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The Way of Ignorance

At the elementary school,
a flag brought for show-and-tell
flaps in the stiff breeze
as the children gather,
right hand pressed against
their small hearts,
ready to pledge allegiance.
The Principal reads a statement:  
“This flag once flew over a battle zone
in the war on terror.”
But the words “on terror”
are replaced with “for freedom”
so as not to damage their
impressionable little minds.
At that precise moment a bomb
rips open a school in Afghanistan.

12 Jul 09

Rated 10 (8.9) by 2 users.
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Its awful that Taliban/terrorists target their own teachers, schools, and children. True ignorance is destroying your own future. And how liberalism is attempting to rewrite historical facts but your piece stays true to history. Good for you
 — BxPR

: )
 — fractalcore

Thanks for the read and comment BxPR, but I think you missed the point because I'm as liberal as they come.
Thanks for faving this frac.  Could you tell me why?
 — PaulS

I had a long comment showing you what would work for the last verse but I gave up.  I think you might want to say, "As they parrotted the words, "under God', on the other side of the world, a bomb ripped open an elementary school in Afghanistan.  There has to be something stronger to link the two schools.  

I'm wondering why the flag was brought for show and tell, as I thought American schools all flew the American flag so the pledge of allegiance being said during show and tell seems a little off.  I like the idea but I believe the poem is not yet up to the concept.  It's good but not finished somehow.
 — Isabelle5

What doesn't make any sense is that things are brought to show and tell by children.  so a child had to have brought that flag and read the statement.  Isabelle, I think this is suppossed to be a flag that was actually in the battle field, not the school's flag for the pledge.
Anyway, if a child brought this flag, why would he change the word from "terror" to "freedom" to avoid damaging the minds of the other students?  Isn't his mind just as impressionable and why would he think about the impressionability of other student?  I think it would make more sense if an adult were showing them the flag and he was trying to manipulate their minds with the word change.  
 — SodaKid

I know that someone brought this but the way it's flapping in the wind surprised me, unless they are outside unfurling a flag.  I love our pledge of allegiance, I find nothing wrong with a country having a unified prayer or song or whatever might bind them together when they need to be under one banner.  I don't know how much 'for freedom' changes things, though.  We're already free, seems like the biggest lie of all is to pretend nothing can ever happen to touch a person simply because of the country they live in.  I don't know if they are damaged by the word terror but I am willing to bet that they all know a lot more than the adults give them credit for.  I was a child once, I know that we listen much more than the adults know!
 — Isabelle5

Thanks for commenting Isabelle and Sodakid.  The first two stanzas are from a true event.  I work at the elementary school and the flag was brought to school by a third grader, along with a certificate that stated the flag was used in the “war on terror.”  Her father served in Iraq.  The school principal had the regular flag replaced with this one for a couple of days.  Some of the teachers wanted to have the children pledge allegiance to this flag, outside, instead of the one in their classrooms.  A conversation ensued on whether or not the word “terror” was appropriate and decided to change it to “for freedom.”  The last stanza came from a newspaper article I read the same day.
 — PaulS

Well, yeah.  I think it would be helpful if somehow you indicated that an adult was responsible for the change and not the child.  This seems like it would work as more of a prose poem with more information about the actual events.  Just so that is a little more understable what exactly is going on with the flag and the statement.
 — SodaKid

Thanks for that, Paul.  It helps make sense of this poem.  I'm glad that the principal used that flag for a few days, a well used one instead of the sterile flags that hang in the rooms.  
 — Isabelle5

Isabelle, you're right, children do know more than adults give them credit for.  The mentality of the adults in this poem is the same mentality used to water down some of the best fairy tales ever written so as not to cause undo trama to the children.  Jeesh!  The children know more than the adults!
 — PaulS

Yes, nice change to line 8.
 — Isabelle5

Thanks, Isabelle.
 — PaulS

You've a way with painting true life poems with your words...nicely writ...
 — JKWeb

well, i liked thinking about a flag with
50 stars on either side -- is it still 50
at present?

if it's an afghan flag then i'll change my
10-fave to a 10-10, hehe.

