I’ll Never Take A Knee, Despite Trump
“This is your homeroom,” my new guidance counselor said. What’s a homeroom, I wondered?
I’d spent the last three years living in Israel, South Africa and now the US, wandering through five different schools, and learning a new language and customs. At thirteen, I was just a little tired of making new friends and fumbling through new curricula. My knees nearly buckled as I slowly walked into my new homeroom, months after the school year had begun.
Compared to my strict South African private school, this was mayhem. Kids were sitting on desks, and munching on Kit Kats and Doritos, which I’d never before seen. One group heatedly discussed the newly aired episode of “Fame,” while another was busy not only singing, but acting out a pop song. I weakly mumbled my name to the disinterested teacher, who directed me to an empty desk right in front, when all I wanted was to be swallowed up somewhere in the back of the room.
Suddenly, the orchestrated chaos was interrupted by an announcement. I had no idea where the sound came from, but everyone stood and chanted a poem in unison. That night, my mother explained the Pledge of Allegiance and also shared the words of our new home country’s national anthem.
I didn’t pledge allegiance, nor did I sing the anthem.
I wasn’t American; I didn’t ask to move here. I had no choice. In fact, I was so angry and rebellious that I threatened daily to run away to my grandma in Israel. I’m not sure how I was going to get over the ocean, but acting out made me feel better. Each morning, I silently stood in homeroom and prayed that the pledge would pass quickly. I felt nothing when looking at the American flag, although as a young fashionista, I loved the colors and pattern.
In high school, my rebellion quickly morphed into extreme assimilation. I overcame curriculum gaps and started doing well. I visited Israel every summer, but my desire to live there with grandma waned each year, and I applied to college and then law school in the US. I still considered myself deeply ethnic and different — and I fantasized about moving back home to Israel one day. But then, as the story goes, I met a boy.
The boy and I got married and had a baby. Two weeks before 9/11, we had another baby, and like most New Yorkers, we thought that the world was coming to an end. My body ached, and my mind overflowed with irrational thoughts: I knew I should’ve moved back to Israel, where at least there’s no terrorism. Yeah, right.
The horrific attacks on US soil ushered in a wave of patriotism that I hadn’t yet experienced in America, despite living here for 20 years. As a staunch Democrat, I was unimpressed by George W. Bush’s visit to New York, but something changed when those three firefighters raised the American flag over the rubble. I saw the flag in a way that I never had before. It was the symbol of my children’s home (on my side, they were first-generation Americans), and for the first time, my home, too.
How could I not have realized that for all those years? America was my home. This is the country that took in my broken and penniless grandparents after they survived concentration camps. This is the country that provided my then one-year-old mother and her family with refuge and hope. This is the country that afforded me an education, and many opportunities — and was now my children’s home. And my home.
This country is far from perfect. Racial, social, religious and so many other inequalities not only exist, but are glaringly jarring in 2017. Our president has managed to lob so many live grenades that incense and divide us. But why are we taking it out on the one symbol that binds us?
We should stand together against all oppression, but let’s not take Trump’s bait. Not standing up for what we believe in is akin to siding with the bully; keeping quiet strengthens oppressors, and never helps victims. I will unwaveringly fight for every one of our Constitutional rights, and support anyone’s right to take a knee — but I just can’t do it.
Our flag is a symbol of all the good that our nation can be — so let’s fight for it. I won’t kneel, not now and not ever. I will stand proud and continue to fight for what’s just. That flag is ours. Let’s not let the bully capture it.
Erris is a recovering attorney, wife and mom. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post and The Times of Israel, and a contributor to Kveller. Her articles have been featured in various print and online publications including Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Town & Country, Elle Decor, Country Living, Woman’s Day, Redbook, Esquire, Yahoo News, Beyond Your Blog, YourTango, The Jewish Chronicle, SheSavvy, Parent Co, The Mighty, Beliefnet, All4Women and The Good Men Project. Erris is an Influencer for Mogul. She is currently working on a manuscript on her years in Johannesburg during Apartheid.