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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

not even a whisper

A parent/teacher meeting was announced at E's school. At 6:30 on a cold Friday night, we ducked into the building. The hallways were empty. The rows of lockers stood silent. She told me how many flights it was to her classroom as we climbed the stairs, our footsteps echoing. 

Out of twenty five children, only six other parents were there. They huddled around the teacher's desk, sweaters wrapped tight around them. I needed E to translate for me, so we made our way to the back of the room, hoping our whispers would not disturb anyone. We yanked our hats off, and settled in. I smelled ammonia and cheap perfume.

The teacher had a constant sigh stretched across her face. Her blonde hair hung limp against her ears. She stopped the joking chatter and cleared her throat. She talked about the boy that died, and how two weeks of investigation had uncovered the fact that he took some gum from a stranger on the school playground and there were narcotics in it. Nothing more. There was some additional warnings explained. The faces nodded, hands folded carefully over each other.
There were no questions.

The conversation turned quickly to the errors happening on the school website when grades are posted there. There were constant complaints from the mothers about homework assignments, about harsh grading from one teacher, then another teacher. The room filled with people talking over each other about math homework, a cacophony of pleas and examples raised. But for that 15 year old boy, not even a whisper.






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