KATIE ZERR: Teaching respect starts in the home

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Reading news from outside of the Upper Midwest was once the source of head-shaking reactions followed by whispered thanks that people here seemed to be immune to the insanity of the world.

We are a people of more common sense, of better understanding and appreciation of mankind.

Recently there have been more examples that what has permeated the world outside our part of the country has made its presence known here.

We are not naive enough to think the only time we have experienced unimaginable behavior is when is perpetrated by others and not one of our own. There are people capable of this type of action in every part of the world, but these incidences used to be few and far between.

But lately that is changing. Examples of what was once jaw dropping and disturbing are now more commonplace in our part of the world.

Recently a controversy in the Sioux Falls School District has brought about behaviors that shows outside influences are reaching into our communities.

The school board voted not to require high school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day. The elementary and middle school students still recite the pledge, but the board said it would not make it mandatory in the upper grades. A group of veterans wanted the district to make it mandatory in high schools as well, but the board voted against the requirement. Not the Pledge of Allegiance, just the daily requirement for some students.

The story made national news and it hit the social media. Now phone numbers for Sioux Falls School Board members have been removed from the school district’s website because those members and their families were being threatened through phone messages and emails.

One board member reported he received death threats by phone among the more than 100 phone calls and 100 emails from all over the country. One said they would come to his home and “eliminate” him and his “un-American family.”

One would hope that the truly ignorant reactions to this decision came from outside of South Dakota. One would hope that no matter how one feels about the decision, we would understand that there are reasons for this board to make that decision.

Threatening the life of those board members and their families and believing it is a patriotic reaction is wrong on so many levels. It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around how anyone can think this is acceptable behavior.

The people of our country who put on a uniform and fight for our freedom deserve the utmost respect from all of us.

But pledging our allegiance to this country is more than reciting words every day. We need to instill that in our children at a young age. If we want our children to respect our veterans and our military, that must come from within.

It comes from our homes, not just at school.

Families are the best example, not the mass recital of words. Constant repetition of words is not going to override what goes on within the walls of our homes.

Threatening a citizen who has backbone and fortitude to serve his or her community because they made a decision that is controversial is cowardly and against every value upheld by our military. It is not the kind of example our children need to learn about respect.

The Pledge of Allegiance deserves a certain reverence. One should feel proud as those words flow across our lips. Those who stand and recite those words should do so with pride and conviction, not because it is required.

South Dakota has always been a prime example of how much our residents are willing to sacrifice in the time of war. We have treated most of our returning veterans with the respect for the job they did in defending those freedoms. We teach our children through example that our men and women in uniform are protecting our way of life and deserve respect for doing a job most of us are unwilling or incapable of doing.

We don’t need outside influences stepping in and making a circus of this issue.

- Katie Zerr -

 
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