J.P. Protests the Pledge Peaceably

But Why Take A Chance?Update at the end of this post:

My wife and I just returned from a parent-teacher conference at the middle school. My son occasionally (read – pretty much always) has motivational issues. He’d rather be skateboarding than doing homework. Duh. So would I. He’s actually been doing much better lately though, and for that, I’m very relieved and proud of him.

During the course of the conversation with his four teachers (they work as a team, one unit – great idea, by the way), his homeroom teacher (who is also his science teacher) mentioned that James has been declining to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I was startled, actually. I had no idea.

I asked the reason, and Mrs. R. told me that he’s protesting the “under god” phrase in the Pledge. Wow. Really?

(More after the jump, please keep reading.)

The teachers handled it fairly well, there was no hysteria or condemnation. Two of the teachers expressed what might be termed “mild disapproval” and one of those suggested he stand silently out of respect for those who have Marine family members in combat. The other two remained quiet during this part of the discussion. Read into that what you will.

I’m a little conflicted here. Not about the Pledge, I think coercing students to mindlessly recite an oath of allegiance, besides being counter to the very values of freedom to begin with, is just a dumb waste of students’ time. It’s a meaningless exercise for them, as I doubt that they give the meaning behind the pledge a moment’s thought unless it’s on an upcoming History exam. I’m also not conflicted about the “under god” part. It’s clearly a First Amendment violation, and should never have been inserted in the first place (in 1954, by the way), especially if it’s going to be compulsory in a public school.

No, what I’m conflicted about is James. On the one hand, I fully support his right to make such a statement and such a protest. He is not disruptive or anything, he just sits there. It’s peaceful civil disobedience to the fullest extent a thirteen year old middle school boy can engage in such things. I’m proud of him, fully apart from my own feelings on the pledge. I’m proud of his courage and his choice of method.

On the other hand, there is the issue of motivation. While James often displays his enlightenment to the silly notion of invisible zombies in the sky, he has never shown a propensity toward any sort of activism in this regard. Of course, at thirteen, he’s not had a great deal of opportunity to show such a propensity. Laughing at psychotic fundies on television is one thing, but remaining seated during the pledge in a military town that oozes with rabid nationalism is another entirely. Again, he’s thirteen. I would be remiss if I did not consider the possibility that this is a peacock’s display. He and I have discussed the pledge and my thoughts about it, but it’s been at least a year since then. What brought this about at this particular point in time? I guess I won’t know until we discuss it after school today.

There is also the question of his physical safety. Five minutes at the local discussion boards, or a quick glance through the archives of the “Letters to the Editor” section of the local paper is enough to know that there are more than a few brain-dead wingnuts who call themselves “patriots” around, wrapping themselves in the flag as they set fire to the ideals of this Republic. While I don’t think anyone would stoop so low as to assault a thirteen year old boy, I will certainly be keeping especially close tabs on him.

This afternoon will most assuredly be a teaching moment. Exactly what the lesson shall be remains to be seen.

UPDATE: After a long conversation with James, it turns out that while he had been speaking to several of the students about the “under god” portion of the pledge immediately prior to the beginning of their protest (several other students have joined him), that’s not the impetus of the sit-in, at least on his own part.

James is actually protesting the actions and policies of the American government, mainly our invasion of Iraq and the actions of the president which led us there.

I support both my son and his public expression of dissatisfaction. That said, we discussed the pledge at length, and though I made it perfectly clear that I will fully support his continuance if he chooses to do that, we are exploring more productive methods of expressing his discontent. In other words, he’s sending message A (which in itself is a worthwhile message to send) when he wants to be sending message B (a completely separate, though equally valid message).

I’m still immensely proud of him, though he may arguably have missed the mark just a little.

The floor is open for suggestions.

10 Responses to “J.P. Protests the Pledge Peaceably”

  1. Kevin at GodsDandruff.com Says:

    The words “chip” and “block” come to mind.

    I wrote you a post over here…

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    ’bout damned time you showed back up. People worry about you, y’know.

    As for James, I s’pose every parent hopes their children are. That brings to mind the adage, “Be careful what you wish for…”

    I’m looking forward to the discussion, and dreading it at the same time.

  3. Kevin at GodsDandruff.com Says:

    Ya know, I didn’t really think about people worrying. Sorry about that.

    I am so glad we no longer have to deal with the teachers/administrators at our local middle and high school. They were all very Baptist is the worst possible way. My youngest was clearly discriminated against because our religious beliefs didn’t fit with theirs.

  4. J-Dog Says:

    Way to go kid…

  5. Bob O'H Says:

    This afternoon will most assuredly be a teaching moment. Exactly what the lesson shall be remains to be seen.
    And? What did you learn?

    Good on your son to demonstrate peacefully – I think people who can make their point visibly but without getting in the face of other people deserve a lot of respect.

    I hope he’s also preparing a farty animation to back this action up, otherwise it’ll get him nowhere.

  6. Lou FCD Says:

    I learned never to assume you have even the vaguest notion of what’s going on in your teenager’s head.

    Thanks for your support fellas, I’ll be showing him this thread this afternoon.

    It’s his fourteenth birthday, by the way.

  7. Kevin at GodsDandruff.com Says:

    James is going to see the thread? Then here is my comment:

    Ghandi did it for the chicks.

    And when you get out of high school you won’t remember how you did algebra, but you will remember doing Angela.

    Happy Birthday.

    Note to Lou: Feel free to edit as you see appropriate.

  8. Kym Says:

    I’m impressed! Both my sons are at a very liberal school in which protests are part of the teenage agenda. So they’ve both done similar things but, none on the scale that has them sitting alone while everyone else does something else.

    BTW, some(cough, cough) years ago, a group of us refused to say the Pledge anymore. Eventually, every class in our school stopped saying it. It began as a protest against Vietnam War and we did eventually leave (not directly as the result of our actions but as the result of all the people who quit supporting the war in all their myriad ways.)

  9. Lou FCD Says:

    I just had him in here to read the comments (he read some of them earlier). He’s appreciative, but being shy (oddly enough, given the circumstances).

    Added to my conversation with him about it yesterday, I think it’s safe to conclude that he’s not doing it for attention. I just asked him about today (I had been waiting for him to bring it up, but he didn’t), and he chose to stand, but not recite the pledge.

  10. Lou FCD Says:


    You cracked him up, but first you cracked me up. Upon reading your comment, his first response was “Did Ghandi really do it for the chicks???” Dead. Serious.

    Thanks for the laughs.

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