120 metal legs scuttle across a rugged carpet as students rise in daily ritual – some devotedly, some begrudgingly but most in sheer obedience.
60 eyes scan the room before focusing in on the blue-and-red-striped flag, pausing to glare at the one or two individuals who refuse to stand, whilst mindlessly reciting words they have echoed for years.
Everyone knows reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not a law. Yet based upon the critical stares, you’d assume anyone who refuses to repeat the words is subject to criminal enforcement.
There are many reasons why individuals don’t make the Pledge of Allegiance a part of their daily routine. Some disagree with the statement “under God.” Others believe the United States does not uphold their personal values. But whether or not these opinions reflect your own, it is the individual’s right to stand by their beliefs.
The most recent, nationwide upheaval was in response to Colin Kaepernick, a football quarterback who remained sitting during the national anthem at a NFL game.
So, rather than turning their heads to the flag, the NFL crowd gasped, snarled and peered at the man who was doing exactly what they were – not acknowledging the flag.
When Kaepernick explained he refused to stand because he didn’t want to express pride for a nation that oppresses African Americans, he received just as many judgemental remarks, as though his opinion is not as acceptable as the opinion of others.
One person’s freedom of expression is no more or less important than anyone else’s, so why is there an outcry when someone decides to advocate their beliefs by not standing for the pledge?
If an individual wants to recite the pledge because they perceive it as an honorable way to acknowledge a country they respect, it is within that individual’s right to do so, but repeating the Pledge of Allegiance should not be a social obligation any more than it is a legal obligation.
Even those who have no direct contradiction to the Pledge of Allegiance are socially compelled to stand for it. When they recite “I pledge allegiance to the flag,” there is no substance in their words. Their brain is hardly considering what their mouth is promising.
It is not a federal nor school offense to remain seated after the loudspeaker announces, “Please stand for the pledge.” You should only speak if you want to openly acknowledge patriotic respect and believe in the words you are saying.
Freedom of speech is a right, not a duty.