Performance Patriotism

from Raul Luna’s flickr

Have you seen this story? A high school senior was expelled because she didn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

“School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge,” Paxton said in a news release. “The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.”

A critical aspect of liberty? Treating a high school senior like a dangerous person and expelling her because she didn’t stand? Apparently Texas law allows parents to opt their children out of standing for the pledge but the children themselves can’t make that choice. What are we teaching them?

In Virginia we are required by law to say the pledge everyday and have a minute of silence (and it’s a minute, not a moment – some of us checked that at one point). Currently it’s a part of our morning news show so we do it everyday. In the years when my school didn’t have a morning news show, the pledge didn’t happen in my classroom. I don’t see a lot of value in having kids repeat words every day without any thought about them. I don’t think it has much meaning. Maybe not any meaning.

It’s one example of performance patriotism. It’s not about actually being patriotic, about actually loving this country, wanting to work for the best in this country. It’s about acting.

On September 11th I was chastised for not wearing red, white, and blue. If you want to wear red, white, and blue on September 11th or July 4th or any other day, feel free. But it doesn’t make you more of a patriot than I am in my jeans and green t-shirt.

Do a quick search on “American flag clothing” and see the options. Some of them are cute, some are even relatively classy, and some are just horrifying. I can’t unsee those items. Some of those clothing options don’t seem terribly respectful to our flag. But people don’t complain about that. They complain about a high school senior who doesn’t stand for the pledge.

I was lucky enough to be born in this country. It isn’t a perfect country. But that’s okay because perfect countries don’t exist. We should always be working to make this country even better. That isn’t done by waving flags and wearing red, white, and blue. There’s nothing wrong with doing those things. Nothing at all. But don’t stop there.

Vote.
Volunteer.
Write to your elected officials – at all levels – when they do things right and when they screw up.
Learn about your community and important issues there.
Support your local schools, libraries, police departments, fire departments, and more.
Be willing to be a ‘critical friend’ and recognize when we could be doing better.

And if you want, wave a flag and wear red, white, and blue. But please, please, don’t assume that someone who doesn’t do so cares less about this country than you do.

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