Today, in Arkansas, a ten-year old boy, Will Phillips, is making the news for also not saying the pledge. His reasons are slightly different from mine -- the "liberty and justice for all" part doesn't cohere with continued state-sponsored discrimination of gays and lesbians -- but needless to say, I find it heartwarming. Phillips is apparently very civic-minded for his age -- he, like me, wants to be able to pledge allegiance to America that really does provide liberty and justice for all, and won't settle for the substitution of "some".
Of course, in taking this stand the young man, who is straight but identifies as an ally, is taking the usual barrage of homophobic taunts from classmates and others (along with, it must be said, at least some support from his friends). But so far he is staying strong, and he is being supported by messages of support from around the country (of which I am glad to contribute). In the meantime, he has a good idea of what he is standing for by sitting out:
At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will's answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples. What does being an American mean?
“Freedom of speech,” Will says, without even stopping to think. “The freedom to disagree. That's what I think pretty much being an American represents.”
Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson smiles.
And here in Chicago, I do too.