Washing my Hands

I stopped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to protest the Vietnam War.  I was ten, and in the fifth grade.

This was extremely upsetting to my home room teacher, poor Mrs. Ashmun.  It’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone actually quake with rage.  She was so upset she was unable to speak, and her head was shaking so violently I feared for her safety.  I should have been scared or intimidated, I suppose, but at the time I was fascinated.

I thought I broke her.

Eventually she was able to squeak out, “That flag stands for something!”

Well, yes, it did, and that’s what I was protesting.

I was only a boy, so they were able to control me to a certain extent.  They forced me to stand, they forced me to face the flag, they forced me to put my hand on my heart- but I never spoke those words again.

I’ve stood for the national anthem most of my life, reasoning it just wasn’t worth creating a scene over, but I’ve never put my hand on my heart and I’ve never sang the words.

But I’m not making even that small concession anymore.  Let them rage.  I’m not one of them.

I want no part of this.

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