I Pledge Allegiance

Have I been stuck on kindergarten stuff over the past week?

Um, duh?

The latest:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

See those words up there? They represent different emotions of varying levels of importance for each individual.

Here are a few:
1) It’s critical for the pledge to be said in public school, because reciting the words teaches children about patriotism!
2) I, or someone I know/am related to have just earned citizenship–pledging is the final stretch of the Citizenship triathlon.
3) The parts “under god” and “justice for all” are false to me, thus the entire pledge is also false.

As an Army brat, a US citizen, a sociologist, and a parent I could debate either for, or against any of the above points. Nicely demonstrative of what makes the definition of patriotism a multifaceted issue.

The Army Brat knows exactly the force of emotion when that pledge results in your parent going to a war.

The natural-born US citizen recognizes that my homeland’s “bad day/month/8-years” still looks dreamy to millions of wishful immigrants– and that saying the pledge during a citizenship ceremony marks the end of an expensive and bureaucratic battle.

The Sociologist comprehends that symbols, (symbolic interactionism) not our ability to accessorize, create cultural identity.

The student who once took both American and Women’s History knows that the words “under god” were added to flush out the commies in the Fifties, and that “justice for all” doesn’t mean everyone.

The Mother realizes that none of these subtle (or not subtle) nuances are part of my children’s experience repertoire. That saying the pledge won’t bring the same wealth of feeling that it brings to the Army Brat, or the new US citizen. That the underlying symbology of saying these words with the tribe is just that– symbology. For either of them, making a pledge doesn’t actually mean promising fealty to everyone in the United States. It just means going with the flock.

That’s it, right there– saying the pledge of allegiance doesn’t teach patriotism, it teaches children to memorize and repeat some words that some day will– or won’t– have greater meaning.

Some of the conservative-right like to trot that pledge and their (imported) flags out as a litmus test for citizenship. If you say the pledge, then you love America. If you don’t say the pledge, then you are an American-hating socialist!

During my research of the pledge’s origins (because the cool kids fact check), I realized something so delicious in its irony that I no longer feel twitchy about my kid saying the pledge.

Y’all– it was written by Francis Bellamy. Francis Bellamy, prior to entering into journalism was a religious SOCIALIST. Many of their vision statements parallel my own secular humanism beliefs quite nicely.

Again, in case you missed it: A socialist wrote the pledge of allegiance. Am-azing.

“Give me your tired, your poor, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES…” you know?

I tried to explain all of these points during an opinion debate on an online forum. I should have kown better. But when one of them decided to suggest that my patriotism is less for my ambivalence to the pledge, going on to tell me that I am incapable of teaching my children to respect soldiers unless we genuflect in front of a flag? Honestly? Makes me want to TP* your house.

*I would never TP someone’s house, because wasting that much paper kills trees and hurts my hippie heart. I might cloth rag your house though.*

I teach my children:

1) to respect PEOPLE.
2) that real life heroes– soldiers, firemen, police, teachers, EMTs, sanitation workers (Yes, garbage collectors— have you any idea the amount of disease that would spread without them?)– deserve our respect.
3) that demonstrating respect is polite.
4) that the uniform deserves respect, but that the person wearing it may not.

Teaching them to respect ALL people (as much as children can), because we are humans has turned out to be pretty darn simple.

So when the faceless internet people suggest that those of us that aren’t all yippee about the pledge are remiss patriots, I personally feel like:

I could spend the next 100 words defending myself– but to what end? My family lived the sacrifices that prompts some people to walk up to a soldier expressing their thanks.

**A lifetime of personal experience, and the memory of the man that fathered me allows me to teach my children about what it means to be a solider in the United States.
**I promised to give warning before I posted items that bring on tears. So. Warning.

They understand loss.

Finally, both of my children get life experience about what it means to be an American.

To seek truth and pursue it, not blind allegiance to the way it has always been is how we teach patriotism.

Here’s My Sign

I waited too long to get a sign for voting AGAINST the marriage amendment. Though the fact that I’m finding it difficult seems to be– if you’ll pardon the groan– a good sign.

Since we read a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Dr. Suess, I got all poem-y again.

A sign? Look–a sign!
To all of you, from all of mine.

Celebrate happy families of any combination.
Married. Single. Gay. Straight. Cohabitation.

No insurance coverage for birth control? Demands from Church to be apart from State?
Well back at ya– no Constitutional Amendment for legislated hate.


Learn to accept and live with your fellow (wo)man.

Of course, all that wouldn’t fit. Heck, even the modified version barely fit. And look– I discovered yet another non-talent to add to my list: sign making. Dude. I even had a stencil. Sad.