i like the prosy appeal of this...
it paints vivid pictures which me think
about many stuff including those that
are not necessarily inherent/coherent.

such is my way of ignorance.
; )
 — fractalcore

which makes* me...

jeezus ira cripes
; )
 — fractalcore

Thank you JK for the kind comment and thank you frac for the insightful explaination :)
 — PaulS

SodaKid:  I took your advice--hope this makes more sense to you now.
 — PaulS

No, it was my point, presenting a counterpoint to your view.
 — BxPR

    Secondary damage goes back a long ways, recently the Nam where our own troops were killed by friendly fire, , Korea too i am sure, with Japan , Germany in the action there to was ridiculous mistakes, carpet bombing of incendiary bombs over Japanese cities killed thousands, war is hell no doubt about it , unless it comes without lies to your sovereign soil , a waste was the Maldives Island, jut look at where they are ? anyway WAR such as it is a waste of everything, such is the way of ignorance, good piece once again Paul... j.g. smiles
 — goeszon

L17 is unnecessary. You have already told us how we should be thinking in your title. In fact it would be better if you changed the title got rid off L17 and had confidence that your poem would convey its message without sub titles.
 — unknown

Unknown -- I don't think I'm telling people how they should be thinking, I'm just saying how I think and others can agree or disagree.  You're right about the title and line 17, there should be a change with one or both, thanks.
 — PaulS

Hey, Paul:  I'm seeing a need for more clarity here at first glance.  In L5, I'd change "hand" to "hands."  Why doesn't the Principal just say "This flag once flew over a battle zone in the war on terror for freedom?"  Why do you need L's 11 & 12?  As for the poem, it reads more like a newspaper article than it does anything else.  It's very prosaic and isn't really saying anything more than what's already written.  OUCH!  I'm just mirroring back what the poem is reflecting for me.  I would say to see what you can do to bring in some metaphor and leave something for the imagination as opposed to spelling it all out for the reader in B&W.  Hopefully, this doesn't hurt your feelings.  I come in peace as a fellow writer.  I'd say "Play some more with it."  :-)
 — starr

opposing viewpoints can be troublesome sometimes.

i'm not trying to compromise or compete with Starr's critique, but i think this poem should be left alone. line thirteen was a great shift in tone, as though you were speaking from the voice of a principle adult who believes that little children are just little children and can't possibly understand all of the awful things that are happening in the world. good inflection, sarcasm.

in spite of the strength with those two lines, i still was very well pleased by the "shock value" i think they say with the very last three words.

but you can always work with it, of course. i'm not saying you can't do that, Starr still brought up points worth considering. just, as the poem is written, seems fine to me.
 — listen

starr:  Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you taking the time.  I think you’re missing my point—the principal does not want to use the word terror because she thinks it would have an adverse effect on the kids, so she replaces that word with, for freedom.

listen:  Thanks for reading and understanding what I’m doing here—you are spot on.  The only thing I will possibly change on this is the title.
 — PaulS

Hmm I really like this, and I hate saying the pledge...Hate it hate it hate it.  This country does nothing...and we do nothing for this country...we are IN A WAR. for what? Oil....hmm lets try making less plastic products and a little less of other things that WASTE oil....better education maybe? Draft like we used to...jeez...fucking stupid is what it is ^.^

And im not saying lets not have war ever, and im not saying lets have war...but the way of nature includes violence...how it is....sometimes.
 — ktalon

Paul, I refuse to give into the regime of monkeys, and so I will give this my own score, thank you thank you thankyou for having steel balls, I give you a 10!

