Many of you are familiar with this ritual all through elementary and middle school, where all the students are made to stand up and make this pledge to the U.S. flag every morning.
The first time I went to school in the U.S. was in 5th grade. At first, when it came time to say the Pledge of Allegiance, I would just stand with everyone and say nothing, because at the time I couldn’t speak enough to actually say the words.
Eventually I learned enough English to understand the meaning behind those words. For quite a while, I continued to just stand there and say nothing as my classmates dutifully repeated those words every morning.
The problem was that this was not my country, it was not my flag, and that god is not my god. My personal national identity is a mess at best, but I can say with 100% certainty that the 10-year-old me was not an American in any sense of the word except for the fact that I happened to be there at the time. I was acutely aware of the contradictions between what I believed and what I was supposed to pledge, and was greatly bothered by them.
Every morning, though, the classmates around me would look at me funny, and the teacher would shoot me pointed stares. I was aware of that, and aware of the implied accusations of “Why aren’t you doing what you’re supposed to” behind every glance. Eventually I caved, and parroted the words with everyone else, every morning, just like the way we were instructed to; all the while questioning the disparity between my voice and my mind.