But then–huzzah– I found out they got more signs. Here’s to hoping I can get my hands on one tonight. Otherwise, I’ll be sporting this in the yard.

Allowing Kids to Participate in Politics

Allowing kids to participate in politics is a hot button issue. I mentioned that Z’s Rally to Restore sanity sign was making the internet rounds via the It’s Okay to be Takei Facebook page. The creator of that page was also at the Rally, liked the picture and added it to the page.

The original meaning of the sign was directed to the Faux (Fox)-news-watching-Henny-Penny-types, who have spent the past few years throwing acorns at their voting base, screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING” and talking ad nauseum about how liberals are trying to ruin the world with their equal rights, social programs, and alternative energy plans. Damn us liberals, with our progressive thinking and constitution following.

There were a few folks who appreciated the sign’s “Suck it Up” message, but disagreed with included children in the political game. (I’d like to point out that even as they disagreed, they were respectful– such a refreshing change when one is debating parenting choices.)

Some doubted that Z knew what the sign meant. Yes, at 4 he does understand–and has deemed it dumb–that adults struggle with nice words and teamwork. After all, aren’t these the “grown up” rules of polite behavior that I continue to talk about with him? Isn’t self-control the very reason that I don’t chase down and punch the SUV-driving, phone-texting woman that cut me off in traffic. Because I’m an adult. Theoretically.

Some questioned involving my child– what about the other side, including their children to follow the parents’ misguided beliefs? What about the little kids repeating their parents’ anti-equality message? As much as I despise adults teaching children to hate, and as much as it pains me to say this– the First Amendment protects both those that agree, and disagree, with my politics.

ARGHHHH— gawd, that really did hurt. But it’s true and to feel otherwise is hypocritical. I freely admit to continuing to struggle with my own hypocrisy in this.

However, the other side is certainly going to teach and influence their children– I’m damn sure going to involve mine. It’s their country, too.

Finally, someone questioned whether or not a 4 year old has the emotional and intellectual capacity of comprehending what is being debated. I really sat down and thought about this– and I liked so much how I responded:

Our decision to involve him (and his younger brother, for that matter) was not made lightly– in that we had many of the same discussions about appropriateness of their involvement, etc. But, to use a broad simile–it’s like this: Adults take their children to church, teaching them whatever is pertinent about their faith system. The average 4 year old doesn’t conceptualize the rhetoric of faith–God and Santa get all kinds of mixed up in their heads. [The average religious 4 year old is] really just repeating what they’ve heard and been taught, [rather than truly feeling faith]. Parents take their children to church, involving them in religious practice, in the hopes of instilling a lifelong involvement in that faith’s value system.

I’m a secular humanist, so I have to teach my version of moral lesson– we are all equal– in a more creative, non-churchy way. It’s not like nonbelievers generally get together on Sundays to talk about their non-belief.

To that end “by the people, for the people” *is* my religion; the rally to restore sanity my tent revival (urgh- that’s a Bible Belt-esque reference).

But it’s important (to me) that he [they] be raised comfortable in the process of peaceful dissent. Even if that means, one day, he is peacefully dissenting against my politics.

As I typed out my response that night, I was reminded that finding that type of moral foothold is a nonbelievers parenting challenge. As I read the responses from other adults, with their own memories of protesting as children (anti-war, pro-union) I was more convinced. It occurred to me that the excitement and camaraderie of the tent revival could be replicated in these rallies for equality. And I was stoked that someone had questioned me in such a manner that I was able to think about it, without immediately going on the defensive. It further motivated me to push forward with toting them along to these events. To using my unpaid time here to push my own American agenda. Yes, momsrising— I’m coming for you next. I want my kids to know (and I’m happy I was reminded) that there are small groups of people trying to change the world–for the better–every day.

Neither of them are going to learn that insulated in my living room, or at the pool, or even in preschool.

Now, would I take my children to a pro-NRA rally? No. People bringing assault rifles to a peaceful protest scare me. Are they going with me to a rally to fight SB106— proposed anti-gay legislation in my own home state? Yup. My little herd will go, with a close friend who happens to be a SAHM to triplets, in a loving, committed relationship with a woman she’s not allowed to marry. That’s just bullshit. And, in the words of Z– “a family with two moms would be cool. A family with two dads would be super cool, too.” (At this point, Dads are cooler than moms– I hear it’s developmentally appropriate, though it makes my inner feminist a bit twitchy.)

Now, I just need to come up with another cool sign. No pressure.