As I write this I am mad — very, very mad.
My husband always corrects me by saying, “No, you’re not mad, you’re angry. Only dogs are mad.”
Okay, so now I’m annoyed. Because I am mad, dammit. Mad as a mad dog!
Driving home from an early morning yoga class upstate I was listening to talk radio, blissfully decompressing from my vinyasas and downward dogs, paying only scant attention to the voice behind the knobs until I heard, “A 14-year-old Connecticut girl is suing her local Board of Education and teacher for shaming her because she opted out of participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.”
It’s not often that I’m speechless, but believe me for a few seconds I was rendered thus. That was followed by an incredulous outburst not suitable for this family newspaper. Have we really gone down the rabbit hole that deep that a 14-year-old can now sue a teacher and a Board of Ed rather than getting off her ass (yes, I can say that in a family newspaper), standing up, and respecting the country she lives in and the flag that gives her the right to do so? Now for all you bleeding-heart liberals who are running for the phone and the Internet to voice your disapproval of my stand, let’s just take a minute. Then if you are still so inclined, it’s your First Amendment right to do so, and this paper is firmly commitment to fair and balanced journalism, so they may well print it. But let’s examine a few things first.
When I went to school, no one spoke of “rights.” Kids didn’t have rights, they didn’t even know what rights were. But we knew about rules, since we were frequently spoken to about them. Things like behaving in the classroom, not running in the hallway, sitting down and being quiet, standing up to salute the flag every morning, respecting the teacher and each other, being just a little afraid of the principal, and doing what you were told to do each day by those in authority because they were exactly that — in authority — and you were just a kid. Rights? Hell, the only rights I knew about in school was the Bill of same, and frankly I don’t think any of us felt deprived, cheated, or discriminated against because we didn’t have “rights.”
Yes, all those years ago there were indeed rules, and students were indeed expected to abide by them. We never thought twice about challenging them or the authority which enforced them; and yet, in spite of it, generations of us grew up okay. It was those rules which provided the structure that formed little kids into big adults possessing a set of ethics, morals, and principles. Rules also let you know there was always a consequence for any action, both good and bad. And above all, there was a healthy dose of respect for institutions, tenets, and people.
When you grow up, you quickly learn there are rules for everything: sports have playbooks; you can’t get a driver’s license without obeying the rules to pass the test; there are rules of law, safety rules, and the famous “no shoes, no shirts, no service.”
Those who take a knee or refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance feel they are exercising their First Amendment rights. What they are really exercising is stupidity, disrespect, and ignorance. Force those same folks to watch that nearly 15-minute opening scene from "Saving Private Ryan" when the beach at Normandy was stormed leaving 10,000 dead, wounded or missing. Send that petulant 14-year-old to another country and see what happens to her when she refuses to honor their flag. See what kind of rights you have when you open your mouth in a third-world country that is happy to swiftly close it for you with a weapon.
We need to bring back and enforce more rules, letting our children know at an early age that there are rules in every part of life as we grow up and progress onward. For it’s only when that 14-year-old has learned a good bit about our history, has met and spoken with veterans, has seen what we do for our elderly, homeless, and hungry, that she then will earn the privilege of having rights.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.