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Friday, February 17, 2012

Back to school - The coercive pressure of the Pledge and "Moment of Silence"

Today my son was recognized as January's Student of the Month for his class. As his parents, his father and I were invited to attend the assembly where he would receive his award. It had been a tough couple of weeks keeping it a secret from the kiddo and I couldn't wait to see him receive the recognition he deserved.

We took our seats and watched the kids pour into the gymnasium and I was struck with how different it was from when I was in elementary. My elementary school was for kindergarten through 5th grade, but Patrick's school was from pre-K through 8th. Where we would be lead into the gymnasium in an organized fashion, each grade separated into sections, each class separated into two rows - one for boys, one for girls; this school had children running around the gymnasium, no teachers were seen for the older children who came in first, and the lower grades' classes all sat on the floor in a disorganized group.

But that is where the dissimilarities ended. The first item on the agenda? The Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence. Everyone was told to stand until the moment of silence had ended. Now, back in elementary I had bought into Christianity and wasn't bothered by the Pledge - though, I don't think I really understood what it what it meant until at least middle school.

I know that they recite the Pledge every day in Patrick's class and I have told him countless times that he does not have to stand for it, and he does not have to recite it, and he says that he sits it out. However, today he stood. I was too far away to see if he actually recited it, and he's still in class now, so I can't ask... yet. His father and I remained seated during the Pledge and prayer moment of silence.

I'm not sure if he felt pressured because it was the principal leading the proceedings that made him stand at attention, or if he just tells me that he sits it out every day, but says it anyway. Whatever it is, I can't blame him or get upset with him for caving into the peer pressure. As I sat there while everyone around me, except for Barry, was standing, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I felt like an outsider - like I wasn't welcome. Oh sure, I could have blended better - I could have stood up, repeated the Pledge, or at least stood there "respectfully" - but why should I need to? Why should my son feel pressured in repeating something that he does not understand?  Why should children pledge allegiance to ANYTHING?!? Why should adults?

There are around 400 children in Patrick's school. Certainly, the majority are Christian, or at least, would consider themselves Christian, as the majority in this country is Christian. But not all of them are. Patrick is not - technically he would be an atheist, as he does not believe in a god - but he is much too young to have that definition thrust upon him. However, he is a child of atheist parents, and as atheists we are trying to raise him to be a rational, logical, decent human being.

Every child and adult in his school is protected by the constitution. A constitution that should protect him from a state sponsored religion. Coercing him into reciting something that states that this is a nation under God flagrantly violates those rights. By being neutral - by not stating the pledge, or by not having a prayer - or the prayer's legal substitute - the "Moment of Silence" - protects his rights and the rights of every person.

A public school's first priority should be education. Religion should be kept in your home, your churches, and your religious private schools and institutions. And, with the pledge, it's not just about religion, it's about nationalism and brainwashing children into accepting things that they do not understand. It is about conforming - pushing the belief that this nation is the "best" because it is protected by God. It leads to an unquestioning acceptance of the status quo - just look at the Jessica Ahlquist case, and look at how many people say that the prayer should stay "because it's been there for years". It is this mentality that NEEDS to change if this country has any chance in progressing and succeeding.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sneaky Depression

My last real blog post was written back in November. Since then Barry and I have split and I have moved into my own apartment.

It feels weird being alone. In fact, I really don't like it. I feel like I should have all this extra time to do "what I want". And I could write a list of what I "want" to do:

Write more blog posts.
Grow the Massachusetts NAP.
Start sewing again.
Get back into my photography.
Read books that I've had on my list for months and years.
Get off my ass and exercise - I'd like to be able to run a 5K.

And yet, I haven't done anything. I don't feel like I do anything productive. I congratulate myself if I run a load of dishes. If I end up with some free time in the evening I just end up going to bed. I tell myself I should read, but I just can't bring myself to pick up the book.

In the past several months I have started multiple blog posts, but midway through the thought process fizzles and it just sits there in my drafts.

I have so many supplies for sewing and scrapbooking, but they sit boxed up. Unpacking them so that they would be usable just seems overwhelming. Also, my life has been so messed up the past couple of years that I don't feel like I have any photographs TO scrapbook.

Last year I was on cymbalta for depression for a good portion of the year and it was needed. I eventually felt well enough to get off of it. Cymbalta is a difficult drug to wean yourself off of - it took me about 2 months to get off of it.

Sadly, it looks like I will be starting back on it. I know I shouldn't feel ashamed of having depression and needing to take a prescription to keep it under control, but there's a real stigma to mental illnesses. By sharing my experience, I am hoping that others will feel safer in coming forward and talking about it. At the least, perhaps they will bring up how they're feeling with their doctors.

I'd like to look forward to seeing friends - instead of sitting at home - later kicking myself for not going.

At the moment, if I do have plans, it takes a lot of mental preparation to actually follow through with them. I have to talk myself out of just staying home and going to bed. It's a constant battle - and a battle I'm determined to win.

I am glad that I have noticed the signs earlier this time - lack of interest in hobbies, avoiding people, emotional eating, and constant exhaustion - it should be easier to get it back under control. At the moment it's mild and there's no way I want to be back to where I was at this time last year. So back to the drugs it is!

Anyway, this probably wasn't a subject you were expecting to read, but it's a subject that needs to be talked about.