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MORNINGS at Townsend Harris often follow a very stringent path: several flights of stairs, a brief locker visit, and the phrase “Please stand to honor our country and our flag.”
Even in middle school, standing to honor the flag of the United States wasn’t a mystery to me; every day, I stood to face the Star-Spangled Banner and recited the oath. Upon entering Townsend, this trend continued, undisturbed.
Throughout my first two years in Townsend Harris, I never noticed how many students stood during the pledge. This trend was short-lived. This junior year, I observed that fewer students stood with me than had last year.
Last year, The Classic published an article revealing that 10% of students regularly abstain from reciting the pledge. This figure surprised me; when I first read the article, I tried to wrap my mind around why students would refuse to honor their country.
I recalled my memories of private school: the Pledge of Allegiance was a mandatory opening to the day’s routines. Following the logic that private institutions are free of government control, I assumed that contemporary public schools would do more to enforce the pledge than my private school.
However, this was not the case. The article explained that the most prominent reasons for abstention were “Don’t feel like standing” and “Political reasons.” As a generation of gamers and monitor-watchers, I partially expected “Don’t feel like standing.” “Political reasons,” however, shocked me.
How could a resident of the United States hold a political vendetta against his or her own country?
I understand that there are many incongruities surrounding the United States. Sometimes we are benevolent emissaries, sometimes we let slip the dogs of war. Both abroad and within our borders, the government has made mistakes that earn it infamy.
But this point requires clarification; loyalty to the United States government and loyalty to the American ideology are distinct concepts. When you stand to honor the flag, you aren’t honoring the current government administration—you are honoring an ideology that upholds the personal liberties of millions of citizens.
Furthermore, it proves hypocritical to dislike the United States for “political reasons” while simultaneously living in this country.
But if this is the case, then why do dissenters remain in this country?
The reason is this: the United States undeniably offers its citizens more benefits than any other sovereign state; to students, it offers free public education and immense opportunity. It grants you the vehicle by which you can achieve the American Dream almost without cost.
There is no clear answer to the pledge problem; any mandate on honoring the flag compromises the personal liberties that this country guarantees. Thus, it proves to be an individual’s right to abstain from the pledge when necessary.
The only plausible solution is an earnest plea for respect. I’m not asking for each second band class to become a choir of patriots, I simply urge all students to grant the necessary respect to their home. For a minute, place your political agendas and disagreements aside. Before you know it, you’ll hear a soothing “Have a terrific Tuesday,” and your service to this country will be complete.