Op/Ed: What we stand for

I cannot stop thinking about Stone Chaney.

Just in case you’ve been away, the 6th grader and former East Middle School student last week accused one teacher of yanking him out of his chair and another of glaring at him when he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. These incidents are under investigation by the district and because of perfectly reasonable laws governing privacy, we may never know exactly what happened and why.

That’s difficult because everyone wants answers. Some want to see the teacher punished for putting her hands on a student, for violating his civil rights. Others decry the rush to judgment and say the teacher deserves due process. This town’s rumor mill churns on high speed over issues like this, thorny problems with no quick or clear resolution.

But this time feels different. The meanness, the vitriol on social media has left me wondering whether I’m still living in Farmington. Without knowing Stone or his family, people have accused them all of being unpatriotic and suggested they find another country in which to live. One exchange on Farmington Voice’s Facebook page devolved into threats of physical violence.

Over the weekend, rumors surfaced about a Monday morning rally or protest at East. So now add to the mix a cadre of parents afraid for the safety of their children. Sadly, the people left to sort things out, to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being, are Farmington Public Schools officials and Farmington Hills Police.

We’ve had protests, rallies, difficult conversations over unions and school closings, and made it through, maybe just a little the worse for wear. This time around, something significant has changed about the way we talk to each other, the way we talk about each other.

People appear to be arguing for smaller and smaller definitions of patriotism: Do this, but not that. Say these words, just this way, or you’re not one of “us”. The Pledge of Allegiance and reverence for the flag have meaning, but are simply too small to define the love for a nation built on really big ideas.

To me, there’s just no arguing the point: Stone Chaney exercised one of our most precious freedoms.

And certainly, America, this land of liberty, has room enough to hold both the Pledge of Allegiance and the child who will not stand for it.

– Joni Hubred