Freedom of Speech, Not So Free?

Since as long as I can remember elementary school would start, the bell would ring and the principal would come on the loud-speaker. It was a brown box in the center of the room, that every class had. You knew it was time to stand up and sing,

“The Star-Spangled Banner” when you heard those three high pitch tones, and the principal would say, “Good Morning, please stand for the pledge of allegiance…” and the entire class would stand up and turn to the corner of the room where the mini american flag would be and we chanted or sang the words together. Once it was over we would sit down and begin our work.

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It was hard to imagine not standing up with my classmates and facing the flag I have always known since I was a little child. I came to this country when I was 3 months old from South America, Paraguay. I was adopted and brought into a new country for a better life, better education. And you know what? I have that and more! I have a great loving, supporting family and friends, and a good education. But to say that I stand with my hand on my heart every time, I do not. It is my choice, and my freedom to do so or not. Yes, people will judge and say it’s not right. But it’s what I have decided to do. I feel in some ways this country has let me down lately with stories, and the way media put everyone against each other.

For example, when I recently attended a baseball game almost everyone stood up and faced the giant American flag. But yes, there were some who decided not to stand and they sat down, I was not one of them. I stood up, but didn’t place my hand on my heart, but the people around me did. And you know what I felt okay with that. What brings me to discuss such a hard topic is in recent headlining news that is constantly something we see lately. This celebrity didn’t do this, she acted and said this way, he has the nerve to go against this. And it makes me question our freedom and what do we stand for as the country of freedom of speech, freedom to DO WHAT WE WANT AS INDIVIDUALS.

During the olympics in Rio, when the “Final Five” Women’s gymnasts won gold, they stood on a podium as OUR national anthem played, and the one that caught peoples attention was, Gabby Douglas. She did not place her hand on her heart, while the other ladies did. She got a lot of heat for that, a lot of “who does she think she is?”, “She’s playing for our country, if you don’t like it, get out!” and even nicknamed her, “Crabby Gabby.” Honestly when I look at the photo, I just think, well good for her for winning gold, and yes, I wonder why she didn’t place her hand on her heart? but it doesn’t ruin my day if I never find out HER reasons. It was HER choice, and HER right. By the way, I must mention that she did apologize to those who were hurt by what she did, by stating, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone.” But does it change your opinions that she apologized? Did it ever matter? By the way she wasn’t the only American olympian who didn’t place their hand on their heart.

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Another story was when a famous football for the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick kneeled down during the national anthem, while everyone on his team along with those in the stadium. (Oh yeah, you heard of this story right?) It was a photo that went viral right away. And to this day he continues to do that each time he takes the field. Earlier this month, he released a statement saying he will be donating all his profits that he gets from jersey sales, “back to the communities.” But I bet someone reading this didn’t know that. What they know is that he won’t stand, so because of that fans burn his jersey and threaten his life. Hm…

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It’s an interesting conversation topic I knew I had to speak about. There are other stories going on where people don’t stand, or don’t place their hand on their heart, it is their prerogative. Our country today is going through a lot from the 2016 election year nominees, race, religion and now our freedom.

But I want to leave you with this, when this song plays, what do you do? and most importantly, are you okay with being judged and criticized for YOUR choices?

By: Rachel Strom

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2 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech, Not So Free?

  1. Great article! Freedom of choice has been demeaned by this country long before these current issues. I applaud you for being brave enough to wire about it, and others, brave enough to express it

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