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Why I Don’t Stand For the Pledge of Allegiance

Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." This opinion piece posits that America is continually becoming better, and it's only because of those who have the courage to speak out against injustice where it exists.

April 8, 2019

I learned the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten, at the age of five. It is so ingrained in my head that I could recite it in my sleep. And now, eleven years later, I no longer stand up at the beginning of each school day and pledge my allegiance to the United States of America. I remain in my seat.

Why?

Here’s my reasoning: I refuse to pledge my allegiance to my country if my country does not pledge its allegiance to us Americans. All Americans.

The flag does not stand for black people. Gay people. People with disabilities and diseases. Immigrants. Assaulted women and rape survivors. Children shot in schools and people shot in streets. Minorities. Victims.

The part of the pledge that bothers me the most is the very end: “…with liberty, and justice for all.”

I do not consider a racist, sexist, homophobic, and discriminative judicial system to provide “justice for all.” Nor do I consider racist, sexist, homophobic, and discriminatory government policies a promise to that statement. Never in the United State’s history has the country done things in a fair way. We were built on hatred. 241 years and the 2016 presidential election later, the government still enforces a cruel prejudice against minorities and victims.

The flag did not stand for black people when the United States enslaved them and later enforced Jim Crow laws. Today, the American black community fears every single day that they might get shot unarmed in their cars or blamed for crimes they didn’t commit. White supremacist organizations such as the KKK still exist in the United States, and President Donald Trump does nothing to condemn them.

The flag does not stand for women, because for the longest time, strict laws were made confining women and their bodies; historically, women were belittled to the point where they weren’t even allowed to wear bathing suits or play tennis. The United States made it so that women could not vote, and people had to fight incredibly hard for this so called “justice.” Past and present, the American government shames and restrains women from attaining abortions and making decisions about their own bodies. And, furiously, I make this reminder: in 2018, the Supreme Court allowed a person accused of sexual assault and attempted rape to become one of the most powerful figures in American politics. If the flag stood for women, then women would have the ability to make decisions for their own bodies and rapists would be sentenced what they deserve.

The flag does not stand for the LGBTQ+ community. It has endured violence and prejudice since the very beginning. It wasn’t until Barack Obama’s presidency that legal marriage became an option, and there are only 14 states in America that protect youth from conversion therapy. A person’s sexual orientation can result in employment discrimination in 28 states, and even more when it comes to people’s gender identity. In 2019 alone, Donald Trump attempted to prohibit transgender people from joining the military, which the Supreme Court just recently approved of. The social standards of America do not look at the LGBTQ+ community as human beings; what makes it such a tragedy is that the government doesn’t either.

The flag does not stand for immigrants. The issue of immigration is a difficult topic to discuss, but the treatment of human beings, especially ones seeking asylum, isn’t. Human beings should not be held in cages, deprived of proper food and water, or separated from their families. Yet, the United States views these refugees as animals. Besides immigrants at the borders, America is full of generational immigrants struggling to find a place of acceptance from within. Racism and xenophobia comes to play here, with the social norm tending to be a disgusted view of diversity. Donald Trump and the government refuses to be of aid, and on the contrary fuels the fire under an “animal vs. human being” concept. The immigrants that make up America and the ones asking for its help are included in the “justice for all” statement–but the flag still doesn’t stand for them.

The list goes on. The flag waves only for the Americans who never got hurt. How can you expect me to stand and pledge my allegiance to it?

America is a place of pride. “Disrespecting” the flag earned me horrible glares and a potential authoritative talking-to. I can never promise that protesting won’t come without consequences; but I can promise that the consequences are worth it. By refusing to stand, you are standing up.

 

The original version of this article can be found in Affinity Magazine.

11 Comments

11 Responses to “Why I Don’t Stand For the Pledge of Allegiance”

  1. quinn volpe on April 8th, 2019 2:35 pm

    i love this, and i’m so proud to be friends with someone that is not afraid to voice the truth, even if it’s difficult for many people to hear and accept. thank you

  2. John D. on April 8th, 2019 5:28 pm

    I just have a few comments on this article. I might give some more at a later date (I have a ton of homework right now):

    1. Give me one example of the judicial system or a law on the books today that is in any way discriminatory. (If you do find one that is real, I will stand with you to get rid of it.) You will most likely find nothing.

