To Pledge or Not to Pledge, that is the Question

A man in a suit and red tie standing in front of an American flag with his right hand over his heart.

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A man in a suit and red tie standing in front of an American flag with his right hand over his heart.

Brianna Ifland and Isaac Archey

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”

…but not everybody does.  

In recent years, people have begun sitting/kneeling for the national anthem and/or pledge as a form of peaceful protest. Though omitting certain lines or not standing for religious or personal reasons have been practiced for some time, it was popularized by Colin Kaepernick during August of 2016 to oppose racial inequality (specifically, disproportionate police brutality that Black Americans face). 

 Due to the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and consequently an upsurge in Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, there has been an increase in people who refuse to participate in the pledge until they believe there truly is liberty and justice for all. 

We conducted a poll, resulting in 51 yes and 11 no (82%-18%). When asked why, students had a variety of answers. 

“America means something different to everyone,” says junior Juana Hernandez, “for people who have lived their entire lives [here], it’s hard to understand how other countries [or communities] function [in relation to pledging allegiance/patriotism]… Their perspective of America could mean something totally different from your typical, white American.” 

Others, however, say that the pledge does not reflect current events, but rather the principles that America stands for.

“I think people interpret it… as us saluting to the government and that’s not what it is at all,” says Aidan  Wilson. “[Germany] doesn’t have a pledge of allegiance because [there] they see it as pledging allegiance to their government. In America, we pledge allegiance to us as a people, to the beneficial society of America.”

Some argue that the principles won’t mean anything until current events reflect it. 

Most, if not all, who argued for the pledge turned to veterans. They see standing for the flag as standing for those who fought for our country. 

“Let’s say you don’t have a veteran in your family and you don’t stand for the pledge,” says sophomore Thomas Seamans. “I feel like sometimes you could be ignorant of what has happened for our country and why you should stand. If you do have a veteran and you [still] choose to sit, then, I don’t know, it’s disrespectful, but at the end of the day it just boils down to what your opinion is. It’s not like you can be arrested for that.” 

There is no doubt that Mountain Home and Arkansas as a whole is predominantly conservative and has a deep history with veterans (partially attributed to our elderly population, many of whom were drafted in their younger years) and, consequently, displaying respect towards the flag. The aforementioned poll asked students why, pray tell, they sat or stood. A fraction of students said they stood simply because it was the norm. 

An even smaller portion feared backlash or harassment. One student, who has asked to remain anonymous, said, “I feel like I’m forced [to stand, both] because I’m a part of a school group and I don’t want anyone to fight or argue with me… I don’t agree with the words spoken because we don’t have justice for all in America.” 

However, the majority of discourse takes place outside of school, where many consider politics too taboo to talk about. Thus, students have taken it to the platforms they know best: social media. For example, an MHHS student (who we will keep nameless) wrote a tangent about those protesting and posted it on Snapchat. It spread like wildfire, with countless students screenshotting and reposting it. Some criticized them, others praised. A few even added their own talking points and perspectives. 

Part of the original post reads, “Soldiers fought for this country and the [least] that we could do is stand up for one [expletive] minute and put your [expletive] hand on your [expletive] chest and say the pledge. IS THAT [expletive] HARD TO DO?”

(When asked about an interview, the student declined.)

One of the aforementioned reposters, though, was junior Rayne Tilley. “[America] is a free country, correct?” she asks. “Now, if this is a free country, we should be able to express ourselves how we want, correct? Now, with the freedom of speech, we are able to say/do as we please as long as we aren’t hurting anyone.”

As per an article by ACLU Arkansas, “While state law requires the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance each day at school, it also protects a student’s right not to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance as required by the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions.” 

“Not standing for the pledge isn’t a crime, stop treating it as one,” Tilley says.  

No matter your belief, harassing people is… shockingly… wrong. Most students have their personal preference, but understand that others don’t feel the same as them or have a different interpretation. Seamans summarizes the general consensus best: 

“I don’t think people should be able to tell you that you have to sit for the pledge and I don’t think people should tell you to stand for the pledge.”