Have you ever been in a public place minding your own business when a stranger makes a rather loud offensive statement? They didn’t make a statement pertaining to you, but it was a sexist, prejudice, or propagandist statement. It’s a statement so offensively toxic that it even offended you!
Words were on the tip of your tongue. You wanted to tell them their rhetoric was hurtful, wrong, and disrespectful of those around them. Yet, you didn’t say anything. You think they had a right to voice their opinion. Besides, if you confronted them, something bad could happen. Then you have the worst thought of all: It wasn’t your problem.
Guess what. It was your problem. Furthermore, if you’re an American in the age of 45, it’s most definitely our problem.
As it happens, I heard an educator (unrelated to my academic institution) talking at a Starbucks and she made a horribly disagreeable comment: I make students stand for the Pledge since my husband fought in Vietnam for their right to say it.
I forced myself not to comment, and yes, it was the worst thing I could have possibly done.
In the current climate of highly charged hateful rhetoric and actions, I’m learning from my inaction, and I encourage people to calmly and logically shut down ignorantly toxic comments. Call them a gateway drug to homegrown terrorism (or for a man to stab their fellow countrymen and call it Patriotism).
~Continued after video~
While the educator’s comments aren’t hate speech per se, it’s still a dangerous comment specifically for pure ignorance, which happens to lead to dangerous nationalism, authoritarianism, indoctrination, and even brainwashing.
Paraphrasing from the above Huffington Post video, Americans let those comments slide, we are helping to normalize such thinking. Kids who hear it will think that toxic perspective is fine, or normal, and we encourage those few of like, small-minds to voice the same opinions.
Here is why that educator’s comments are so disagreeable.
First, the part claiming her husband fought in the Vietnamese war so American students can say the Pledge of Allegiance is revisionist history and has absolutely no basis in fact.
The Vietnamese War had nothing to do with American freedom nor the Pledge of Allegiance. America entered the war to help the French retain control of their Indochina colony. When the French lost control and Communists took over Northern Vietnam, the American government found the situation disagreeable and stayed to help Southern Vietnamese take back the North.
Second, anyone who claims they, or their spouse, fought for the American right to say the Pledge drank the crazy people Kool Aid. Our government’s Enlightenment Era Creators in the American Revolution were those who truly fought for our freedom. They fought for the colonists’ right to have an equal say in government as part of a living document that also includes instructions for two methods of revolting against those in power. Not of the idiocy to say a simple Pledge.
Hypothetically, in some bizarre dimension the Vietnamese War had been about American freedom, that freedom would encompass a wide range of freedoms we enjoy in the real world. They would include the freedom to choose to say or not to say the American Pledge of Allegiance.
As Americans, we take pride in our First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
These days, Americans refer to the First Amendment as freedom of speech or freedom of religion. In the 80s and 90s, I remember it was referred to as freedom of the press.
The original Thirteen Colonies were formed on the promise of religious freedom and a haven from political upheaval. Basically, their own countries persecuted (i. e., imprisoned or penalized) them because of their beliefs either in religion or politics.
Even today, there are countries – a few more liberal than America – that still penalize people for criticizing their leaders. Here are twelve of them:
The American Constitution was written so all American citizens have governmental say without the threat of persecution, which is also covered in the First Amendment (…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances).
We have the right to protest peaceably. If Americans wish to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance, they can without penalization. Hell, even in the 20th Century, people burned the American flag at protests without legal repercussions. Why? Because that is also covered under the First Amendment.
When I substitute in a classroom, I don’t force the students to stand and recite the Pledge. Any students who choose to sit, respects the rest of the class by staying quiet through the Pledge. Those who choose to say the Pledge, respects the classmates who choose to sit – as in not shaming those who sit through the Pledge.
Personally, I stopped saying the Pledge because I disagree with the under God part, which wasn’t added until the 1950s as a convoluted way to combat the political concept of Communism. (Anyone else confused by that?) Plus, I don’t recite the Pledge as a protest against the current political stupidity in the White House and Congress. Although, I still stand and face the flag out of respect for my family history.
(By the way, anyone else think it’s overkill to say the Pledge everyday in school?! Why don’t we say it once at the beginning of the Academic year or each semester?).
Typically, I resume working after the Pledge and ignore the moment of silent reflection. I think taking a moment to silently reflect – which is code for pray – is a waste of time when people should do that in the privacy of their own home before going to school or work. In addition, the Pledge of Allegiance is a prayer since it incorporates under God and was originally written by a minister.
I’m not saying the misguided educator was a follower of the Far Right, but I’m going on the assumption based on her comment. Aside from the confusion over the term freedom, the Far Right (who proclaim themselves Patriots) get a lot of things wrong.
The Far Right likes to take their Nationalism to the extreme. Perhaps, they believe the Pledge was always recited by school children at least once everyday across the country dating all the way back to America winning independence from England.
Actually, the Pledge wasn’t a classroom ritual until 1892, and America didn’t have an official pledge until the first half of the 20th Century.
It was not until 1942 that Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance. One year later, in June 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it. In fact,today only half of our fifty states have laws that encourage the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom!
Forcing children to say the Pledge in school is not Patriotic since it’s considered a form of authoritarianism in a country that’s supposed to be a Republic. While forces are attempting to change the foundation of our government to an oligarchy and 45 treats his position as a dictatorship, I believe wholeheartedly that this country will always remain a republic, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
I wish I would have said something to that educator, yet I would have done more harm than good. Unfortunately, I would have yelled at the woman instead of calmly explain to her the wrongness of her statement with logic. Perhaps, it would have been a futile attempt. At least, I would have demonstrated that there are Americans who won’t stand for a dictatorial revisionist history.
However, I’m mainly writing about this experience to encourage other fellow Americans with cooler heads to curb both hateful and blind nationalist propaganda. The more we make these comments abnormal, the less we have to deal with open hate, Patriotic stabbings, and the fear of homegrown terrorists.