The power of peaceful protest

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The power of peaceful protest

Editorial staff

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Recently, an 11-year-old student in Florida was arrested for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. The arrest was justified on the grounds of disrupting school function and resisting arrest without violence. Refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance should be an option at all public and private schools, and not participating is a right protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

The Pledge of Allegiance was created in 1892 by Minister Francis Bellamy. It was created in order to promote patriotism and love of country, and was originally written without the words “Under God” in it. In the 1950s during the Red Scare, “Under God” was added to show that America is a God fearing nation, unlike the Soviet Union.

The idea that sitting for the Pledge is unpatriotic is not the truth, it is an opinion. In fact, the power of protest is one of the most effective ways to participate in Democracy, a power that is protected by the Constitution. The flag represents a different history for every person. Where some people see freedom and liberation, others may see discrimination and oppression. Standing for the pledge is a way to express solidarity with the country, just as sitting is a way to register protest. It is not right for people to be arrested for peacefully protesting.

Anyone who knows about the lack of liberties that some other countries have compared to America, will understand how important the right to protest is to protect Democracy. Here is America, some people use sitting for the pledge as a way to point out America’s flaws rather than stand by  while those in power go unchecked. For example, right now, one of the hottest congressional topics is funding a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants.

Those who sit for the Pledge may see the President’s rhetoric and policy as the wrong path for America. One of the reasons for this is that, despite popular opinion, the chances of someone getting killed in America by a “refugee terrorist” are one in 3.6 billion a year. This is according to  a study done by the Cato Institute, a conservative public policy research organization. Additional research from the Carnegie Mellon University and Indraprastha Institute shows that, in the past two years, there are higher odds of people getting killed by eating detergent pods, Pokemon Go accidents, or dying while taking a selfie.

The wall is just one reason why people sit or do not participate in the Pledge. America has other problems that remain unsolved, like mass incarceration, high rates of gun violence, and a failing war on drugs. Students who sit peacefully demonstrate that they disagree with what America is doing to solve serious issues that could significantly affect people’s lives.

Additionally, America prides itself on freedom of religion, and there are a wide variety of religions practiced here. America has always been a melting pot of cultures, and not everyone’s God is the same. Being forced to recite that phrase does not represent all cultures and religions, and trying to impose that on others is not the right thing to do. Instead of fearing other religions, learning about them and understanding their ideologies is the best way to understand how the Pledge affects people of different faith.

For these people, the pledge is not said simply because of the words “under God.” “Under God” was not meant to originally be in the pledge — in fact, the Bill of Rights has a Free Exercise Clause stating that, “America shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Thomas Jefferson interpreted this part of the constitution as the separation of church and state.

People who sit for the pledge are called unpatriotic, but the truth is, they are often more patriotic than those who pay no attention to current events. They are demonstrating not because they hate America, but because they care deeply about it and believe there is a better way to solve the issues at hand. Like all Americans, they want the country to be on the right path for generations to follow.

Those who find sitting for the pledge unpatriotic believe that everyone should be made to stand, out of respect for our country and all of the people who have died serving it. They also suggest that we should be united under the flag, instead of focusing on what divides us. Of course, in a less complicated world it would be nice if everyone just got along. The truth is that, in a country as big and diverse as America, there will always be issues that divide us, and peaceful protest should be encouraged as a personal right and not in any way a criticism of those who serve..

Regardless of who sits and who stands, it is important to understand that every citizen in the nation is an American. Being American does not mean accepting the poor actions that the country has taken in the past and may even to continue to take in the future. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the wrongdoings that have happened previously, and a valid effort put forth to fix the issues at hand. Not standing for the pledge is a peaceful way for people to show that they do not agree with everything the country is doing, and believe that the nation has great potential to be better.


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