Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Students Have Their Reasons About Whether to Pledge Allegiance
By Kelly Speer, junior, Cibola High School
For the Journal
It's been the student ritual for decades: You head off to school, settle in, stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and listen to announcements.
But a kink is forming in the chain of events. Some are refusing to stand and say the pledge. Some consider it a good way to rebel against a government they don't agree with. Others say they're firm in their patriotism, but the pledge is a convoluted speech that has become rote for them after years of singsong repetition.
Karanina Madden doesn't stand for the pledge. The senior at Eldorado High School is feeling disillusioned with her country. Over the years, she says, America has come to be more about business and money and not so much about freedom. She channels her patriotism into donations to the Roadrunner Food Bank.
And she has been criticized by student and teacher alike for her beliefs. Some have suggested she is being disrespectful to the servicemen and women dying in Iraq by not standing for them. But Madden doesn't agree with the war.
"It's really sad that people are dying, but they are dying for the wrong reasons," Madden says.
Dani Lewis, a junior at Cibola High School, feels differently. She believes standing for the pledge shows respect for the veterans. Her grandfather, a veteran of World War II, instilled in her his enthusiasm for the pledge.
"I love my country," she says. For her, the message of the pledge has not worn thin through repetition. She believes it means "you respect your nation even though it has faults."
She even gets a little upset when others won't say it. It's a paradox, she notes. It's only because soldiers have died for our freedom of speech that we don't have to stand and say it, she says.
Some students won't stand for the pledge because they see it as a show of support for President Bush. That exasperates Lewis.
"The president is not the country," she says. Refusing to say the pledge isn't just standing against Bush, she says, it's standing against the people who died for our country. The pledge, she says, "has nothing to do with the president."
At the other end of the spectrum is Albuquerque High School junior Kelsey Atherton, who not only refuses to say the pledge, but stands facing the opposite direction. Sometimes he says different words or makes additions to the pledge. When it comes to "under God," Atherton says "under god/s, under goddess/es, or lack there of."
Atherton says he stands backward because he is angry about Bush's re-election and the war in Iraq. "Absurd" is the word he uses to describe the war and the government's handling of Hurricane Katrina. He makes additions to the pledge to focus on what he sees as a narrow interpretation of God. The pledge should have either no religion or more inclusive language, he says. He even goes so far as to compare it to fascist chanting.
At Bosque School, Albuquerque Academy and Sandia Prep, the pledge has never been a requirement.
Amy Mann, a senior at Sandia Prep, says it's a relief not to say the pledge.
"I didn't really notice (that we don't have to say it)."