December 12, 2003
Think for Yourself
It was the mid-seventies, my first year of high-school, 1975 to be exact, when I encountered something that affected me greatly, enough to change my view of this country and of the role of participation of its citizens in government and toward authority (although I did not know it at the time).
I am to this day astonished that my simple inaction in class could have invoked such a display of violence of another person.
You see, I had remained silent and seated during the pledge of allegiance, and even to this day I do not know why I did so. I guess I just felt a bit tired, with the feeling of why bother, we do this everyday and it just seemed pointless. We did not learn from it. It was never explained to us why we did this. We were just told to do it. Well, I simply wanted to rest that moment.
And in reaction to my remaining silent and seated during the pledge, participated in by every other kid in that class, a teacher yelled something out loud, kicking a chair across the room as he did so. He following up his initial outburst with a recrimination or some sort. He was looking at me during his fit of violence, something I do remember quite distinctly. But I cannot recall any of the words he said.
My reaction to his reaction to my silence and passivity was one of confusion based upon the question of Why? Why would anyone become so violent? Why was what I had not done so bad as to induce in this man such violence? Would this man have physically attacked me under different circumstances?
And I had pretty much forgotten that incident. Until recently.
That teacher that day in school could only of had a warped sense of patriotism -- that of the "you are either for us or against us" mentality.
He was pissed, violently pissed, simply because I did nothing -- that I did not actively participate in his dreamworld of obligation to the state.
We hear of it everyday on TV and radio these days by the conservative right; that inaction is unpatriotic and that dissent is treason. But I cannot understand their reasoning.
But what I feel I really did that day was to chose to think for myself.
And in all honesty I do not know if I ever rose for the pledge ever again -- but I do not think so.
But I can say that after high-school I never have. And I never will stand-up in public and cite that or any other pledge of loyalty.