Saturday, November 5, 2011

When No Means Kill?

I've blogged before about my son's version of the Pledge of Allegiance, but for those of you who don't hang on my every post (Why the hell is that anyway? Maybe it's my overuse of the parenthetical citation)...I'll recap it for you. During the Pledge, he covers his heart with his right hand, like every other kid in school. Just before they are to recite the words "under god", he takes his right hand from his chest and slides it up to cover his mouth for those two words. He then casually returns his hand to his chest to say the important part, "...with liberty and justice for all."  This was not something I had talked to him about. The first time I saw him do it was during his fifth grade "graduation". Before that, I had not given much thought to him reciting the Pledge. It was something he had come up with on his own, and I have to made me very proud.

He is in sixth grade now, and is still doing the same thing each morning. A few weeks back, a few of the students noticed him covering his mouth during the Pledge and confronted him after class. Their question: "Do you believe in god?" My son's response was simple: "No". This did not sit well with a few of his classmates. After some pushing and name calling, it seemed the incident had come to an end. When my son came home from school, he didn't mention any of this to us. Later that night, he was playing games on Facebook (Yes we're "awful" parents...we let our sixth grader use Facebook) when a string of threatening messages were sent to him by two of his classmates. I am not going to share the entire message thread, but I will say that on more than one occasion he was sent, "I am going to kill you tomorrow" (After one of those my son asked, "why, because I'm an atheist?" which the boy replied, "No dumbass, because you don't believe in god. I don't know what atheist means"). It was after this last comment that my son came to me and explained what was going on. He was very frightened. He couldn't understand how his simple answer of "no" could anger anyone so much. I wish I didn't...but I do. There's nothing worse than seeing you child hurt or afraid.

I was able to contact the parents of both children and the situation was diffused. However, one of the mothers said something that really shocked me. When I explained to her that it seemed the "genesis" of the disagreement was that my son doesn't believe in god, she replied, "Oh, well we're Catholic. I can see why my son got confused." CONFUSED!!! WTF'nF!!!  I don't think either one of these two boys intended to kill my son. But I do think religion is teaching them they are superior to other people. Not that their ideas and beliefs are superior...but THEY are superior. That seems very dangerous to me.

We allowed our son to stay home from school the next day. When he did return to school, the boys apologized to him. All was forgiven. The incident has not deterred him from telling people what he believes however (which was something I was concerned about). A few days later, we were approached at the local mall by a pair of Boy Scouts and their troop leader. They asked him if he was interested in joining, he said, "I'm an atheist, and you don't accept us. I don't want to be where I'm not wanted." As we walked to our car I had a few tears in my eyes. He's also still covering him mouth during "under god". He'll be okay.

I shared the story on Google+ and received many kind words from the people who read it, including Penn Jillette. He later mentioned it towards the end of a Penn Point video he did about atheists being bullied (video below). The video brought a big smile to my son's face. He had one of those "hey, I'm not alone" moments watching it (which, as I've mentioned before, is what Penn's radio show did for me). Penn's a great guy. My heart goes out to that family in Cincinnati he talks about in the video. You are not alone either. We (atheists) all love you.