I don’t remember often doing the Pledge of Allegiance growing up. I went to a private Christian school up until high school, and we may have saluted the flag once a year or something, but it was never a priority. I didn’t know the words to the National Anthem until I was in high school and was trying out to sing it at the football games. My school was so unorganized though, that they forgot to schedule me anyway.
They sang the National Anthem before every swim meet that I was a part of, but never at any of my soccer games. I can’t remember if we did at the track meets at all. And it’s really never been that big of a deal to me.
Growing up, I always wanted to be from a different country. Travel has always been something that I’ve loved, and other countries and other cultures are always so enlightening. Learning different ways of doing things keeps us from becoming too ignorant. There is no shame in adopting someone else’s way of life if it seems like it might work better.
I remember when I played soccer if there was an injury, or a death, or anything else going on, we would take a knee. This showed respect for what was happening. Last year, to peacefully protest racist police brutality, Colin Kaepernick decided not to stand for the National Anthem during his football games. This eventually started what they’re now calling the “take a knee protest.” He was showing respect for the lives that were lost because white police officers “felt threatened” when they had no reason to feel that way at all. Police officers who were not often being punished for their lethal mistakes.
So, this protest has been going on for more than a year now. But for some reason our president has decided that this protest is about him. And people have decided that this protest is about disrespecting American soldiers. Because to them, our country is more than a country, and our flag is more than a flag. It’s something to be worshipped. Maybe they believe that our country is more important than the God who put them here. Maybe they have decided that our flag is more important than Isis brutally enacting a genocide. Maybe they have decided that attacking a peaceful protest that they want to make violent is more important than helping the families that have been affected by the several hurricanes that have rained down on this planet in the last several weeks.
Or maybe I’m wrong.
I never really wanted to be American. But I was born in America, thus I am American. And that doesn’t make me better than anyone else. If anything, it makes me more ignorant, and probably more privileged than I deserve.
I just wonder what this country would be like had Rosa Parks stood and moved to the back of the bus. I wonder what this country would look like had Martin Luther King Jr. stayed silent. I wonder what this country would feel like had Abraham Lincoln decided not to back the civil war.
I hope that in the future, our country will care less about attacking those provoking change, care less about flags and symbols and their decided meanings, and care more about what we say we stand for: freedom. If this country was really free, speech wouldn’t come with such a cost.