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March 10, 2005

"Patriotic" Dumbasses, Junior Division

Today's idiocy: Md. teen protests foreign language Pledge

A ninth-grader is protesting his school's decision to broadcast the Pledge of Allegiance in foreign languages as part of National Foreign Language Week.

Patrick Linton said he and other students at Old Mill High School sat down rather than stand Wednesday when the Pledge was read over the school's public address system in Russian. Linton's teacher told him if he had a problem he should leave the room.

He did, and did not plan to return this week.

"This is America, and we got soldiers at war," the 15-year-old said. "When you're saying the Pledge in a different language which nobody understands, that's not OK."

Charles Linton, Patrick's father, said the use of other languages is disrespectful to the country. "It's like wearing a cross upside down in a church," he said.

Leaving aside the fact there is no official language of the US, and therefore there is no "incorrect" language in which to speak the Pledge:

I: [Middle English, from Old English ic.]

Pledge: [Middle English, from Old French plege, probably from Late Latin plevium, a security, of Germanic origin.]

Allegiance: [Middle English alligeaunce, alteration of ligeaunce, from Old French ligeance, from lige, liege. See liege.]

To: [Middle English, from Old English tō.]

The: [Middle English, from Old English the, alteration (influenced by , th-, oblique case stem of demonstrative pron.) of se, masculine demonstrative pron.]

Flag: [Middle English flagge, reed, of Scandinavian origin.]

Of: [Middle English, from Old English.]


United: [Middle English uniten, from Latin ūnīre, ūnīt-, from ūnus, one.]

States: [Middle English, from Old French estat, from Latin status.]


America: [from Amerigo Vespucci, Italian explorer].

Not to mention "republic," "nation," "indivisible," "liberty" and "justice," all of which come from Latin, by way of the French language. Get rid of the words that don't derive from Old English, and you've got "to," "the," "of" and "I" in the first phrase, and a similar scattering of words (and "God") in the rest. Fine words, to be sure, but not a whole lot to go on.

Basically, if it weren't for other languages, this little jerk couldn't say the Pledge of Allegiance in his own. Someone should tell him that. Someone might also mention it to his dad. Someone might also mention to them that the Pledge means the same thing in whatever language one wishes to speak it; the words are not so unusual that they don't directly map onto any language one might choose.

Suggesting the Pledge needs to be spoken in English to have meaning is like suggesting the flag is the "nation for which it stands." Surely they would not make that mistake, would they?

Don't answer that.

There's some irony in me defending speaking the Pledge in different languages, since I choose not to recite the Pledge at all. But, look, this kid isn't refusing to recite the Pledge, he's just equated reciting it in another language with somehow demeaning it -- like it's the verbal equivalent of setting fire to the flag. That's a profoundly ignorant position. If you honor the Pledge, you honor the ideals of the pledge. Those remain constant in whatever language they are spoken. That should be simple enough for anyone.

Posted by john at March 10, 2005 01:09 PM

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» A Happy Coincidence from A View from a Hill
Further to this post on xenophobia and ignorance... [Read More]

Tracked on March 11, 2005 02:38 PM


RooK | March 10, 2005 02:04 PM

This appears to be another demonstration of why the gene pool needs some chlorination.

Ken | March 10, 2005 02:18 PM

"This is America, and we got soldiers at war," the 15-year-old said. "When you're saying the Pledge in a different language which nobody understands, that's not OK."

The tyke doesn't sound like much of a fan of the English language, either. Or was he being ironic?

Jeremy Londeore | March 10, 2005 02:26 PM

"like it's the verbal equivalent of setting fire to the flag."

I find this slightly ironic given that the proper way to retire a flag is to burn it....in a very specific way granted, but you burn it none the less. The most common group to retire the flag- the Boy Scouts. Now there's a group that disrespects the flag. Any takers that his dad had a flag on the antenna of his SUV after the World Trade Center was hit and didn't take it down for a year or more until it was ratty and worn down nearly to the stars. I know it's a stereotype but I've observed to often not to give it some weight. Those who complain loudest about dishonoring the flag know the least about the proper care of it. I can't help but think the same carries over to the pledge as well.

Amused! | March 10, 2005 02:44 PM

90% of the population is full of lil shits like that... no offence to those who accepted this fact!

Just wanted to say Hi to Mr. Scalzi... I did a google search on Whatever and came upon your site. Whatever + I'm feeling lucky on google!... was thoroughly amused and I think I became your instant fan!

Keep up the good work!

Justin Anderson | March 10, 2005 02:47 PM

"I weep for the future."

Tripp | March 10, 2005 02:52 PM

I excuse the young buck because he's just trying to piss off his teachers. The old buck is a flat out A hole.

Anonymous | March 10, 2005 03:15 PM

Hey, if American was a good enough language for Jesus, it should be good enough for everybody!

...just applying the logic of Cletus & son.

Chris Vincent | March 10, 2005 03:36 PM

"Profoundly ignorant" sums it up, I think.

John H | March 10, 2005 03:49 PM

...didn't take it down for a year or more until it was ratty and worn down nearly to the stars.

It really irks me when I see that - I would prefer they not even present the flag if they can't do it properly.

And to me, flying the flag is not an overly patriotic act. I'm not saying that someone who flies the flag is not patriotic, but if that's all you do then that's just pathetic. Kind of like going to church on Easter Sunday to show how religious you are.

I guess what I'm really annoyed with is all the superficial bullshit that people pass off as 'patriotism' these days. They wave the flag and sing along to 'Proud to be an American', but that's as far as it goes. They can't be bothered to do anything that might involve personal sacrifice. They'll buy the cheap ribbon-shaped magnet down at Wal-Mart that says "Support the Troops", but then bitch about the taxes they have to pay.

It's both sad and infuriating...

