’t understand. We are asking them to promise loyalty forever to a piece of cloth. At least, that’s what it seems like for them.
Really, honestly, when we adults stand up and place our hands on our hearts, and say these words, we are pledging our loyalty to “The republic for which” that flag stands. We are promising that we will do our best to protect and defend the “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So what if we see a republic in which there is no “indivisible” group of people who receive “liberty and justice” equally? What should we do?
Because we live in the United States of America, we have the right to protest. We have the duty, as Americans, to do our best to demand that there is equality in the liberty and justice that is applied to all.
Even kids who came here from the Dominican Republic at the tender age of 6 months and who now live, work, learn, contribute as “Dreamers”. We have a duty to point it out if we think those people are not experiencing liberty and justice that is equal to ours.
If we see that our Black friends live in a kind of fear that we will never know, if we see that young black men are afraid to drive to work after dark or fear for their lives if their taillight goes out, then we have a duty to complain.
The fact that some rich, famous American athletes like Colin Kaepernick have chosen to stay on one knee during the reciting of the “Promise to be eternally loyal to our country”is proof that this country is worthy of our allegiance.
When I was a teacher, I was mandated by law to have my class recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once per month. So I spent a considerable amount of time teaching my innocent ten year old charges the seriousness of standing, placing a hand over our hearts, and solemnly repeating those words. I made sure that every single one of them understood what it is that they were saying.
I had an assignment where they were asked to put the pledge into their own words.
Most importantly of all, I told them, those wide eyed young children, that they would never, ever be obligated to stand and say those words. I impressed upon them the fact that making a pledge must be voluntary.
“If your government insists that you have to stand up and swear your loyalty,” I told each child, “then you are not living in a free and open society. If you are ordered to swear loyalty, you are living in a dictatorship.”
And I thought about the people I knew who lived under Joseph Stalin. I thought about the children in front of me whose parents and grandparents fled from dictatorships in Iran, in North Korea, in China.
The only NFL player that I have ever admired in my entire life is Colin Kaepernick. I salute him and all of those who are joining in taking a knee because they want the United States of America to be worthy of their pledge of allegiance.