So the other day I saw this story about a 10-year-old in Arkansas who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance until everyone in this country has equal rights. Or rather, I saw the headline of this story, but I didn’t read the actual story because I’d reached my eye-rolling quota for the day. (Another 10-year-old has discovered that America isn’t perfect! Alert the media!) This morning, however, I heard a clip from a CNN interview with the kid and his dad, and it piqued my interest, so I decided to go back to the article and read it, assuming I could keep my eye-rolling under control.
So this 10-year-old kid, Will Phillips, decided he wasn’t going to say the pledge along with his fifth grade class, for the above stated reasons, and the substitute teacher tried to make him stand up for it, but he refused. This went on for a few days, and the teacher kept getting more cross with Will and started saying that his parents and grandparents would want him to stand and say the pledge, until finally young Will couldn’t take it anymore and said to the teacher, “With all due respect, ma’am, you can jump off a bridge.”
Shall I be frank? Historically I have had mixed feelings about the pledge of allegiance, even after I became a red-blooded right-winger. It has nothing to do with the pledge itself, which is a lovely sentiment. It’s an ideal, an aspirational statement. I’ve always been a fan of America, even when I was a big sissified lefty, and I’m a fan of Old Glory and I even like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” so sue me. It’s a free country, after all. Anyway, no, I have no problems with the words in the pledge of allegiance, but the act of standing up and reciting a pledge to a flag has at times struck me as kind of…I don’t know…weird. Just when you really stop and think about it. Like when you say a certain word a lot, all of a sudden it starts to sound weird, like, “Why haven’t I noticed how weird this word is before?” Okay, maybe it’s not a shared experience. Whatever. I don’t have strong feelings about it, but I’m sympathetic to people who don’t want to do it.
So, fine, don’t pledge allegiance to the flag if you don’t want to. That’s not what stands out to me in this article. What stands out to me is that the kid told his teacher to jump off a bridge–and that’s the point where sympathy and I parted ways. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for sure if the teacher was really being a suckhead, or if that was just the kid’s perception, but I’m willing to stipulate for the sake of argument that the teacher was being a suckhead. It doesn’t matter. I’m against children mouthing off to adults, period. That’s unacceptable behavior, even if she was ticking you off. It’s not to be done.
Like Hillary Clinton, I believe that it does take a village to raise a child. My children are living proof that it takes a village. If it weren’t for the village, we’d all be screwed. That’s why my kids, as much as I like to nurture their independence and feistiness, are not allowed to sass the village. They’re the kids, we’re the adults, and that’s all she wrote, amigos. Believe me, I have tangoed with teachers and principals who treated my child unfairly, but we had our words behind the scenes. The school functions in loco parentis, which doesn’t work if kids get the message that they can talk to the teachers the same way they talk to their peers. I got annoyed with teachers when I felt that they’d provoked Princess Zurg to anger–they were awfully dense and inflexible at times–but my consistent message to PZ was that she was not allowed to disrespect the teachers. Even when the teachers were being suckheads, if she’d been disrespectful (or, you know, punched them), she had to apologize and take the consequences because children have to respect their elders–that’s the rule. I’m unreasonable and unmovable on this point.
I hope it’s obvious that if a teacher is physically abusing a student, using racial slurs, or engaging in other behavior meriting termination of employment, that’s another story. I would really hate to have to write another paragraph on this.
So yeah, I was appalled that this kid’s parents would support him telling his teacher to jump off a bridge and get the media involved so the media can fawn all over him for being such a clever little guy (he’s so smart! he wants to fight injustice!) and on top of it have the chutzpah to demand an apology from the teacher for making their little boy angry. Jeez louise, people. Why don’t you just homeschool him and get back to the village when he’s ready to accept his Nobel Prize?
I’m not a fan of this family.
But that’s just me. I admit it, I’m a reactionary SOB (insofar as it’s possible for a woman to be an SOB–there’s really not a female equivalent of this yet, such are the limitations of the English language). I’m sure some of you have a different point of view and y’all will probably share it with me–what are friends for?–but as long as we’re sharing, let me talk about the other thing I was thinking.
When I was in high school, if I recall correctly, everyone was supposed to say the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of second period. Most of the teachers I had didn’t bother with it. I had one who did, and he made it clear from the beginning that no one had to say the pledge and no one had to place his or her hand over his or her heart, but everyone had to stand beside his or her desk (and be silent, if they weren’t saying the pledge). The teacher, a former Marine, did not say the pledge himself and always had one of the class members lead it, but he did put his hand over his heart, so whatever that signified, I don’t know. His requirement for us all to stand didn’t seem outrageous to me at the time, but I don’t know how a Jehovah’s Witness would feel about it. We didn’t have any Jehovah’s Witnesses in our class, or if we did, they were all very rebellious because everyone stood for the pledge. Not everyone said it, but everyone stood. Maybe they felt silly doing otherwise after the teacher had been so reasonable about the other stuff, but regardless, that was how it was.
I understand that it makes more of a statement to remain sitting during the pledge of allegiance than to stand and just not say the pledge. If you stand, people may not notice that you’re not saying the pledge, and your little protest will be for naught. If you sit while everyone else is standing, people will notice and really understand how much you hate injustice. I’m not a legal scholar, so I’m not pretending I can speak authoritatively on the subject (unless you’re a child, in which case, MY WORD IS LAW WITH YOU, SUCKA!), but it seems to me that it doesn’t violate anyone’s constitutional rights to require them to stand during the pledge of allegiance. I say this because my there’s-no-such-thing-as-an-ex-Marine civics teacher was generally one of the most laid-back cats you’d ever meet, and I would hate to think he was inadvertently being some rights-trampling Nazi guy. Also, because I really don’t see the rights-trampling. All you have to do is stand. If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, I might make an exception, because that’s your religion and I’m not an expert on what constitutes idol worship, but for people who just don’t agree that our republic aspires to provide liberty and justice for all, I really think you can stand up and have your constitutional rights remain intact. If you don’t want to stand because you want to make a statement, fine, don’t stand, make a statement–but I don’t have much respect for a person who wants to practice civil disobedience without any consequences. I mean, if civil disobedience is consequence-free, it’s not really civil disobedience, is it? It’s legal, so it doesn’t make a statement. You may as well stand up.
Or, alternatively, you could bow. That would really get the Man’s attention.
Madhousewife is the Backtalk Czar for the Obama administration.