Today in honor of Flag Day, I gave my students the Citizenship Test that those not lucky enough to be born in the USA take to ensure that they can stay in this great country. There are some basic government questions and identification of places like the White House, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. New citizens must also recognize and identify the basic rights they are about the earn and how to become an informed voter. Lastly, the students were asked to write out the Pledge of Allegiance that they say, like clockwork, every morning.
Having been born United States citizens we don't have to earn our ticket to stay, we don't have to prove that we are worthy of such an honorary undertaking, and we don't have to give back our citizenship when we fail to pass the basic Citizenship test. (Lucky for my 5th graders!) We are automatically given the right to free speech, education, assembly, fire and police protection. We take for granted the troops that keep us safe, borrowing library books, mailing letters, free lunch, and any other social service that we might unfortunately fall prey too.
We are citizens, we have earned it. As citizens we should be thankful every day for the rights that were bestowed upon us with our first breath. At the very least we should acknowledge our responsibility for keeping those rights. Right?
Well, as we know our country also bestows upon its citizens the right to freedom of religion. You can worship any (or no) god that you choose. You can attend religiously your faith's services, enjoy the customs of your culture, and rest assured that no one will tell you which denomination to align yourself with. You can also choose not to do any of those things and define spirituality in your own way. You are a citizen. It's your right.
Some citizen believers might choose a different path. They might make it their life's work to covert you. They might knock on your door and ask you to explain your beliefs. They might leave reading material for you to "consider". They might send their children to public school and tell them not to acknowledge the flag, national holidays, the Constitution, or even their own birth.
Why is it ok for some citizens to reap all of the benefits but refuse to be patriotic? Why can they have the same unalienable rights as the rest of us but turn their backs on the country that makes their freedom possible? If they are so devout, why can they not swear their allegiance to the United States before god? Why can they refuse to complete a cause and effect assignment simply because there is a flag in the corner?
Why? Because our Constitution grants them that right. What an oxymoron... Please pass me a cupcake as I sing Happy 234th Birthday to our Flag!