    2. Yes, the KKK still exists today. How this matters and is somehow related to the national flag and the Pledge of Allegiance is not known to me. Simply because there are extremist groups (there are many, even those who “oppose” extremism such as ANTIFA) does not mean that the entire nation is either that extreme or affiliated with that group in any way.

    3. The United States did not make it so that women could not vote. Historically, there was nowhere in the world where women could vote. Even in the direct democracy of ancient Athens, Greece, women could not vote. The United States was one of the first western nations to give women full suffrage rights.

    4. Brett Kavanaugh was not accused as a rapist by Dr. Ford, but it was an allegation of sexual assault. It was also over 30 years prior, contradicted by multiple witnesses, and was never verified to any degree.

    5. The government in no way believes or promulgates the idea that LGBT people are “less than human” or “inhuman”. There is no law that states this anywhere in the USA (if there was, I would stand with you and fight to remove the law; however, none exists). I also disagree with the premise that someone’s gender is not decided by biology and biological traits (if you have a Y chromosome you are a male, if not you are a female), but I will not get into this right now (I would be happy to talk to anyone who disagrees with me. I love a healthy conversation!).

    6. I agree that immigrants on the southern border should be treated better, but this is not a problem of racism and xenophobia. This is a problem of lack of resources. Donald Trump is also not refusing to give aid to this crisis (and I believe that based on your description you would also call it a crisis); on the contrary, in the last budget, he proposed he wanted much more money for the border patrol and the immigration system. It was the Democrats who refused his budget and made the amount going to the border patrol lower than it was in the original budget (this is in reference to the government shutdown in January/February).

    7. I do think that not standing for the pledge, even in protest, is very disrespectful: you are casting down those who fought before, those who are fighting now, and the young men and women who will fight for YOUR rights and EVERYONE’s rights — to speak freely, to protest freely, to pray freely, to defend their own with force, to a fair and proper trial, and all the benefits of living in the greatest nation in the world; you also disrespect the nation and the system which deliver these rights to you, the system that is better than all the others.

    Thanks for listening,
    John Dowd

    P.S. You may have read my comment on the Black History Month story. If you haven’t I would encourage you to read it.

  3. Sam Persinger on April 8th, 2019 5:32 pm

    I have a few issues with this article. One is that you say that Donald Trump has done nothing to stop the KKK while you fail to mention all of the other presidents who have done nothing to end them. You also write that to “White supremacist organizations such as the KKK still exist in the United States, and President Donald Trump does nothing to condemn them.” what you fail to mention is that he actually has condemned them, on multiple occasions. (See CNN – https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/politics/trump-condemns-charlottesville-attackers/index.html ). My other main point is that you say that rapists don’t get what they deserve, is your entire life being ruined not getting what you deserve? You also mention the flag doesn’t stand for people it didn’t stand for in the past, do you not believe in making amends or fixing what we have done wrong? The laws regarding women being able to vote and slavery have been passed and they are in the past, this doesn’t mean we should forget about our troubled past, but that we should look beyond it. The abortion laws are more controversial as they directly result in dead bodies, but in some instances, I can see the reasons to get an abortion. I do agree with you on a small number of topics, such as the fact that people should not be treated as animals without food or water for days even if they are committing a crime. Thank you for letting me rant about this topic, I feel as though all peoples ideas should be shared and debated over because when ideas are challenged it allows for new ideas and thoughts to form.

    -Sam Persinger

  4. G Money on April 9th, 2019 8:13 am

    Sitting during the pledge of allegiance does not really fix anything except make you look very disrespectful to the people who fight and risk their lives for this country.

  5. anonymous on April 9th, 2019 11:52 am

    I would like to address one of the statements you made, “Never in the United State’s history has the country done things in a fair way. We were built on hatred. ” Do you understand the entire reason our country exists? To make things FAIR. We were not built on hatred, people gave up their lives, time, effort, energy, money, etc, to make a place where people could be free to practice their religion, live their lives, and partake of basic human rights. It seems that you don’t appreciate what our founding fathers and countless others did to allow you to be here in this country, writing this article, sharing your opinions, and being free.

    (John D. I really appreciate your words.)

