I had the privilege to learn about Will Phillips today. Will is an 11 year old boy who is actively fighting the system. And I must say that at 11 he has more backbone and more conviction than I do as an adult.
Will has not been standing to say the pledge of allegiance for two years now. His reason, equality.
“here are those parts about ‘liberty and justice for all,’ and I realized that’s just not true. It’s not true when gay people don’t have the same rights as everyone else, not if they can’t get married and, in some places, can’t even adopt children like everyone else. … I feel like I’m lying if I say that pledge… I mean, it’s not just people who are gay, there are other groups that aren’t being treated fairly, Women aren’t always treated the same, African Americans, at least here, aren’t always treated fairly, and I believe everyone should have the same rights.”
There’s a lot more to his story. Persecution by his classmates, persecution by the christian church, and the loss of social circles for himself and his parents. But I’m going to just focus on the pledge. You can read the rest of Will’s story at the above link.
I have mentioned before that I care too much what people think of me. I am somewhat still afraid to state opinions that are contrary to the popular, mainstream belief. I was shamefully mortified to pass on this story because I know it will inspire my husband to never stand up for the pledge again and I will be cowering next to him hoping nobody notices. I’m so ashamed that an eleven year old boy is truer to his convictions than me. Ashamed and inspired.
The pledge of allegiance written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. Francis Bellamy, a christian socialist, who was fighting for equality but could not use the word equality in the pledge because the state superintendents of education were firmly against equality with women and African Americans. Originally the pledge was stated to ‘my flag’ and was later changed to ‘the flag of the United States of America’. This was against Bellamy’s wishes.
So you see, here is my conundrum. There are three parts to the pledge that I do not like. I do not like pledging my allegiance to a country. I am grateful for my country and I am grateful for my freedoms and I am especially thankful to those who are willing to fight for my safety and freedom but pledging allegiance to my country feels a little forced and contrived. I truly truly believe in one world. One humanity. I recognize that world peace and a world without borders is an unattainable goal at this point in time but I believe it’s one worth striving for and pledging my allegiance to one country contradicts that goal.
Maybe the religious can agree with me on this allegiance part. I recently read an article about a group of religious who do not sing the Star Spangled Banner or recite the pledge because their belief is that their allegiance should be to Jesus and Jesus alone. That’s not that far fetched to me. I think that’s where their allegiance should lie if that is their belief and a pledge only forces them to claim a different allegiance.
Secondly and obviously I do not approve of pledging ‘One Nation Under God’. We are not one nation under God and it is unfair to require each citizen to claim that non-truth.
Thirdly, Will has opened my eyes to another glaring problem with our pledge. It is undeniably true that this is not a country that has ‘liberty and justice for all’. While we are definitely far more progressive than many countries we are still years away from treating each and every citizen with equality. The political fights we have been waging in this country to keep the poor poor and the rich rich, keep the homosexuals far from the altar and even further from our orphaned children, to keep the immigrants and minorities fearing, and to keep the atheists/non-christians quiet are just a few examples of how our country is still far from the mark of providing liberty and justice for every one of it’s citizens.
Mark and I have talked about the pledge and it’s place or non-place in our lives. What position will we take when we are asked to recite the pledge? Are the faults with the pledge really a battle worth taking on? I had come to the conclusion that my convictions were not strong enough to justify not standing and stating the pledge. I figured I would just omit the ‘under God’ portion and thereby not offend anyone else and remain true to the convictions I did have. I haven’t wanted to seem anti-American or unappreciative to the men and women in uniform.
Today I realize that my convictions run deeper. The roots are a little stronger. The fight is itching to battle. But I also realize that I am weaker than Will Phillips. Will Phillips, an eleven year old boy, who has more tenacity, more confidence, more conviction than myself and most adults I know. I can only hope that my ability to take a stand will continue to grow stronger and that one day I will proudly be supporting one of my sons as they are also standing tall with the conviction to stay true to what they believe is right. No matter the cost.
I know I can do this. I know I can sit through a pledge and survive the angry looks. I know I can. I’m not ready to but I know I’ll get there. I imagine it to be much like that day just over a year ago when I first declined communion at my parent’s church after 25 years of partaking. Knowing that this one move will hurt my parents and knowing that I was silently declaring my position. My heart beat out of my chest. My palms were sweaty. The tension was thick. But I was just a little stronger after that moment. I did something that was right for me regardless of what it caused others to think of me and that’s how this journey continues.
Until then I guess I just keep taking this progression day by day, I keep finding inspiration in those who go before me and I keep finding my voice until one day I can scream it from the rooftops with no fear of whom I might offend. Afterall in this country that touts freedom to all I should be free too.