Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

Colin Kaepernick and Me

Colin Kaepernick and Me


Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand up for the national anthem Friday. Now he’s told to find another country. I was teaching middle school when I stopped pledging allegiance to the flag. I didn’t make a scene. I stood up straight and faced the flag, for I have nothing against the flag (except when worn mindlessly on politicians’ lapels); it’s the pledge I don’t understand.

It all began at a Rotary breakfast, when our new president told us we were saying the pledge all wrong. “It’s not,” he explained, “one nation (pause) under God. It’s one nation (no pause) under God.” And he had us practice it until we got it right.

I knew this was baloney. The pledge had been written in 1892 (by a socialist minister, no less), but the words “under God” weren’t added until 1954, when we were in a global war with godless communism, and God was on our side.

Our Rotary president, as it happened, worked for our state representative (now Congressman), a staunch member of the evangelical right, and I realized that, for me at least, the Pledge of Allegiance had become a loyalty oath, something I have always associated with totalitarian governments.

“I don’t believe in loyalty oaths,” I told my students, who asked why I stood silent. “So I’ve given up saying this one.”John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr

Kaepernick’s gesture may have lacked the grand drama of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ black-gloved salutes at the 1968 Olympics, but in an era when corporate political donations constitute free speech, his invocation of the First Amendment is a breath of fresh air.

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