Can You Feel It Too?

by Bree Ann M.

United States Flag I pledge allegiance to the flag …

You sit there staring at me because I am standing tall, my back straight and proud, with my hand poised in a salute over my heart. You slump in your chair, silent as the grave, as I declare respect and love for my country by repeating three-dozen words full of meaning. You have the audacity to remain in your seat, to whisper to your friend, while I dedicate a moment to respecting a rectangle cloth hanging on the wall that represents my home, my country, my rights, and my freedoms. That flag has been drenched with blood, sweat, and tears from men and women who died to protect the freedoms you take for granted. Without them, you wouldn’t be here now. Without their sacrifice — of time and money, even limbs or life — you would not be able to wake up facing a future full of dreams that you can do anything with.

Of the United States of America …

You complain about the government; you say the president is ruining our country, but you continue to sit in your chair, fingers running along the length of a yellow wooden pencil rather than resting against your chest, feeling the steady beat of your American heart. Are you trying to make a statement? Are you trying to be cool? Is it in to mock a symbol of courage and freedom, to contaminate the memories of brave soldiers who fought for the ideals that became the foundation for a young country to build and grow on? Do you remember the heroes of 9/11? Do you understand the meaning behind the word patriotism? What about loyalty?

And to the Republic for which it stands …

Do you realize that you wake up in a warm bed, with a closet full of clothes and a fridge full of food, while children in other countries sit beside dirt roads in bare skin picking at garbage because they don’t live in a country that can afford to take care of them? You have grown up living the American dream, with your house and your education and your Friday night movies. Maybe you don’t have it the best; maybe life is slanted and you’re on the downside, but I don’t think so. I think you are rolling your eyes right now. I bet you really stopped reading after the first few sentences. And it’s pretty safe to assume that, although every word on this page is being read, few of them are being taken in or understood. I hope I’m wrong and that this touches a red, white, and blue nerve in your heart, sending patriotic vibrations thrumming through your entire body.

One nation under God …

You sulk in your seat, eyes cast down at the dirty words carved into the surface of your desk, and I am on my feet, alone in proclaiming respect for thirteen red and white stripes beside a field of fifty white stars on blue. You might think that more than one in twenty would remember the lives lost to bring us here. You might assume a teenage girl growing up in the land of the free could stand, hand over heart, with pride for her country, without her classmates — who enjoy the same freedoms, paid for by the same terrible price — laughing at her for so boldly declaring fealty to the flag.

Indivisible …

You would think. Or, perhaps you wouldn’t. Perhaps you don’t. That might explain why your eyes condemn me from beneath that curtain of hair. Do you ever stop to think about those soldiers who bravely pulled the trigger and killed another human being to protect the values that thousands of immigrants crossed oceans to experience? Does your mind ever stop thinking about the boy next door to consider, instead, the young man fighting for your way of life in a foreign country? Hundreds of thousands of men and women over the decades have fought and died to keep this country free from oppression, and you don’t have enough respect to stand and acknowledge the struggles had for flag and country. You won’t expend the effort necessary to hold yourself upright in front of that symbol of freedom, much less let the field of stars fill your view as you too say thirty-one words you have heard throughout your life. Where I come from, standing for the flag is an option because we believe in freedom above all things, but the person whose only reason for sitting is ignorance or unfounded disrespect doesn’t deserve the freedoms granted.

With liberty and justice …

I sit down slowly, deliberately, and you glance my way with a smirk decorating your face. I can’t help but feel a surge of righteous anger swell up inside me on behalf of old glory. It is beyond me how you can grow up with the freedoms you have and still remain ungrateful for all of it. There is something wrong with this picture: a classroom full of students, all of which have homes and families, cars and cell phones, the right to speak, the legs to stand, a heart pounding in their chests — all paid for with bloodshed by countless souls – and one of them — one single girl — has remembered to stand for her country in the midst of such blatant disrespect and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

For all.

I’m proud to be an American — how about you?

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