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Stand up and be heard

November 2, 2001 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

The right-wing media and politicians are claiming that the Madison, Wis., School Board is "unpatriotic" because it "banned the Pledge of Allegiance."

When a state law was passed requiring a "daily moment of patriotism" in schools, the Madison School Board voted to prohibit the use of the pledge as a way of satisfying that requirement.

The reason? Some of the schools didn't want to force their students to say the pledge for fear of discrimination against students who are atheists or who practice a religion where public worship is forbidden.

Instead, these schools played the national anthem over their loudspeakers without the words. Some schools even designated separate rooms or gymnasiums for those who wanted to stand and sing the national anthem or say the pledge.

Even so, the school board received more than 22,000 pieces of e-mail and many angry phone calls admonishing them for being "unpatriotic."

On October 15, the board held a debate about the Pledge of Allegiance. More than 1,200 people came to the debate, with approximately 80 percent of the people in favor of making the pledge mandatory.

Many got up and insulted the school board. Some proclaimed that they would no longer let the "vocal liberal minority" dictate to them whether or not their children could "celebrate their patriotism." Anyone speaking out against having to say the pledge was booed and accused of being unpatriotic, whatever that means.

When it was my turn to speak, I talked about my brother, who is now involved in the war on Afghanistan as part of the Navy. He's a medical doctor, and I told the crowd that he would soon be amputating limbs and patching people up--people who will be maimed for life.

I was loudly booed for saying this.

I also said that if my brother was killed by Afghan soldiers, I would not hate those soldiers. Instead, I would hate the people who sent my brother overseas.

Again, I was booed.

My legs felt like rubber when I sat down, but some people shook my hand and thanked me for what I had said.

It was a scary meeting and shows that the antiwar movement has an uphill battle. But remember, stand up and be heard--even if your voice shakes!

Tim O'Brien, Madison, Wis.

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