I love amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties just as much as the next guy, but I simply couldn’t stand for the election of Donald Trump.So, I sat for it. And things turned ugly fast.
In light of the reignited Colin Kaepernick controversy, I found it fitting to discuss my own experiences taking a stand– or a seat –for what I believe in, starting the day after the election.
My friends and I decided to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance to express discontent over the mistreatment of minority peoples, emphasized by Trump’s victory. As per usual, the opening bell ushered in a booming voice over the loudspeaker:
Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the sea of people who rose upon cue, I didn’t.
I sat in my seat, staring straight ahead, hands folded. I made my message clear: We will resist.
News of our little protest generated a lot of strong reactions. Among them was my longtime friend, who had left for summer a flaming liberal and returned a born-again Republican.
She texted me, out of the blue. She said she found my actions offensive.
Regardless, not once did I stoop to name-calling, threats, cursing, etc. Instead I tried to educate her on my perspective, how the violent persecution of minorities necessitates action.
One such figure I used was the climbing rate of gay and transgender victims of hate crimes and murder.
At this point I was done arguing anyway. If someone is dead set on being hateful, bigoted and narrow-minded, well, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t force progressivism down its throat with a feeding tube.
Ironically, she accused me of being intolerant of her opinions; after she reduced an entire group of people to “mentally-ill millennials” and spat on the grave of every queer person who dared exist in a world that says they do not, she had the audacity to play victim, and the audacity to lecture me on the importance of respecting those who died fighting for our rights.
This, I believe, is indicative of what’s wrong with society at-large.
We only ever speak to each other, never with each other. Moreover, we mistake disagreeing with someone’s beliefs with disagreeing with someone’s existence, two very different things.
If you hate the fact I support a certain candidate or party: fine. If you hate me because of my sexuality, gender, race or religion, then you’re the problem; there’s no way to entertain respectful discourse with someone who sees you as less than human.
Many may condemn my actions, saying it’s disrespectful to our men and women overseas. But having loved ones who served as cops or military officers (which I do!) is not mandatory to be able to comment on the actions of the government. The existence of military sacrifice does not render discrimination obsolete.
So, in sitting for the pledge, I’m not giving the finger to our troops; I’m expressing solidarity with marginalized Americans and frustration with our government, an institution that would happily ship me off to die for this country and then deny me basic human rights upon my return purely because of my sexuality.
Regardless, I will continue to make my country a better place. This, truely, is what it means to be a patriot.
I am a patriot because I love every man and woman who puts their life on the line to protect my freedoms. I love the people dancing in the streets with picket signs who fight for peace, love and justice. I love my family and my friends, my community and yes, even my school.
But instead of showing appreciation through the pledge, I do community service, I stay involved in local government, and I donate to charities supporting our troops. I enact real change in the real world, rather than relegating the entirety of my patriotism to Independence Day BBQ’s and arbitrary rituals born from McCarthy-era witch hunts.
Sitting or standing, I care about the people who make sacrifices for my freedoms. I believe in the Constitution, in making my homeland a better place, and in liberty and justice for all.
The funny thing is, I bet she and I share several of the same sentiments.
But she’s too blinded by hatred towards her fellow American based on the pronouns they use, the God they pray to or the way they were born to love to ever see how alike we really are.
*** DISCLAIMER: DUE TO TIME AND LENGTH RESTRICTIONS, THE TEXT EXCHANGES FEATURED ABOVE HAVE BEEN ABRIDGED.