I (don’t?) pledge allegiance…

I watched “Restrepo” on Sunday night. It’s a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (arguably one of the most dangerous places to be as a US soldier).

I was nervous. My cousin was in Afghanistan when he was in the Army. I wasn’t sure I wanted any insight into what his life was like while there. I was scared.

But I watched the whole thing and it was really good.  I’m thankful I watched it because it really was insightful. But it was also one I don’t ever care to see again. It’s real. When a soldier is shown laying on the ground after being shot dead in gun fire, it’s not an actor. It’s a real person.  Who is dead.

The movie made me think a lot about war and this country I live in. And I’m thankful for those soldiers trying to keep the United States safe. I believe that’s the point – to keep people safe. I think. (I struggle with this too, since so many innocent people in Afghanistan aren’t safe because of the US invading their land.)

And while I’m completely unsure of where I stand on war, I do know that there are people risking their LIVES every day “for the country.” Honestly, I don’t understand why.

It makes me think of the Pledge of Allegiance that I recited each day in elementary school while saluting the flag. 

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Why should I pledge my allegiance like this? I don’t know why I’m supposed to be loyal to the country I live in. Is it supposed to be more special than any other country? Am I supposed to feel some bond or connection to this nation?

Because I don’t.

And it confuses me.

I don’t know why people chant “U! S! A!” or why we sing the National Anthem before football games.  I don’t understand it one bit.

I can’t figure out what I’m missing. Why am I not as patriotic as the other 65,000 people chanting at the football stadium? Is it generational? Or is it just me?

I connect with the people of my nation.  I love the people.  But I connect with and love people of all nations. So I don’t feel that’s where the disconnect is. 

My husband and I discussed this over dinner last night. (While I was drinking my way too big mango margarita, so the words were flowing a bit more than usual.) The discussion didn’t help. It just made me question even more this patriotic allegiance that I’m supposed to have, that I don’t.

I am grateful to live in a country where I can share these thoughts, believe and worship how I desire, have rights as a woman, etc. But this country’s got crap too, just like Afghanistan and Libya. We have an ego so big that we think it’s our duty to intervene in the crap of other countries without their request or approval. How does that make the US any different from Afghanistan? Because we’re “right” and they’re “wrong?” I’m sure they feel the same way.

I’m not sure that I’ll come to a conclusion about any of this. What I do hope is that the dialogue I’m hopefully starting with my cousin and another friend will give me some insight into their choice to enlist in the military and a certain peace with my thoughts.

Maybe this will spark dialogue between you and me too.  I’m game.

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About Katie White

believer. wife. mom. friend. life in transition.
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5 Responses to I (don’t?) pledge allegiance…

  1. Beth says:

    Even though I think our country has plenty of not so great “issues”, I guess part of patriotism to me means being patriotic about the ideals that our country was founded on. Continuing to recognize those fundamentals seems pertinent to me. And maybe even helpful for what can feel like a current state of existence that is very removed from our founding fathers.

    I am curious to see this movie. Although like you, I will somewhat dread watching it.

  2. Katie B. says:

    After reading your post, I’d have to say I agree with you.

    I’ve always loved those old paintings of farm houses with American flags flying off the porch, but not sure why. I don’t feel inspired by it, guess I just like the nostalgic feeling of and old, patriotic picture. I think patriotism was a different language many years ago. Although I wasn’t around to really know about it, it seems to have been a more loyal era, a more “connected” era, to the people and communities around you. This sounds funny as I write it out, but I do think today’s world is easily disconnected. Unless effort is put towards having a connection with people around you, you can easily visit a crowded Meijer and not speak to one person, even as you scan your own groceries. Employees will jump back in shock when I ask them where to find a certain item, as they take out their earbuds and blink up at the flourescent lights in deep thought… “uhh…. aisle 12? I dunno.” I read in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver that Americans don’t really have a signature culture, like, for example, the Italians, Chinese, Mexicans, etc. What’s there to be loyal to, if there are no “country-wide” traditions that bond us beyond Thanksgiving and July 4th?

    I feel no connection to my country, specifically, on a large scale. I do, however, feel loyal to my local community. If only there was a “Pledge to Inner Urban Downtown Indy”. I’d know it by heart! Maybe it is generational. My father was in the Army, as was his father. They both joined out of teenage boredom. My husband was in the Army, joined out of boredom and money for college. My husband says that although he drove a truck along an Iraqi highway full of roadside bombs, he never really felt prepared or willing to literally die for his country.

    Sorry for rambling…. I’m not particularly proud of anything my country has recently done for humanity. I don’t vote (go ahead… lynch me!) and I don’t sing the National Anthem at Indians games. Maybe someday, after all these trendy political topics get resolved, I’ll have something to cheer for? Until then, I’ll be loyal to those I can trust.

    Sorry for the long post! You invited conversation! 🙂

  3. Kalani says:

    I’ve been like this since highschool. At some point I just stopped ‘crossing my heart’ and reciting the pledge. I’m unsure how to tackle this issue with my own children (like so many issues!) I do love being ‘here’ & am definately American but I see absolutely no reason to stand at sporting events or car shows. My husband is a high school teacher who teaches at a school where many students are from immigrant families. This raises some problems between the administration & the students who do not identify with the National Anthem or Pledge. It has polarizing effects- The kids are seen as disrespectful. How do we create a national identity that we actually want to identify with?

  4. Katie,

    At last, someone who understands. I thought there was something wrong with me. Being a child who always just did what everyone else was doing, I never really thought much about the intention involved in pledging allegiance or singing the National Anthem/hand over heart thing. I just did it. Which is scary, really. Now as an adult I do struggle with it. I feel that we are so far removed from fighting for our freedom that it feels trite to be pledging much of anything, when most of what I do is feed my face and buy things, worry about the small matters of work and spend good times with friends and family.

    I’m not asking for our freedoms to be truly threatened again in order to get that surge of patriotism, but it would be nice to feel…something. I guess all I can say is…USA…we’re okay. But are we really better? I mean, there have been more than a few times I’ve thought about heading up to Canada. On The Fourth of July, I am glad for just….living. And for being in one of MANY countries which allows for democracy, respects freedoms and has much to be proud of. So I celebrate the freedom from oppression, and thank God that I have been given such a blessed and awesome life..and THAT make my heart swell, not with USA pride..but with love and gratitude for having grown up in comfort with great family and friends.

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