Land of the Free: A Civics Lesson

[Transcribed from a 2017-09-16 Twitter thread and back-dated.]
ACLU Handbook - The Rights of Students - Front Cover - 1973

I originally wrote this as a linked group of posts on Twitter in response to an article about a teacher put on leave after "manhandling" (violently snatching from his chair) a student who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

A billion yrs ago, I was in high school. I was gay, atheist, and figuring out my personal conscience and integrity against the injustice I saw in the world.

I spent a lot of time in the school library. There I found a copy of an ACLU handbook on students' rights. Among the chapters, there was a section about reciting, or even standing for, the so-called "Pledge of Allegiance." That was the practice in my high scool's "home room": the first "class" of the day, where attendance was taken, and Pledge recited. I had been standing only, not reciting, for weeks.

After reviewing the ACLU handbook, I wanted to exercise my conscience, and my right. One morning, I remained seated. The teacher, calling me by my last name, told me to stand. I refused. He asked why. I explained. I was lying if I recited it. There was no "liberty and justice for all." I was atheist, and did not believe in a nation "under god."

He moved on that 1st day. The 2nd day, he brought in the school's disciplinarian to glare at me from the doorway, to intimidate. I sat. There was the visit to the principal's office. I explained my reasons again. I remained seated.

This gave other students license to attempt intimidation, push my chair while I remained seated, shove me in hallways outside class. One student called me a "godless, commie fag." He didn't know I was gay. It was just the worst insult he could think of.

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