This Is My Country, Part 2: We Pledge Allegiance

16 Aug

AP Photo

During my student teaching assignment, I stood every morning with my students and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Every morning, I managed to cough during the “under God” part. I’m sure the kids thought I had a cold or allergies, but the truth was, I couldn’t say the words without feeling like a hypocrite.

See, I don’t believe in big-G god. You know, the white guy on the cloud dispensing justice. The creator of the Universe, the guy who put dinosaurs and people on the Earth together then decided to kill off the dinosaurs and cover that little slip up by making it look like dinosaurs died ever so much longer ago than they really did. I like to think of God playing a little prank on archaeologists. Just his way of having fun. Immortality’s gotta be boring as (wait for it) hell.

I also don’t believe that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, but that’s a discussion for another post.

So, my saying “under God” is not going to happen without a fight. I know I could just say the words as if they don’t really matter. Who really knows what all those words mean, anyway? Certainly the children who say them have no idea what they are really saying. But I do. And I can’t make myself say the Pledge the way we currently say it.

But Americans, by and large, love their flag. They love their flag so much that they even get kind of snotty when someone—say, a politician or an athlete—doesn’t wear the flag.

Back when Barack Obama was running for President the first time, some media pundits decided to pick on him for not wearing a flag pin. Everyone else was wearing a flag pin but Barack wasn’t wearing a flag pin. That meant he wasn’t proud of his country. He said some stuff about living American values that didn’t really get anyone to settle down so he started wearing a flag pin.

Recently, some unnamed pundit-y guy on Fox (“unnamed pundit-y guy” means I can’t remember his name) decided that the TeamUSA women gymnasts weren’t American enough because they didn’t have little flags on their $500 custom-made leotards.

Photo: buzzfeed

Now, I watched the gymnastics. I watched a lot of the gymnastics. There were white leotards, red leotards and blue leotards. All of them were encrusted with white Swarovski crystals that twinkled like stars. If you paid even a little bit of attention, you could see that the top of the “V” in their uniforms was actually the top half of a star and radiating out from the star were stripes. Get it? Red. White. Blue. Stars. Stripes. Sounds like the American flag to me. I guess the pundit-y guy missed that ‘cause he was so distracted by Gabby Douglas’ messy hair.

The American value I am most proud of is our freedom of speech, speech in all it’s forms. I am free to not say “under God.” I am free to call my President a spineless wienie if I like. I am free to say that George Bush was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I am free to protest anything my government does that I don’t think is American or even humane.

One of the things I am free to do is to burn my flag. When my country does something so heinous—say, expanding a war from Vietnam into surrounding countries—I am free to protest in a way that clearly shows how angry I am. The Supreme Court has ruled, more than once, that constitutionally okay to burn the flag in protest because the burning is protected political speech.

While the Supreme Court would have my back should I decide to burn the flag, there are plenty of Americans who would likely shoot me in the back. Or at least want to.

I understand where the whole idea of pledging allegiance comes from, thanks to reading “Game of Thrones.” Way back when, before anything, kings didn’t have armies. When they needed to go to war, they gathered up other nobles and influentials to “pledge” to be on their side. Every body had their own flags to indentify their group of warriors, so an army might have lots and lots of flags in it, but everyone was pledged to fight for the big guy and gather under his flag.

Wearing a flag doesn’t make you more or less American. Acting like an American—choosing our own leaders, defending the right to free speech and the pursuit of happiness—these are what make us American.

We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one’s own, no better way to counter a flag burner’s message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by – as one witness here did – according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.

— Justice William J. Brennan, from his majority opinion in Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Advertisements

10 Responses to “This Is My Country, Part 2: We Pledge Allegiance”

  1. Loni Found Herself August 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    True story – the words “under God” weren’t part of the pledge until 1954.

    Brave post, and I thank you for writing it.

    • jmlindy422 August 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks for reading! I thought about putting some of the history in, but then decided against it. The history of “In God We Trust” is another good one!

  2. nevercontrary August 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I just stand in silence when we say the pledge at my school. No one has said anything to me yet.

    • jmlindy422 August 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

      I’ve tried that. Sometimes a kid will give you the evil eye and then I think “Oh, great. I’m gonna hear it from some mom.” I’m a sissy.

  3. The Waiting August 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Wow, Fox is really scraping the bottom of the barrel if the only thing they can come up with to criticize is the women’s gymnastics team uniforms.

    • jmlindy422 August 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

      Fox and barrel bottom scraping are pretty much synonymous in my book.

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge August 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    People really must have nothing to talk about if all they can think of is a gym leotard should have a flag. (Shall we reduce the flag to a decorative item for clothing like lace?)
    Obviously the guy doesn’t have kids in competing in meets – fashions in outfits go in and out of style. Costumes are carefully planned for impact – and to fit sport requirements.
    Did any other country’s uniforms have their flags on them. Seriously? Is this even worth noticing.
    What’s wrong – nothing else going on in the world to discuss?
    UGH

  5. The Writer's Codex August 22, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Hello there, I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. You can find details on my most recent post, thanks for blogging. I’ve either found your work insirational, or resourceful, so you’ve earned it. Keep up the good work.

    • jmlindy422 August 22, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      Thanks! I think I’ve been nominated for this, but I will have to see if I actually wrote about it. I am kind of scattered, if you hadn’t noticed already.

      • The Writer's Codex August 22, 2012 at 9:21 am #

        That’s fine, I realized after posting that some of my nominees had way more than 200 followers, but no matter; I followed in the spirit of it if not to the letter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: