Some choose not to stand for the pledge

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When Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, did not stand for the national anthem before a preseason football game in August, he was protesting the country’s oppression of minorities, especially police killings of unarmed black men. The entire nation responded. He faced backlash from those who said his demonstration dishonored the nation. However, thousands supported his cause and his exercise of freedom of speech, sparking a wave of young people who refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.
Sophomore Addi Bowman said that, although people are entitled to their opinions, not standing for the anthem and the pledge is highly disrespectful to veterans of the military who fought for the country and the values that the flag symbolizes.
“There are men and women, young and old, that are out there giving their lives to protect us,” Bowman said. ”They went out and gave their lives for us to be here. Honestly, I feel like if you’re not standing for what they fought for, then it’s just so disrespectful [and] wrong.”
In West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, the Supreme Court decided that reciting the Pledge is political speech, and therefore, reciting it, or not, is protected by the First Amendment. However, the court has never ruled whether school students, who do not have the same constitutional rights as adults, could be required to stand during the pledge out of respect. According to senior Daniel Parry, sitting during the Pledge and the anthem is not only inconsiderate, it is also uneducated.
“I find it really ignorant and people are trying to blame other people instead of themselves,” Parry said. “For Black Lives Matter, as an example, you see that police officers are getting a lot of backlash for doing their job and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Junior Kevin Mulliss began not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in his freshman year, not as a form of protest, but because he does not identify with the religious language.
“I’m not trying to be the next Colin Kaepernick or anything,” Mulliss said. “Personally, I’m not religious, and I feel the pledge is pretty strongly religiously affiliated. Anyone who wants to stand can stand, but I’m not going to if the teacher’s okay with it.”
Junior Tim Ruff does not stand for the Pledge because he does not agree with the phrases “under God” and “liberty and justice for all.” Although he is not protesting police brutality specifically, Ruff believes that the nation has many social, political, and racial injustices. He also finds it unnerving that students stand to recite a “prayer” to a flag.
“Why do you [stand]?” Ruff said. “Do you do it because you’ve been doing it since kindergarten, or are you doing it because you believe in it? If you do it because you believe in it, great for you. If you do it because it’s what you’ve been doing since kindergarten, have you [ever] thought about [why]?”
Although Mulliss remains seated, he does not believe that it is an effective form of protest because it doesn’t get anything done.
“If you want to sit down for the Pledge of Allegiance, like I do, I think that should be an issue of [whether or not you] feel it’s right for you,” Mulliss said. “If you just want to sit down because someone, somewhere faced injustice, I don’t think it helps. There are a lot of better things you could do.”
According to Parry, sports stars like Colin Kaepernick who sit for the national anthem brought attention to issues they’re protesting, but the attention is not positive.
“I think that it’s making other people look at them as ignorant and very disrespectful to the country and the people who serve them,” Parry said. “I think people need to be educated, because if they’re going to protest against something, they should at least learn about it and actually look into the facts and statistics.”
According to history teacher Tyler Walker, sitting during the anthem only further divides the country.
“My professional stance is that you have the right to petition your government, to not stand if you don’t want to, and as a soldier I defend those rights for you,” Walker said. “However, I don’t think it’s the appropriate manner to petition your government. I can understand being frustrated and wanting to express your displeasure with the current status of the country, but I think that is a way that is creating more of a divide, instead of providing for a solution. If you really want to be an advocate for change, stand up for what you believe in. Why would you passively sit down? That kind of [protest] shows weakness to me. Stand up and do something about it; go bridge that divide, go to the communities, and do something.”
According to Walker, students should not be compelled to stand, and the right not to stand is protected by the constitution. However, he will always stand to honor soldiers who didn’t come home.
“I cannot, by law, tell you that you should or should not, so I want that to be clear, that as educator, we cannot force you,” Walker said. “Morally, I will always stand. I will stand until I can’t because I know there’s some brothers of mine and soldiers who couldn’t come back, and there are some men and women who can’t stand because they’ve lost their legs. I’ll stand for those who can’t, and I will stand and continue to honor the country that I love, because I believe that I’m blessed to be here.”
~katie johnson, features director