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The Neon Pagan

“I Pledge Allegiance.” Maybe. It Depends.

 

As a public school teacher, I’m pretty used to heavy doses of evaluation by my superiors. Seems like every time I turn around, someone is in the back of my room with a clipboard (more recently, an IPad), weighing me in the balance. My philosophy on teacher evaluations is pretty simple: If I’m doing my job, I pass. If I’m not doing my job, I shouldn’t be there anyway. Invariably, I pass.

This most recent eval was no different. I passed. But the evaluator had one stern lecture up her sleeve anyway. She had been in my classroom during home room, and one of my students had not stood up for the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

I got taken to task for this. The evaluator said, “Well, although there’s no legal recourse against someone who won’t stand for the pledge, it’s kind of like being in church at a wedding or something. Even if it’s not your denomination, you stand when everyone else stands, and you kneel when everyone else kneels. That’s just respectful.”

Call me disrespectful, then.

Pledging, and standing, and kneeling, and praying, and hymn-singing, should all be matters of conscience. I’ve been to weddings and funerals of all stripes, and I’ve never felt obliged to adhere to the prevailing ritual. At one recent Roman Catholic funeral for a person I held in high regard, I just took a saunter around the church during certain segments of the proceedings. No one has ever chastised me for doing this. I’m discreet about it … as my student was discreet about not standing for the pledge.

I’m a teacher, so I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the republic for which it stands, five days a week. I say the pledge because I have ancestors who served in the American military, as well as family members who are serving in it now. Whether or not I agree with the prevailing politics of the era, I’m still an American. I’m patriotic enough to want to salute the flag.

One of the reasons I pledge allegiance to the flag is because I don’t have to do it. This is a nation that, on paper at least, respects individual decision-making on matters of conscience. If someone ordered me to pledge the flag, well, that would become a power struggle. Or a fascist dictatorship. Pick your poison.

As for those folks who view others’ behavior and deem it disrespectful, doesn’t that say more about the person passing judgment than the person engaged in the behavior? “An thou harm none, do as thou wilt” is a fabulous tenet. Who is harmed when someone won’t stand to pledge the flag?

The next time you see someone doing something you think is disrespectful, ask yourself this question: Why do I think it’s important for this person to behave differently in this situation? If you can’t come up with something better than, “Well, if everyone else is doing it, then you should do it too,” my advice is to modify your notions of disrespect.

And for the record, when I pledge the flag, I omit the worlds “under God.” I’ve been saying the pledge without “under God” in a public school since 2005, and no one has ever commented upon it. No one. Ever. Hooray for the rugged individual! It’s the American way.

 

Anne Johnson is the author of the humor blog “The Gods Are Bored,” http://godsrbored.blogspot.com, as well as a few other things here and there.