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My Experience with the Pledge of Allegiance

Brandon Seger

It must be an axiom of human nature that someone who far disagrees with another person over a subject will venture ridicule or a comment of distaste toward that individual.

The day was Tuesday, during the later half of the month of March, in which I spent the bulk of day at my school, as is required of all students -- unless one is interrupted by the unfortunate occurrence of illness or if one undertakes the opportunity of playing hooky. It so happened that neither of these possibilities took place on that day, and therefore I proceeded to school as usual. School would approach a close in two months, so I didn't mind being there.

Shortly after my arrival at school, the bell rang and the massive volume of students undertook the effort of going to first period. For me, first period was Algebra II, so in time that period came to an end after over a half hour of listening to my instructor's lecture and recording notes, which on that day consisted of factoring polynomials.

Next I went to my U.S. History class, my only advanced placement course that year (others were honors courses though). A displeasing fact of second period was the Pledge of Allegiance, in which the entire class, along with the teacher, stood up, with right hands pressing against our chests, as we faced the flag that hung just below the ceiling at the cornet of the room. Additionaly, as we all stood in that position, we recited the pledge.

Unfortunately, it was the new pledge, the one approved in the 1950's. Two controversial words resided in the pledge, "under God." If you inquire me of it, I think it is wrong to have these two words in the pledge. Not to disrespect the beliefs of others, but in fact to preserve those beliefs. I do not think the school, a public one at that, should condone certain beliefs in such practices as reciting the pledge.

Regardless, the class recited the pledge in entirety, and no one ever did object to the pledge or otherwise sit down in silence during it as a protest. Not even myself, a nonreligious person who disagrees with it. The teacher, the students, and the speaker over the intercom all joined one another in unanimous recitation of the pledge.

So what course of action did I undertake during the recitation, since I disagreed with that bit in the pledge? Well, what I have done varies from day to day. Some days, I'll say "under God" while having my left hand in my pocket with fingers crossed, as to signify that I'm lying when I say that. This way, no student surrounding where I sat would discover my objection.

There are also days in which I shall insert a different phrase than those two words. I have said such things as "under good," "under Dog," or something similar. It was my hope that I could still protest the pledge while still having some sort of sound emit from my mouth other that "under God," and then perhaps no student would bother me.

Finally, I decided that what I was doing was unnecessary, in that I shouldn't pretend that I don't disagree with it. Therefore, I assumed an air of boldness and insisted on silence during the saying of the two words. This I had done for a whole week, and no one noticed (or, if they did notice, they did not make any effort to voice objection). Therefore, I continued to stand up, hand over heart, reciting the pledge in second period of everyday, while maintaining a brief silence during the words "under God."

If my hope was not to cause any disturbance, I was mistaken. On the aforementioned Tuesday, of when this story occurred, the class had just finished reciting the pledge whereupon a student, in a desk adjacent to mine, apparently had qualms with what I had been doing.

"Why don't you say "under God?" he stated, quite quickly, with a slight frown on his face.

At this point, all the students in the classroom were acting upon sitting back in their desks. No one else was speaking, and this confounded student had the audacity to initiate a minor confrontation in the middle of class!

A second after my ears received his words, my heart ceased for a brief couple of seconds, and my stomach felt as if sugar had been poured into it. These feelings were amplified due in fact to that the whole class was there! Thirty people, all who could have seen and heard what my fellow classmate had to say. Arguing in front of everyone was not at all what I had interest in, and I consequently I took effort to undermine his objection.

"So?" I responded.

"No, I did, I clearly know that you didn't say it."

After this short exchange of words, we were both back in our seats, as with all the class, except the teacher who stood at the podium. But it was too late -- I looked briefly behind my shoulder and saw that most of the eyes in the room were pointing in my direction, and it was clear that their attention was caught. Whether or not some of them heard all of what was said I was unsure of, but I dearly hoped that the teacher would intervene and begin the lesson for the day.

The student who caused this unpleasant occurrence said nothing more, for the teacher soon said, "All right, today we need to review on the Gilded Age era."

The confrontation could have been worse, I am glad to say, but I am still unhappy that it occurred. I suppose it was only to be expected after time. If I had just conformed to the majority and recite the pledge in entirety, it perhaps would not have happened.

However, doing this would be at the expense of my integrity. It would compromise my adherence to the set of principles that I followed. After all, why should I be a hypocrite and acknowledge a supernatural being that I did not believe in? Alas, because of my quixotic ways in preserving my opinions, I had to endure that short experience.

I am at least happy that the pledge is voluntary, and this means that I was allowed to abstain from reciting part of the pledge that I had disagreements with. I have no problem pledging allegiance to my country, but I will not do so toward a being whom I think is nothing more than myth.

Yet, if the words "under God" were not in the pledge, this wouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't be subject to ridicule by fellow students because I did not believe in the same things that they did. Proponents of the religious pledge fail to address this problem with students who disagree with the pledge. I will not conform to the minority, but yet I shall endure the distaste expressed by the members of the majority.

I also think that the original, secular pledge was rather constructive as well as avoiding divisiveness. "One nation, indivisible" is a great phrase, for it includes everyone in America. But when a deity is credited for residing over this nation, this disrespects those who don't even accept this being.

Of course, I am simply a "whiny, selfish, politically correct liberal who fails to recognize that this country was founded on Christian principles," so the opinions above are only expected. At least, these are the things that many politicians and radio show hosts feel confident in proclaiming. And I am a proponent of smaller government! Not exactly fitting the definition of a liberal

Well, it's not a problem now. The pledge of allegiance has been ruled to be unconstitutional because of those infamous two words, and so I might not have to say those two words again. That is, if the decision isn't overturned in time. But in wake of the ruling, it's harsh to even admit to being a nonbeliever amongst the swell of backlash.

Alas, my fellow people, religious or otherwise, who support the ruling, be steadfast, and do not suspend the strength of your convictions because they are unpopular.


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