Since I was in Pre-K, the same 31 words came over the intercom every day, requesting that everyone “please stand.” When I was little, I didn’t think much of it. I even considered it an accomplishment when I finally memorized it.
Until 5th grade, I always stood and recited the pledge without hesitation. A few times someone would remain seated, and the teacher would yell at them, telling them to be respectful. We listened, because they were our teachers, and at that age, we followed demands with simple obedience.
Over time, we began to find the concept of standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance unnecessary and repetitive. Motives for remaining seated were different, and I sat out of pure laziness. In middle school, over time, I realized that we could sit if we wanted to, and the teachers were not allowed to punish us for that.
Why should I stand and recite these words that grew meaningless after reciting them every school day for years? Everyone in the classrooms stood, but not everyone spoke. Some would stand with blank, indifferent faces, only standing because there was less hassle. My perspective has shifted, too.
I no longer choose to sit out of laziness. I don’t even sit because of police brutality. I sit because I find the concept of pledging allegiance to my country and flag every day to be overly authoritarian.
I do not intend to disrespect veterans. I have the utmost appreciation for the men and women who risk their lives everyday for my rights and freedom. However, I am not protesting them or even the flag when I choose to sit. I am expressing my belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is unnecessary.
I do, however, stand for the national anthem. In a classroom, I feel comfortable enough to sit, because I’m surrounded by many other students who make the same decision as me. At football games, surrounded by over 92,000 fans, including my season ticket holding neighbor and his bright red “Make America Great Again” hat, I don’t want to stick out. Honestly, I don’t have the courage to sit.
I fully support the protests that many athletes are taking in kneeling for the anthem. Every person, no matter occupation or economic status, has the right to freedom of speech and expression. These athletes are protesting a legitimate injustice in America today, and they are being shunned and even out of work for it. Also, the very veterans that we are supposedly honoring by standing for the pledge or the anthem are suffering similar injustices.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development projects that there are about 39,471 homeless veterans in America today. To pay our respects to veterans, why don’t we spend tax dollars on giving them homes, jobs, and welfare?
To pay our respects, why don’t we fix the disarrayed Veterans Affairs Hospitals? In 2014, allegations arose claiming that the VA hospitals were falsifying records and placing thousands of veterans on waiting lists, taking an average of 115 days for an initial primary care appointment, as reported by the Washington Post. This problem resulted in the resignation of then Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Despite a $16 billion bill aimed to fix these problems, the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, the VA is still in disarray according to a report by NPR. The concept of the bill was simple: add funding in order for these hospitals to hire more doctors and treat patients faster. However, staffing is still unreliable and wait time is still a major problem. To respect our veterans, why don’t we find a substantial way to fix this clearly flawed system?
The Senate recently passed a budget that adds around $70 billion to military spending. While America faces threats such as terrorism and a growing North Korean nuclear program, there needs to be more done to support our veterans financially instead of financing a spitting contest with a dictatorship that could very well result in a war, sending even more Americans into unnecessary combat.
Whether or not kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to veterans, everyone can agree that we, as a nation, should avoid unnecessary wars. We can defend our veterans in more direct ways than calling NFL players who kneel “ungrateful.” For example, Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin claimed the ever since he began protesting during the national anthem, he has been harassed by fans in attendance, telling him to get a brain injury and calling him the n-word.
The immediate and strong pushback against these NFL players further divides already polarized factions in our country further apart, and the true intentions of the protests have been drowned out by the response. These athletes do not deserve to lose their job as instructed by President Donald Trump, and they do not deserve to be harassed by the very fanbase that is supposed to support them.
They do deserve to sit for the national anthem if that’s what they choose to do. I may not have the courage to sit down in a sea of standing people, but these professional athletes are choosing to kneel in the middle of a stadium filled with standing spectators. They are putting their professional and personal reputations on the line to address legitimate problems. When these athletes kneel or sit, they are not intending to disrespect our veterans or flag.
We can better support our military both at home and abroad by bringing our troops home from unnecessary combat and aiding our veterans at home who face challenges such as homelessness, mental health issues, and disorganized hospitals. We, as a nation, need to get our priorities together.