Marsden | March 10, 2005 04:04 PM

That kind of willful, xenophobic ignorance is undoubtedly immune to chlorine. I'd wager it's resistant to education as well. Luckily, napalm burns on water.

John H | March 10, 2005 04:13 PM

Luckily, napalm burns on water.

That reminds me of when I was in the army. We had a 'jody call' with the line "napalm sticks to kids".

Sick, but somehow appropriate to the subject of this thread...

Steve Eley | March 10, 2005 04:17 PM


That does it. I'm totally not using my Target credit card that gives them 1% of my purchase money anymore.

Guy Matthews | March 10, 2005 04:21 PM

"Hey, if American was a good enough language for Jesus, it should be good enough for everybody!

...just applying the logic of Cletus & son."

An interesting point actually.. Assuming those two are rabid christians as well as rabid patriots (not TOO improbable an assumption), by their own logic aren't they betraying Jesus daily by speaking English rather than Aramaic? What about them Engligh Bible translations, that's blasphemy of the highest order!

Andrew | March 10, 2005 04:54 PM

Man if I were to try something like that my mother would beat me about the head and shoulders. Of course she wasn't born here (she is an Italian immigrant) and so she really wouldn't understand.


Keli | March 10, 2005 05:12 PM

Heh Steve, I am from a rival area school, and just kind of shook my head and wondered exactly which neighborhood the kids live in. The area has a bad reputation for racism and xenophobism as it is, and this certainly isn't going to help its image.

mythago | March 10, 2005 07:04 PM

Steve, don't punish the school because they're legally required to educate an idiot.

A smart school would applaud the little twit, add a lesson plan on Tinker v. Des Moines to social studies that week, and ignore him when he sits down. When realizing none of the grown-ups get excited if you pee on the rug wears off, he'll settle down.

And protesting Russian--how old skool!

Luciano Pimentel | March 10, 2005 07:26 PM

The future is so bright indeed... one would do better to bunkerize immediately... *LOL*

In the meantime, I always wear shades...

PiscusFiche | March 10, 2005 08:24 PM

Sweet Jeebus on a pogo stick.

Just another example of people who forget how this country came to be in the first place....

I stopped saying the Pledge a long time ago, for one reason, and now don't say it for a completely different reason. (If I feel like I should or must because of respect for a situation, then I skip the words "to the flag" and "under God".)

Edward Trimnell | March 10, 2005 09:26 PM

"Charles Linton, Patrick's father, said the use of other languages is disrespectful to the country."

-Benjamin Franklin was an avid learner of foreign languages. He taught himself to read German, French, Italian and Latin.

-Jimmy Carter speaks Spanish, as do Michael Dukakis and Jeb Bush. None of these three men have had any problem with using Spanish in public. Carter addressed the Cuban national assembly on the importance of human rights--in Spanish.

-First Lady Jackie Kennedy charmed Charles DeGaulle with her excellent command of French.

-And, of course, our current Secretary of State speaks fluent Russian and several other languages.

Emily | March 10, 2005 10:56 PM

Just adding on to what everyone else is saying, right now if you adhere to the general standards of right-wing militarism, the army needs linguists so badly that learning a language is one of the MOST patriotic things you can do.

Polyglot spies are what national security is built on!

Mikhail Capone | March 10, 2005 11:00 PM

Another classic example of people being afraid of what they don't understand.

I bet that if that kid spoke a few of these languages he'd be more open minded, but since it's gibberish to him, he feels insulted by his own ignorance.

Jeri Smith-Ready | March 11, 2005 06:47 AM

The Army needs linguists, yet in 2002 they expelled nine translators (six of which spoke Arabic) for being gay, because they think it's more important to respect the squeamishness and bigotry of some fraction of our soldiers than to prevent the next 9/11.

Ten bucks says this kid is less than 5 years from reproducing.

Steve Eley | March 11, 2005 09:54 AM

Keli: Which school? My girlfriend went to Severna Park, which we Old Millers had stereotyped as the uppity preppy school. >8->

When I graduated from Old Mill in '92, the racism thing wasn't that bad. My brother, three years behind me, reports that it got a lot worse after I left.

Mythago: Steve, don't punish the school because they're legally required to educate an idiot.

Oh, I'm not. I was kidding about that part, trying to think of a random absurd gesture of protest. (Although in truth I hardly ever use that Target card anyway. I'd rather get the frequent flier miles from my other card.)

John Edwards | March 11, 2005 02:27 PM

"And protesting Russian--how old skool!"


Mark Ensley | March 12, 2005 04:52 AM

From what I understand, our current president speaks passable Spanish, and used it to good effect while governor of Texas to solidify support among the large non-English speaking voters.

As an aside to the flag comments, I always thought that flying the flag while being in the country it represents is tacky unless you're displaying it over something important enough which *deserves* to have the flag flying over it. Having the flag everywhere demeans it to my eye.

And I'm a NPR listenin' liberal who thinks that burning the flag should be protected speech, as the flag represents the ideals which flag-burning evokes. In some sense, burning the flag could be seen as the utmost form of respect for what that flag represents. It celebrates the freedoms which the flag stands for!

I think the crap about the pledge being said only in English is an attempt to be racist rather than patriotic.

darren | March 12, 2005 03:38 PM

"Ten bucks says this kid is less than 5 years from reproducing."

I have $20 that says it'll be with a close relative.

Deborah | March 13, 2005 11:06 AM

A Maryland paper quotes the dad as saying, "I ain't gonna stand up and pledge my allegiance to the United States in any foreign language." Sounds like even one language might be too much for this guy to handle.

Dawn B. | March 14, 2005 12:48 PM

What I love is the comment about "different language which nobody understands". Riiiiiight. I forgot. Russian is a DEAD langauged that nobody understands.

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