Thirteen years ago when my youngest son, Nolan, was in seventh grade, he came from school annoyed that every kid was forced to start the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance. As a child in America, this is something that is done daily from the time kids are in first grade. (Although now the Supreme Court has ruled for at least five states that students cannot be required to recite this, nor can they be punished for not doing so.) As a first grader, you have no idea what you’re saying when you go along with this Pledge, so it’s no surprise to me that it took until seventh grade for my child to actually understand what he was reciting.
Nolan is not a religious person, and the line in the Pledge of Allegiance “One Nation under God” really bothered him. Wil and I are not religious, nor were we born into a religion, so we never pushed that on our kids. Unfortunately, (and without going into detail) when our kids would visit their father and his wife on the weekends, religion was forced on them. This forcing of religion made our kids very resentful of anything involving church and as a result, Nolan felt church was being brought into the classroom by being required to say “One Nation under God” and it really upset him.
There was one boy in Nolan’s class who did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. One day after class, Nolan asked the teacher why he got to do that, and she told him “He’s from India. He worships a different God than we do.” This boy was a US citizen, but the teacher respected his religious beliefs and allowed him to sit quietly while the other children recited something most of them probably still didn’t understand at the time.
After hearing this, Nolan came home and asked me “Do I have to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance?” I thought about it for a moment. It’s something that’s ingrained in all of us to just accept and do, so I’d never considered that. He explained why he didn’t want to participate in it, so I told him “I don’t see any reason why you’re obligated if it makes you uncomfortable. You do what you feel is right for you.” I figured he was just confused and that was the end of it.
Four days later, I received a phone call. “Mrs. Wheaton. This is Nolan’s teacher.” “Oh, hi!” I said. “Is everything okay?” “Everything is NOT okay” she barked back at me. “This week, Nolan has REFUSED to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance with the class.” She waited, as if I would join her outrage. “Okay…” was all I could think to say. “Okay?! Don’t you have ANYTHING to say about this? I am PERSONALLY OFFENDED that he would do this.”
Personally offended? Is she serious? Oh, wait. She is serious. I’ll admit I did let out a small chuckle because it was so absurd, but I calmly and politely gave her an explanation since she took the time to call.
“The Pledge of Allegiance should be taken seriously, I do get that. But being personally offended when this pledge is not about you, seems unnecessary. Nolan asked me if he was required to do this because saying ‘One Nation under God’ bothers him, when he is not religious. You allow another boy in the class to sit for the very same reason. Nolan is exercising his right as a citizen to not speak these words when it clearly upsets him.”
Silence on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Well, this is a CHRISTIAN NATION and as such, I find this action disrespectful to our country.”
“Okay….” I responded. “But please remember this is his right as a citizen and I, for one, am extremely proud of him for taking a stand to not recite a Pledge implying he’s Christian when he is not. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his country, and I strongly suggest you don’t make his personal belief about you.”
The teacher huffed at me before abruptly saying goodbye and slamming the phone down.
Nolan felt that week of personal protest said what he needed to say, and the following week, at his own choice, he decided to stand for the Pledge, choosing not to recite the “One Nation under God” line.
Colin Kaepernick is an African-American NFL player who has chosen not to stand with his hand over his heart as the National Anthem is sung before games, but has instead chosen to take a knee in a personal protest at how his fellow African-Americans are currently being treated by our police. This is a personal choice which obviously speaks volumes to the outrageous problem of police shooting African- American citizens simply for the color of their skin. Yet time after time, news stories online or local news talk about this as if he’s “disrespecting our country” thereby giving him “extremely low approval ratings and is the most disliked player among the other players and fans of the sport.” You have got to be kidding me.
If my child were in school now and expected to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, I know without a doubt he would sit in protest. But this time, it wouldn’t be for the “One Nation under God” line. It would be for the “with Liberty and Justice for all” line. There is no liberty and no justice for the African-American community and it needs to stop. This community is so lucky to have someone like Kaepernick make such a public stand for them when no one else will. People of all races need to do more to stop this insanity against the African-American community because they so desperately need our help. Be a voice for those who aren’t heard. Stand, sit, kneel, or gather in protest for those who aren’t seen. Protests like these are necessary so that one day, and hopefully it will be soon, we, as a Nation, can proudly stand as equals as we recite these words this so-called “free country” wants us to say.