There are times when it’s only clear how awful an idea is after the fact. Something that seems pretty good on paper winds up offending someone in application. You live and learn, careful not to make the same mistake in the future. That’s part of life.
Then there are occasions like this one, where someone should have seen it coming.
On Wednesday, Pine Bush High School in New York was celebrating National Foreign Language Week. As part of that celebration, the morning announcements included a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance…in Arabic. Students were infuriated, many of them taking to social media to express their anger.
“The pledge should always be said in English,” one student tweeted. “They could’ve just said ‘good morning’ in a different language each day.”
Yep, that or another of a million different phrases. That the school chose to use the Pledge specifically proves that this was a calculated decision on the part of some liberal. So maybe it’s not fair to call it a “mistake.” Anyone with half a brain would have known the kind of controversy this was going to inspire.
Superintendent Joan Carbone insists that’s not the case. She said the reading was “something that was supposed to be good but turned out not to be.” She has since learned from the state’s Education Department that the Pledge of Allegiance is always to be read in English.
Pine Bush Principal Aaron Hopmayer was quick to apologize that afternoon, but the school is still divided over the reading. Yes, it’s true. Some of the students think it was an appropriate reading, though kids who lost parents in Middle Eastern wars and Jewish students are understandably not among them.
Count me as surprised that they are still reading the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Gosh, how do they get around that pesky part where it says “one nation under God?” Isn’t that a violation of the separation of church and state? I can only imagine that many students have to put their fingers in their ears when it gets to that part, lest they be infected with Jesus germs.
Is there anything inherently wrong with saying the Pledge in a foreign language? Of course not, other than the fact that it apparently violated some bureaucratic regulation. There’s not even anything wrong with saying it in Arabic, except that we can’t exactly ignore the context. And that’s why so many students were offended, and that’s why this isn’t just an example of kids making a mountain out of a molehill.
It can’t be ignored that Arabic is the language of Islam. And it can’t be ignored that Islam’s radical offshoots stand as the greatest threat to everything that the flag stands for. That’s not a fact acknowledged by President Obama, but it’s a fact nonetheless. If we have anything resembling a national enemy, radical Islam fits the bill. To read the Pledge in the language of that evil religion is an insult to every American who spilled their blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, to say nothing of those who died on 9/11.
Some people are never going to see it that way, and that’s fine. It’s a free country. But if we’re going to say the Pledge in a foreign language, we should at least choose languages originating in countries that share our values. You won’t find many Arabic-speaking countries that meet that definition.