It's the state law that some follow, others break, and a whole lot of us don't take too seriously: daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public-school classrooms.
So, not unexpectedly, a Seattle teacher's insistence that it be followed is being challenged by an Air Force veteran who feels her daughter owes no allegiance to a single country.
This being Seattle, where the 43rd District Democratic caucus once booed the idea of reciting the pledge, that story has created an uproar which, at last check, ran 41 web-pages long in The Seattle Times, starting with comment No. 1: Love it or leave it.
Not that the pledge as a practicality means a lot. As is often pointed out in debates over the value of the country's loyalty oath, it didn't appear to have much of an effect on Timothy McVeigh, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Jihad Jane, among others.
Parents who see the pledge as an issue perhaps forget that, as kids, a lot of us welcomed the morning ritual as a good time to shoot spitwads or doze off. Mouth the words by rote each day and they become meaningless. And you eventually learn that loyalty is earned, not demanded.
The oath was shorter when introduced by a youth magazine in 1892 ("I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all"). It was later expanded to include allegiance to God and the U.S.--the 50 states.
But the original liberty and justice promise has always been the escape clause: You can't be bound by an allegiance premised on liberty - the independence to be unaligned. The promise of liberty and justice therein endows us with the freedom to not pledge allegiance. In essence, the oath says you don't have to say me.
State legislators apparently realized this. As Washington law states, during the daily "flag exercise," only "those pupils so desiring" shall recite the oath.
Which is why this morning, when the pledge is read over the John Stanford International School PA system in Wallingford, and recited in classrooms other days of the week, students don't have to utter along.
That point seems to be lost in the uproar. Those who choose not to participate can silently exercise their rights while others express theirs. They don't even have to stand up, cross their heart, and fake it.
They can just sit and ponder something more relevant, such as another way of saying the dog ate their homework.