On Monday morning, CNN had this amazing segment about Will Phillips, a 10-year-old boy in Arkansas, who is refusing to say the pledge of allegiance due to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Why, in particular, did he decide to take this stand?
“There really isn’t liberty and justice for all,” Phillips told host John Roberts. “Gays and lesbians can’t marry. There’s still a lot of racism and sexism in the world.”
Phillips also mentioned wanting to be a lawyer when he grows up, and the fact that he already has a lot of friends who are gay.
“I think they should have the rights all people should,” he continued. “And I’m not going to swear that they do,” until it’s a reality.
It’s clear after watching the boy that he is brilliant. In fact, I found his eloquence almost hard to believe. What is more remarkable, however, is his morality and willingness to take such a bold move for his convictions at his young age. His parents should be proud.
This story actually reminded me of one of the first times I addressed a grade school class about nonviolence.
Several years ago, I was invited by one of my best friends to talk with his students at a Catholic school on the south side of Chicago.
I got there early, and at the spur of the moment, decided to remain sitting when the class stood for the pledge. I then began by explaining why I did this. I argued that if you are really a Christian, you cannot pledge allegiance to any flag or country. Our allegiance is to a different kingdom. We obey a higher law. The country for which our flag stands, I explained, has done and continues to do some terrible things that I could not vouch for and that were simply contrary to Jesus’ teachings.
At the time, I don’t remember getting any serious reaction. However, my friend told me that for the rest of the year one of his students, who I stayed in touch with after my visit, did not say the pledge for the rest of the year.
And even though it was just one student, I was thrilled. That’s where it starts.
The world would truly be in better hands if there were only more children – and adults, for that matter – with such sensibilities.
Recent criticisms calling the founder of nonviolent theory a Cold Warrior are way off the mark. To rightly evaluate him, we need to understand the role he chose for himself.
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