Every morning, the smallest children stand together – white and black, Hispanic and Asian. Catawba Indians, whose people were in this land long before anyone else.
They stand shoulder to shoulder and they put their tiny hands over their hearts and they recite the Pledge of Allegiance under one flag and one flag only – the American flag.
A flag that flew over a nation that allowed slavery, but whose people had the courage more than 150 years ago to say it was wrong – and the guts to admit the wrong and refuse to allow it any more. The pledge goes like this, in the words of babes:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
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The tiny kids know the words as well as any. They love to sing it. The words dance.
Bigger kids know all the words.
“It means to follow God and love each other,” said Lauren McCray, age 5.
“It means love,” said Channing Cannon, 4. “We love each other.”
The children from Woodhaven Baptist Child Development Center never pointed out that one is black and the other white, and they sure never mentioned the Confederate battle flag. They held hands while they recited the pledge. It was enough to make a grown man in South Carolina weep in this age of killing in a church over racial hate, and the Confederate flag that is a symbol of that hate that somehow still flies in front of our state Capitol.
A flag that politicians who needed blood to vote on this issue will do so this week. A flag of slavery and heritage – some say proud heritage, while others say a shameful hateful one – that divides adults and never is used in the same sentence with the word love.
Woodhaven held its annual parade last week to honor America and its independence. Trinity Moore, 9, and classmate Kendall Stutts made up a song for the parade. It is called, simply, “Peace, Love, Freedom.”
The girls rode their scooters together in the parade, belting out the song as the wind whipped by. Friends Hayley Lieb and Sara Jane Moore and Jordyn Ford and others joined in.
The song is simple. It is all chorus. It never gets old.
Simply, “Peace, Love, Freedom,” sung over and over, in different ways, by 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds.
Trinity is black and her friend Kendall – co-writer of the greatest song ever penned by a kid – is white. Their faces shone and their eyes sparkled as they sang together the words, their shoulders bumped up against each other, their hands intertwined and their smiles leaping into the future.
Each wore American flag emblems and shirts. They had decorated their scooters with American flags. Kendall even wore American flag glasses.
They are friends and classmates in a state divided so long by racial hatred.
But these kids are not divided. They need no politicians to debate any longer. They know right from wrong.
Trinity and Kendall were asked what flag matters in Rock Hill and in South Carolina.
“The American flag!” each screamed out.
They said it together.
Then they got on their scooters and rushed off into a future in which maybe – once that Confederate battle flag is removed from the State House grounds – “Peace, Love, Freedom” will be true not just for them, but for all of us.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org