i am not a patriot1
[trigger warning for violence, abuse, and negative feelings about the united states]
i think my first act of rebellion against the united states was when i was seven and in second grade, and i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. looking back, it’s clear to me why i had even personal reasons to resent being forced to declare my loyalty to that scrap of cloth and all it represents, but what kind of thoughts does a seven year old think that necessitate such a refusal?
i suppose i’m a leftist, although i spend very little time in pursuit of the kinds of activities commonly associated with leftist politics. out of necessity, i spend most of my time at home, and my activism, as such, consists mostly of this blog and my other online projects. i know a lot of activists who feel anger around july 4th, but somehow the enthusiastic flag-waving just makes me really sad. the united states makes me incredibly sad.
when i was seven, i was already experiencing on several levels the vicious underside of american life. at night, i was abused at home and forced to participate in experiments that involved the torture of people (mostly children) and animals, and was encouraged to feel like a good citizen because i was “helping my country.” and in my neighborhood, the police were a constant threat and reminder that poor and brown folks in this country are second-class citizens.
i don’t know what the heartless brutality of my daily life meant to me, how i interpreted those realities through the lens of a seven year old. i wasn’t aware of the long and sordid history and continuance of settler colonialism, genocide, slavery, oppression, and imperialism that shapes my perspective now. but i do know that the day i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance marked a beginning of a practice of resistance that shaped my young life and continues to this day.
(something else occurred to me. i wrote this at a time when being arab and unpatriotic wasn’t an actual crime as it is now. that makes me feel a little bit of fear about publishing this. but as audre lorde still reminds me from beyond: “it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive.”)