Not being Americish (Americese? Americian? I forget what the right adjective is) myself, I sometimes forget quite what a big deal many of Americaland’s inhabitants make out of the national flag, and allegiance pledged thereto.
I mean, they’re making serious efforts to pass a national law against “desecrating” the flag in any form, even if it’s something you own and you’re not doing anything to it that would be remotely controversial if there were any other pattern on it. Nothing to do with safety, they just think burning the flag is a bad thing and you shouldn’t do it – and, more to the point, they think they should be able to force you not to do it. A majority of US politicians seem to want this to happen.
And something that’s already on the lawbooks is a requirement for students to “show proper respect” to the flag. Schools regularly make children stand and recite a mantra of dogmatic subservience to the very concept of the flag – and, by extension, anyone claiming to represent what the flag stands for.
They used to get them to do something called a “Bellamy salute” in the flag’s direction as well, but for some unknown reason this fell out of fashion in the early 1940s.
Anyway, as per the above-linked Friendly Atheist article, a 19-year-old student recently fought a legal battle for the right not to have to stand up and make a promise she doesn’t sincerely mean.
It sounds like, in this particular case, things were resolved for the sane without much hassle. The superintendent decided she was right, and the code of conduct that requires everyone to stand for the pledge may well be altered in the near future.
But why the hell was this even a legal battle in the first place? Of all the rules schools might be expected to have in place to try and make sure students behave appropriately and the teachers can actually get some teaching done, why is acting out an arcane ritual to “show proper respect” to a flag something they insist is required by New Jersey law?
Laws are serious things. There’s a social agreement that, if you break a law, those charged with running the country get to infringe on your rights in ways they wouldn’t normally be allowed to. Often, this means you get put in prison. It’s highly unlikely it’d come to that in a case like this, of course, but even in the case of a less severe penalty, like the levying of a fine, you’re obliged to go along with it if you don’t want the punishment to escalate. If you don’t pay a fine, they’ll chase you for it. If you resist, you really will get thrown in jail.
They didn’t stand up and make empty promises to a flag when you think they ought to have?
Funny reason to think you’re entitled to lock someone in a cage.
Given my burgeoning interest in social justice and the increasing extremism of my libertarian stance on social issues, I can see that line becoming something of a catchphrase round here.