I pledge allegiance to … what?

By Clara Atwell, Associate Business Editor

 

The United States is one of the most nationalistic countries in the world. From a young age, children are taught the unique freedoms and opportunities that they have living here. They learn to love and praise our country through understanding its complex and patriotic history. By six years old, the words “I pledge allegiance to the flag …” have been ingrained into children’s memories as a part of their daily routines.

 

As students grow as individuals, they learn and interpret what the Pledge of Allegiance means and decide whether or not it is worth standing up for. At Vashon High School, 58.8 percent of the 102 students surveyed said that they never stand for the pledge, while only 26.5 percent always stand. The reasons behind this choice vary from student to student, and is all based on their personal interpretation of what the pledge means.

 

While I completely respect each person’s right to make this decision for themselves, I haven’t said the pledge since middle school because I don’t agree with the wording or concept,” junior Katy Sassara said. “In terms of wording, I don’t feel that ‘under God’ and ‘with liberty and justice for all’ are accurate phrases for the country it’s trying to represent.

 

“I also feel that the concept of pledging one’s allegiance to their country makes sense if you’re a member of the military or government, but for the general populace, it’s a little strange. If we’re to be saying this pledge from such a young age, we need to do a better job of educating around what’s actually being said.”

 

Many people, especially in Vashon’s liberal community, have a problem with the inclusion of “under God” and “with liberty and justice for all” in the pledge. It is believed that the phrase “under God” is a violation of First Amendment rights as well as the general principle of separation of church and state.

 

“‘Under God’ was just shoehorned in during the Cold War to increase nationalist rhetoric, and it’s weird [that it’s still in the pledge],” senior John Kehl said.

 

Our country has always struggled achieving “liberty and justice for all,” and after the election of President Trump, many minorities feel as if they are not being seen as equals.

 

According to the National Broadcasting Company, hate crimes went up by 20 percent in 2016 after Trump’s election — many of these against Jewish, Muslim, LGBT, African-American and Latino people. Many of these people no longer feel welcome in the U.S., and many also believe that they are not receiving the same rights as those more privileged.

 

“I will not stand for the pledge until there is liberty and justice for all,” an anonymous survey respondent said.

 

However, some students believe that by reciting the pledge, they are stating the ideals of the country rather than expressing satisfaction with its current state.

 

“I stand for those who have fought and died for our country, [and] the belief that our country can change. I don’t think Trump as president means we have to be disloyal to our country,” an anonymous survey respondent said.

 

For sophomore Lucy Boyle, the pledge serves as more of an expression of gratitude than a guarantee of loyalty.

 

“I feel like the flag stands for all the generations of people who have been citizens of the U.S. before us and who have created the place that we live in,” Boyle said. “I think that because our flag is the symbol of all of those people — who have died, worked, or just lived in our country — that we should stand and honor them because they have made this a strong and wealthy place that has rights that many other nations don’t and that we get the benefits of. To me, it’s like saying ‘Thank you.’”

 

Although the flag is technically just a piece of cloth, it’s one of the most prominent symbols of the United States. Disregarding individual variations in interpretation, every stitch of the flag has a broader symbolic meaning. Red stands for courage, white for purity and innocence and blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice. The 50 stars represent the states as well as the ambitions of the people in the U.S.

 

“You’re not pledging allegiance towards the government. You are pledging to what that flag stands for,” junior Kate Lande said.

 

The decision a student makes to stand or sit for the pledge is one that deals with two sides of the same coin. Students who stand may do it in order to exemplify and respect freedom of expression and other American values, while those who sit may do so because they believe these same values are not being upheld within the country today.

 

The beautiful thing is, thanks to the existence of such rights, students are free to sit or stand without causing harm, or even agitation, to other students.

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