I want to share an incident that happened everyday when I was in 8th grade, and tell you how it indirectly affected me.
We were mostly innocent and immature thirteen-year-old students attending a public, inner-city school. We sang patriotic songs in music class honoring all branches of the US military. When The Star Spangled Banner aired over the intercom, we were to stop moving, stand at attention and place our hand over our heart. Then we would say The Pledge of Allegiance to the nearest American flag.
A girl named Paula who was very quiet, stood out from the class because her religion dictated she wear long hair, skirts, and long-sleeved shirts. She was not permitted to wear shorts for gym class. She wasn't allowed to sing the national anthem, nor participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Our male gym teacher continually bullied this young girl mercilessly and threatened her with failing 8th grade if she did not dress out or say the Pledge.
"Rules are rules!" he bellowed. "I don't care what your parents or preacher tell you. If you do not follow the rules, you will fail 8th grade!"
He made her sit on a bench. Some of us argued (yes, I spoke up) in her defense that she could still participate in class even though she did not wear shorts. He shot us down with his authoritarian comments and blatant insults. I suppressed my anger, confusion, and inability to help Paula. I felt helpless and overpowered by this man who went on to become a prominent district athletic director.
Paula did graduate, but no child should be shamed for their parent's beliefs and/or religious values. Paula tried to explain, "My parents say we pledge allegiance to one master, and that is God."
At that time, the words of our anthem and pledge were meaningless to me. Today, more than five decades later, I have analyzed the words and some disturb me: "liberty and justice for all" I am not talking about incidents making today's nightly news. I speak of incidents that happened to our family who did not receive justice after being killed by a drunk driving football player in town.
I am concerned about nations that indoctrinate children to blindly follow policy without question. I am not slamming our country, our leaders, our citizens... merely seeing things in a different light.
I welcome your comments and will simply leave them as your commentary and not debate.