Friday, February 28, 2003

And to the Republic, for Richard Strand  

My Friend Mo, rattling her brains off at me from the lower, ninth ward, said there was a guy in the neighborhoord going around telling various versions of this story for a long time. Anyway, here it is. This guy remembers this kid in his class. One day, the teacher asked this kid who his favorite American hero was. The kid said, "Richard Strand". The teacher said, "Richard Strand! Who is Richard Strand?" The kid said, "You know, 'I pledge allegiance, to the flag, to the United States of America, and to the Republic, for Richard Strand, one nation, under God..."

Then my friend Mo went on to say that she used to "sit this one out" when it was time to pledge allegiance. "This caused a lot of controversy," she said. My beautiful friend Mo, artist and raconteur, was a rebel at an early age. She went on say, "I think its okay to say it in class."

"Concurrently, you must believe it is okay to not say it", I said.

"Of course," she said. "You know, so many kids are forced to say and recite things, of which they really don't know the meaning".

It's so true, I thought to myself. It is up to us to teach them the meanings. But are we force feeding meanings to children, without encouraging them to think for themselves? Wouldn't it be more advantageous to encourage the growth of planet citizen, who has learned to take commonly accepted symbols , and create their own very personal meanings with these symbols, respectful that others will have their's?

And perhaps the time that it is most important to question the meanings of commonly shared symbols is when we would wish harm on another for not sharing the same meanings of symbols.

My friend Mo also said, "The doves are not flapping their wings loud enough". "The hawks are circling," she said. "Maybe they'll get tired from flying so much, but maybe not," she said.

She's right. We doves have to flap our wings louder and harder. Peace loving peoples of the world, flap loudly, and long. Couldn't a large flock of doves overwhelm and confuse a hawk? Hawks travel and hunt alone; I always remember seeing them alone on the wing. Doves tend to flock. They like the company of other doves.

Mo said she went to Vaughns around the corner to have a brew and listen to the president's State of the Union speech. She said she got frustrated.

"The President would say a sentence, and people would clap for 12 seconds", she said. " The President would say another sentence, and people would clap for 12 more seconds. I didn't come to listen to this speech to hear people clapping." She said she stormed out of there. "It's not that he didn't say anthing."

She just didn't want to hear the clapture.

Is all this storming about the Pledge of Allegiance a lot of clapture? Trumped up patriotism?

Sound and Fury signifying nothing?

Because if you do believe in the basic values that are the foundation of this country, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then you are it, i.e: freedom. A pledge will not make you become it. But you can recite it if you like. Or obstain. That's the whole point.

We do need to look at the way we teach our children. Are they mouthing words because we give them those words, the all-powerful parent or teacher, or do they really understand, the point?

The point is, pledge it, don't pledge it. And let's leave it alone. Horrendous acts of cruelty have been done in the name of patriotism. Let's not create another one by trying to victimize those that don't want to pledge. It doesn't make them bad citizens. Let us all celebrate " the republic for Richard Strand", by respecting the privacy of feelings about very important symbols.