Environmental Reads

Diverging Allegiance

I pledge no allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and I haven’t for many, many years now. I stopped saying the pledge in grade school, shortly after the shooting at Columbine, when we were learning about the separation of church and state in school. When at 8:30 am we were learning that there was to be no official school prayers or focus on any one religion in public schools, but promptly at 9 am we were reciting what, to my 11-year-old self, seemed like a prayer to the state, I decided that I wouldn’t participate.

In the years since, I’ve learned that I might have made some false attributions and misunderstood those lessons, but I still don’t say the pledge. I have changed my reasons over the years: the separation of church and state, my own disinterest in religion, steadfast determination despite bullying from classmates, steadfast determination despite disciplinary action from school, stubborn resistance to ‘reason,’ and a few more. But most recently, I’ve not said it because it’s a lie.

“With liberty and justice for all.”

Liberty for who? I couldn’t get married legally until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage and legalized it in all fifty states in 2015. Justice for who? Our criminal justice system doles out vastly different sentences for similar crimes, and the only difference that can be found is the color of the defendants skin.

No, I won’t pledge my allegiance to a country that builds it’s wealth on the backs of the many to support the few. So when we read the “Allegiance to Gratitude” chapter of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, I was thankful for a different approach to allegiance. Like me, she and her family also questioned the efficacy of a pledge that was an outright lie to all but a wealthy few. Her coverage of the Thanksgiving Address is more dear to me than any argument in support of the Pledge of Allegiance. She writes that “The Thanksgiving Address describes our mutual allegiance as human delegates to the democracy of species” (p 116) and that seems far more inviting than allegiance to a flawed and corrupt political system that frequently attempts to deny me my rights.

Check out the Thanksgiving Address here: https://americanindian.si.edu/environment/pdf/01_02_Thanksgiving_Address.pdf

Or, for a more interactive version, here: https://danceforallpeople.com/haudenosaunee-thanksgiving-address/

In closing, I’ll share the last lines of the address, as it is the part that I most resonate; the acknowledgement that some may be forgotten but none intentionally so.

“We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it is not our intention to leave anything out. If something has been forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send their greetings and their thanks in their own way. And now our minds are one.”

This post meets the requirements of assignment number ten from the Fall 2020 ESS210 course at Drew University.

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