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I Pledged My Allegiance To The Flag, Dirty And Wrong
Brett M. Barto

We placed our hands over our hearts and held our eyes wide at the flag, in the corner, behind our teacher's desk at the start of every day. Some of us would dance nervously as we regurgitated the tired words, some stood calm and still, others silently mouthed the promise, rising up with meek, squeaky voices to join our chorus only to oblige the name of god. There were thirty of us, and every month we each took a turn leading out peers in the inevitable daily pledge of allegiance to the flag.

The flag, it stood for freedom.

Our school colors were red, white, and blue. We sang songs to it in music class; studied it's history in Social class; drew pictures of it in Art class; and knew well enough to praise it when we became experienced enough to write for ourselves in English class. They taught us to be proud of the flag. And in 1989, when it was burned on the steps of Capitol Hill, they asked us why the burning was wrong.

Why? -- That was an easy question.

The flag stood for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Battles that had ensured our freedom had been fought over the star spangled banner. Victory as a nation over the English, the Spanish, the Southerners who wanted to keep their slaves, the Axis who wanted to take over the world, and the Germans who were burning the Jews. Each time we fought we emerged victorious, each time the flag was still there -- a symbol of those who had fought for us, and those who had died doing so.

As we got older, and studied the Constitution, it became representative of our Freedom of Speech; a subject conveyed to us as an unalienable right, slippery and elusive like saliva falling from an idiot's tongue:

As we got older some of us realized that the flag was a relative symbol vacillating to the tune of the present status quo. It had been thievery in our war with the Spanish; genocide upon the Native Americans; a double talking, sharp minded politician who freed the slaves; unnecessary brutality in Japan; and pointless interference with the internal struggles of the Koreans and Vietnamese. A lesser few realized that the only concrete thing the flag stood for was the national double standard of hypocrisy.

In 1989 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the burning of the American flag was symbolic speech, and therefore protected by the United States Constitution. Now, as 1995 draws to a close, the United States Legislature is one vote away from passing an Amendment that would prohibit the burning of the Flag. They are trying to attack the basis of one of our nation's strongest ideals. They are taking a symbol of our national double standard a higher level than ever before.

It could be the start of a domino effect one hundred times more dangerous than any other restriction ever imposed upon the Civil Liberties of American citizens. What is a free nation that does not allow political dissent? What is a free nation that will not allow it'self to be spoken out against? What is a free nation that wants to punish those who oppose it's sanctimonious principals?

The answer is easy, it's an Empire that senses the end of it's Golden Age. It's an old king emasculating his vassals in an effort to prolong his fall. It's the beginning of the end of American Freedom. It's the doorway to a locked key. It's the end of democracy through elite principals through democratic means. Most importantly, it's a matter of free choice; the Amendment is one vote short of ratification -- that vote may well be yours.

Special thanks to Brett M. Barto for providing this essay, which he wrote for English Class.

Warren S. Apel