Dirty Words

September 19, 2009

Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. That’s all I kept telling myself. Don’t hyperventilate. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I started muttering to myself. As the rage began to constrict my vision, I told myself “leave, Tichaona…leave this auditorium, this space where they are attempting to indoctrinate my child. So I did and I went straight to the school secretary to find out what I needed to do to stop my son from participating in the pledge of allegiance. “You don’t want your son pledging allegiance to the country of his birth?” Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. Is she really saying such a thing? I could only stare at her for a minute. Then I asked her (trying to rein in my shaky voice) is it your job to ask me that or is it your job to help me find a way to solve it? Then she got down to business and gave me the information I sought.

This happened on a Friday. All weekend I thought about what to do. I vacillated between pulling him out of the Friday assembly altogether and letting him continue without saying anything. Not saying anything further about the matter left me feeling like a collaborator. Then the mother in me acknowledged he’s only five and won’t understand being separated from the rest of the class…and the rest of the class won’t understand him being separated. All the mental furor brought to mind my conundrum when I became a citizen. So I decided to have my child participate…but say his own pledge…one that’s directed inward instead of externally.

I talked to him about pledges and how they are promises to someone or some thing. I told him his pledge should be “I promise myself I will learn how to read”. I say it with him everyday. Let him get indoctrinated by that!

Situation resolved but it did remind me of a poem by Shakur Towns

Dirty Words

Kids say the damnedest things…
Like the time
one of my babies said
“shit”
at the dinner table
or
the time
my baby girl said
“booty”
in front of my mother.
Where do they get this stuff from?
I try to watch
what they
watch
and listen to
what they
listen to,
and we are all
careful
of what WE say…
but still
they come up with some doozies…

My four year old
stopped me dead
in my tracks.
She said something that I will
never
forget.
And she smiled
and said it over
and
over
again.
My heart stopped
my breathing got shallow.
She smiled
like she was PROUD
of herself.
I think
that’s what hurt
most of all.
She smiled like she was
PROUD.
I grabbed her
and all I could do
was just
hold her
tight
against me.
A tear ran down my face
as she kept reciting
like some insane mantra,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”