Sumi Kailasapathy is a member of the Ann Arbor City Council in Michigan, and she does something rather unusual when meetings begin. Instead of saying the Pledge of Allegiance with her fellow elected officials, she stands up, faces away from the flag, and says nothing.
She said she hasn’t recited the pledge since she joined council in 2012, doesn’t plan to in the future, and it’s in no way intended to show disrespect.
“I love this country passionately, and I love the democracy and I’ll do anything for that, but it cannot be reduced to just standing up and taking an oath. I think that really narrows it,” said the Sri Lanka native who came to the U.S. about 26 years ago on a student visa and became a citizen in her early 30s.
She said she’s not turning her back on the flag. Rather, she chooses to face the audience — the citizens — because they’re the ones who deserve respect. Not a symbol.
She also has her reasons for not saying the Pledge — for example, our country makes a lot of mistakes (like in Vietnam) and we reserve the right to criticize it instead of pledging blind allegiance to it at all times.
There are obviously people who will criticize her as being unpatriotic. It happens every time someone doesn’t say the Pledge because of the words “under God” or because they know we don’t really have “justice for all.”
But if you listen to Kailasapathy — I mean really listen to her — it’s hard to be upset with her actions. She’s given this issue some serious thought and has genuine, sensible reasons for why she doesn’t want to say the Pledge. She wants to work to make this country a better place instead of acting like it’s perfect already.
That, to me, is far more patriotic than those who just go through the motions and recite the Pledge without giving any real thought to the words you’re saying.
“So not taking an oath to the flag doesn’t mean I don’t love the country. I love it very much, and that’s why I ask for transparency, accountability, and I don’t go with the herd. I always ask the tough questions. That’s because I love this country, so I don’t think one should be judged by whether one takes an oath to the flag.“
And the Mayor of Ann Arbor, Christopher Taylor, did the right thing yesterday in voicing his support for Kailasapathy. It’s natural that he did, when you consider that Taylor himself says the pre-1954 version of the Pledge of Allegiance that doesn’t include the words “under God.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, March 9, Taylor said he disagrees with Council Member Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, on many things.
“I would like, however, to express my full support for her personal decision to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings,” Taylor said. “Actions are more important than pledges, more important than oaths.”
Again, this makes perfect sense. A ritual is never as important as the work people actually do when serving in public life. If you disagree with Kailasapathy’s votes, so be it. But it’s absolutely idiotic to freak out over someone not saying the Pledge, or not wearing a flag pin, or not participating in whatever silly symbol people are making a big deal about today.
Now if only someone could inform the commenters on The Ann Arbor News/MLive website…
(Thanks to Brian for the link)