My family has an unparalleled gift of gab.
I’m sure other families feel this way too, and I imagine one or two of them might be able to keep up with us for a few stretches at a time. But let’s just say that if conversation were an Olympic sport, the IOC would have to invent a new medal to give us…possibly just to get us to shut up. (They would fail).
One example: when I was fourteen years old, I stayed home from school with some malady or another that I can’t quite remember right now. What I do remember is my aunt calling to check on me. In the course of our, I don’t know, maybe thirty minute conversation, we explored and thoroughly excavated at least a dozen wide-ranging topics including, but not limited to, the latest family gossip, holidays, women’s health, the American education system, music, movies, the Holocaust, and the plight of the Native American. Imagine what we could have covered if she’d actually come over!
It comes as no surprise then, that over last Sunday’s dinner, my girls, my mom and I got into a spirited and occasionally heated discussion about the Pledge of Allegiance and its appropriate usage in our schools today. Sensing the impending skirmish, each of us immediately donned our gear of choice and slid comfortably into our positions on the field:
My twelve-year-old is a fierce independent thinker and hater of all things rote or compulsory. She immediately dug in as the voice of the anti-pledge contingency, helpfully drawing a deep furrow in the sand to delineate sides for the rest of us.
My mom, a devoted Baby Boomer, has committed her life to conservativism and the study of all things World War II. Her pro-pledge stance was inherently rooted; all she had to do was square her shoulders and hunker down, ready to defend.
My position as the mediator / peacemaker was firmly established long ago, so I am always on the alert for the signs of conflict. Before the starting bell had even properly sounded, I was already rolling out the rules of engagement and foul boundaries.
My anti-confrontational fifteen-year-old, despondent at having accidentally introduced such an incendiary topic, tried her best to duck the whole thing. Desperate for escape, she immersed herself in whatever horrible 90s-era Wesley Snipes movie was playing soundlessly over our heads, only looking away to take a sip of her drink (and not always then).
And then there was my ten-year-old, who managed to remain completely non-partisan…mostly due to the fact that she had about seven more pressing subjects on her mind (the puzzle on her children’s menu, subversive political undertones in the latest Tinkerbell movie, snails) and could not have cared less about this one. She focused her efforts instead on tapping my arm about a hundred times per minute, trying to shift everyone’s attention to her.
I am pleased to report no injuries or casualties resulting from the match, unless you count my naivete about just how innocuous the Pledge of Allegiance really is (truth: not at all). Apparently, today’s middle schoolers are actually thinking about the words in the pledge as they say them. Imagine that! I can honestly say I never did, nor did any of my cohorts…at least, not that they admitted. It’s just the pledge, right? You recite it, get a piece of candy for eventually memorizing it, and then move on to whatever academic and/or social hurdles the day holds in store.
Not my young people. They have come to the conscious realization that they are being asked, on a daily basis, to make a public. permanent promise of fidelity to the USA and everything it stands for. They don’t object to our country, mind you; mostly they are very happy here and thankful for everything they have. What they object to is being forced to swear fealty in this manner when they really have no choice even if they did disagree.
It’s not an unfair point.
It is remarkable, come to think of it, that a nation so beset by hot debates over parenting styles and rights, freedom of speech, and even infant baptism should be so lackadaisical about this secular compulsory vow (regardless whether “under God” is included). They aren’t just memorizing it like the Preamble to the Constitution or a monologue from Shakespeare; they’re actively swearing it as part of their daily education goals.
We landed in a fairly comfortable place on the subject, thankfully. I told them that when I think of being faithful to my country, I don’t think of the government; I think of people. I am not allegiant to my leaders or legislators; it’s actually their job to be faithful to us. I am, however, allegiant to my neighbors, my family, and most of all to the Body of Christ – regardless of political borders. Unity, liberty, justice…yeah, I can pledge to pursue those things without reservation.
The greatest thing about the USA is that it is a safe place for conversation. Debates, dialogue, and dissension are all welcome here. They’re part of who we are. I hope that, with the help of this rising generation, we can continue expanding our definition of neighbors to include the global community. Isn’t that what the world peace that we are supposed to be seeking will ultimately look like anyway?
That’s also the greatest thing about this crazy clan of mine. I am so happy my girls feel safe to be themselves here…and to know that when they make a promise, they think about it and really mean what they say.