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10.
 — unknown

Paul, i made a mistake. i meant the last three lines are the ones with the shock factor. not words.


also, please keep the title, if you decide to.
 — listen

I knew what you meant, listen and point taken on the title, I'll keep this one for a while.  You are still the only one who understands what I was doing here.
 — PaulS

smug and trite, and worthy of 'i pledge allegiance to my little poetic viewpoint'. very nicely modeled and satyric.
 — trashpoodle

Hmmm... Well, Mike, it is political and satyrical--thanks for reading though.
 — PaulS

it that's all it is, then it's light verse and self-sufficient. if it's political and all, then it gets read critically from our political consciousness. this one is a smug saying of an opinion -- yours -- which seems to match the kind of mentality you're mocking. it's not an effective political verse for me, but it needn't be. there are lots of people who read these things for a laugh, and already 'feel the way you do' about the topic -- and, that makes this kind of verse a kind of 'tee-shirt' event. like, 'i feel the way i do!" event.

make love not war
 — trashpoodle

I understand what you're saying--when I write this kind of stuff I know that I am limiting my audience to those who think likewise.  I would be much better off if I stayed away from political stuff altogether, but sometimes I just can't help myself.
 — PaulS

what i'd do then is get much tighter with your wordings -- take more chances with rhyme and reason, to make a verse which is gem-like -- really brilliant. it'd pick a more literate audience -- like, people who read books -- and work their own prejudices about what is smart back on them. make them go 'i didn't think of that'.

i'd read a lot of ogden nash --  just because he's clever with words but writes clunky -- you'll see how you'd re-write it to make it better, and that would be the definition of 'poet'.
 — trashpoodle

1. let the line breaks punctuate.

2. resist the just so last line, trust the reader to write it herself.

3. precise is not necessary. actually, you could lose more than a few words here and gain effect.

overall, pretty good.
 — noodleman

Thanks for reading, noodleman.
 — PaulS

I agree with noodleman, you should def. consider removing the last line; it's insipid. The couplet prior to the last line is strong and would end this piece well on it's own.
 — SarahMichele

The last line served this pc. well, in my opinion this is the period, end of sentence,
Near  same as title, yet with the change in one word, sets the last line just right.

I like this as in.
 — unknown

Some of you think I should cut the last line and some think i should keep it.  I'm in a quandry as to what to do--cut or keep?
 — PaulS

thanks noodleman and SarahMichele.  I cut out the last line.
 — PaulS

doesn't it really depend on this poem's 'whipping a liberal audience into a frenzy', and if you want to take responsibility for that? and, if you do, then this poem should be have the impression of more passion, and not simply sounding like woodrow wilson's private assertion of superior morality before he joined the war in europe?
 — trashpoodle

overly simple and does not read like poetry, per se.
 — unknown

my take, take it or leave it:

elementary school,
flag flaps
in a stiff

children gather, right
hands pressed to small
chests, ready
to pledge allegiance.

elementary school,
bomb rips open
hearts and minds,
flag flaps
in a stiff
 — noodleman

i think ms. mr. mrs. unknown had it right (except for the typo with the p).

about 5 secs after i posted that i wished i could take it back. sorry to rewrite you. it was rude. sincere apologies.

 — noodleman

No offense taken, noodleman, we all have our preferences.
 — PaulS

interesting but do they really bomb their own schools in afganistan?
 — bladeofagony

I wonder if you realise how many civilians we(americans) have killed during this war on terror. Certainly a few schools were our doing. I wonder whose bomb it was or maybe all bombs are bad(Liberalist interpretation)

P.S. BxPR should look up "liberalism"
Also directly to BxPR: You are an idiot
 — peoplescareT

Ok, I haven't read all of the comments, so forgive me if I repeat things -

I think it's clear that it was an adult decision to change "on terror" to "for freedom", purely because the principal is doing the reading.
The intent of L15-16 is quite ambiguous, (obvious from the comments I have read) considering the different takes on and the different media representations of the US presence in Afghanistan.  However, it does give a striking contrast to the ignorance encouraged in the children of the US and to the fretted over comfort of their lives.  So maybe you want to make the last two lines more clear, or maybe you want to leave them open for dialogue.  I love the irony in L11-14.  It comes across well.

Overall, this is great.  One thing though:  the pledge of allegiance takes more than one "precise moment"(L15), so I would hone in on the "for freedom" bit, maybe write it so that the line is being said in present tense, so that we're left with a momentary image before the last stanza begins.  
Hope that helps...because other than that it seems solid.  
 — Lexie