  6. Anonymous 2 on April 9th, 2019 9:28 pm

    John D. said all of the things that pretty much needed to be addressed. The last thing is that not standing does nothing at all but make you look bad. Also when not standing this is SO disrespectful to the men and women in our military. This is ridiculous how you can just know peoples families are being hurt because their son or daughter dies in the military for YOU and YOUR FREEDOM. Just out right wrong and disrespectful to basically give no thanks to them at all and not stand for them.

  7. Joe E on April 10th, 2019 3:45 pm

    John covered everything I was going to say to combat your argument. I thank him for always commenting honestly on these articles. I stand for the American Flag whenever I can. Games, the beginning of the day, Independence Day, etc. It is very disrespectful to not stand for the flag because too many people died for the flag for anyone to disrespect it as such. I have only a few things to say. Our flag represents all Americans whether they are white, black, gay, straight, male, or female. Our flag and constitution represent them all. They represent all of the struggles that America has been through. They represent all the good and bad we have done as a country. We have come a long way since the times of slavery and racism. Our country has grown together. It has adapted. And your opinion on what is a bad decision is probably different than mine, but that is what is great about America. We can have an open debate about whatever we want. We can believe in whatever we want so I don’t see why someone can not believe in the people and the flag that protect our right to do so. The people who fought in the past and who are fighting now all have their family’s and their own freedom on their mind. To them, that flag means that they won. It means that they won them and their loved ones liberty. By winning, they not only won freedom for them and their families. They won freedom for all of us. One day, I hope you learn to appreciate what the people fighting for America do to make sure we can still talk openly like this.

  8. Sarah on April 11th, 2019 11:11 am

    The only thing your achieving by sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance is proving how disrespectful and ignorant you are about what our flag really represents. It makes me sad that some people, like yourself, have no knowledge about or respect for the people who died for our country and flag.

  9. Daniel on April 12th, 2019 11:42 am

    I was more than heart-broken to read such a story on naeye.net. My father, grandfather, and great grandfather all served this nation and I intend to serve as well. Standing for the Pledge of Allegiance is a privilege. It stands for those who have fought for our freedom, those who are fighting for it, and those who will fight for it, like myself. Luckily, you are a minority who doesn’t see the importance of standing for a nation that has given you much more than you could ever give it.

  10. adviser on April 12th, 2019 11:55 am

    We appreciate reader feedback for all of our stories and understand that this issue, which has been a lightning rod one in our country recently, can be inflammatory. Please know that this editorial was an opinion piece of the writer, which other American citizens also share, and meant no disrespect towards any American groups, though we can understand why some feel this way. Nonetheless, it’s important that dialogue be shared, respected, and considered equally. Also please know that we have been approached by a writer who would like to run a piece which advocates TO stand for the flag, which we intend to run. We hope to be a place where this critical dialogue can occur.

    Thank you,
    NAEye

  11. anonymous on April 13th, 2019 9:16 pm

    I understand both perspectives in this. I can understand why some would think that not standing for the pledge is extremely disrespectful to troops, but there are many other ways to support troops. Pledging allegiance to a country that obviously has many flaws is not something everyone is willing to do, so while I still stand for the pledge, I am in full support of the writer for not doing so and showing her opinion.

    Also, people in the comments can’t argue that the flag supports EVERYONE when there’s literally cited evidence in the article that shows that conversion therapy is still legal in most states. And the fact that people will hate on others for not standing for the pledge because it is “disrespectful to the troops” but will also stop transgender people who are trying to serve the country confuses me. It seems to me like some think the only troops that deserve respect are the cisgender ones.

    I also have a few responses to some of the statements in the comments:

    “My other main point is that you say that rapists don’t get what they deserve, is your entire life being ruined not getting what you deserve?”
    It’s rare that rapists actually have their whole life ruined Brock Turner sexually assaulted a girl and all he got was a few months of jail and a few years of probation. That doesn’t really seem like his entire life being ruined.

    “Luckily, you are a minority who doesn’t see the importance of standing for a nation that has given you much more than you could ever give it.”
    This honestly just sounds borderline racist. (And white privilege does exist, this nation hasn’t really done much for minorities compared to what it’s done for straight white males. There’s literally sources in the article.)

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