Dear Ray Rice, (A message on July 4th)

The first (and only) time I was ever in a room with you, I was unimpressed.  It was at Lardarius Webb‘s 1st Annual Bowling Classic.  This was an event he held to raise money for disadvantaged youth.  I was there because I bid on and won tickets at Casey Cares’ silent auction.  (Casey Cares is a wonderful local organization that does the little things that mean so much to children with chronic and critical illness and their families.)  I brought my two boys and three of their friends, and they were absolutely beyond thrilled to be in the room with so many Ravens players.  Including you.

Sadly, but understandably, you had layers upon layers of protection between you and any of the child fans who wanted to meet you.  As soon as you were spotted on one lane, bowling, it seemed like people swarmed and you practically sprinted to another lane to get away.  Yes, I know you did sign autographs and talk to some fans, but suffice it to say, the other Ravens players were much more…um…approachable and friendly.  I tried to steer the kids towards them, and their disappointment at not getting a chance to say hi to you was really assuaged by sweetness and warmth so many of the other players offered the kids.  I’m sure, though, that the people you actually did meet and interact with came away with amazing memories, which is awesome.  So, we shrugged the distance off to the difficulties of superstardom, and continued to root for you like crazy on the field.

I gave you a second look, however, when I started seeing people reposting your Facebook statuses taking a stand against bullying.  It’s something I consider pervasive and corrosive in humanity, and I was thrilled to see someone of your star power and talent taking the issue on.  My sister and I were bullied as kids, and I have many friends whose kids are dealing with it as well.  There is even one amazing girl in my neighborhood taking her own stand.  She was featured on local news here, and she’s using the power of social media to spread her message here.  My opinion of you did an about-face, and I immediately began following your fb page, and made sure to thank you there for all you’re doing – which is considerable and amazing.

Today, though – on July 4th – you make me sad again.  Here is what you said in your FB status:

“It’s sad that many Americans don’t even know the Pledge anymore. “One nation, UNDER GOD…” And if you have an issue with me posting this and capitalizing UNDER GOD, remember, because of today, you are FREE and have the absolute right to remove yourself from my page! Happy Birthday America!”

It’s not your devotion to the wording of the Pledge that’s problematic.  It doesn’t bother me that you capitalize “under God.”  I respect your feelings about that, despite the fact that those words weren’t even in the Pledge until the 1950s.  Sometimes even I include those words when I say the pledge, and sometimes I don’t.  My right.

What bothers me is your invitation, which really borders on a challenge, to remove myself from your page if I disagree with your message.  Why this attitude?  We see it everywhere.  “Learn the language or leave.”  “If you don’t like the government, move to another country.”  “Disagree with me?  Feel free to stop being my fan/friend.”  “Don’t like what I’m saying?  There’s the door.”

Are you that threatened by people who don’t agree with you?  Do you think it’s that threatening to me that you say something with which I disagree?  Do you really believe that differing opinions automatically become a wall between people?  I’m more optimistic than that.  I have more faith in myself and my fellow citizens than that.  I give us ALL more credit than that.  I see time and time again examples of people making agreements, staying friends, moving forward, and continuing to respect and love one another despite divergent or opposing opinions.

I’m not naive.  I know divisiveness rules.  I realize mixed marriages, political foes who are friends, hearts softened by having witnessed suffering may not be what makes the news headlines, but I see it every day, in all levels of humanity.  It’s not sexy enough to be splashed across the headlines, but it’s there.  There are even ways in which you, Ray Rice, are evidence of it.

So, no.  I don’t feel the way you do about the words of the Pledge of Allegiance.  I disagree with you about the importance of the words “under God” in the Pledge.  But neither is our diverging opinions a basis for which I would dissolve a friendship, however many degrees of separation there are between you and me.  So thanks for the invitation to leave, but I’m staying in the room.  Because it’s my room, too.  And because frankly, to me, THAT,  is what makes me beyond grateful and proud to be a citizen of this country.

Go Ravens!

And, Happy Birthday, America!

  • Max Olivewood

    Beautiful post, Aliza. Mr. Rice might be interested to know that the pledge was written by one Francis Bellamy, a former clergyman, in 1892, whose personal movement was distinctly away from God. He was also a socialist – a fact which might make Mr. Rice and others a bit squirmy. His original version might well be reinstated today: ” I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (Capitals his.) Most interesting is the fact that when the words “under God” were added to the pledge in the ’50′s, it was to distinguish a somewhat paranoid America from those atheistic Communists, who might well have included Mr. Bellamy, had he lived until then.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Thank you, Max! I love the historical perspective, as you know. It’s filled with fascinating ironies like the ones you point out. :)

  • Michael Schwartz

    Are you SERIOUS??? Here is a guy that is as dedicated to his sport and his community as we would hope any athlete could be! Is challenging a guy who lives his life under a far more powerful microscope than you or I EVER WILL , and is simply asserting that he recognizes that there are going to be SCORES of people that disagree what his points of view are, WHATEVER THEY ARE, partly because he is a celebrity, and they are supposed to live up to a higher “moral code”, partly because they have a different moral perspective, and partly because there are just people out there that want to be obstinate and objectionable because it allows them to validate themselves…credible?!?

    My problem lies with the notion that THIS is the topic you choose to “soapbox” about….SERIOUSLY?!?

    NOT about his ideals or values, or his decided reverence to GOD by choosing to include it in his pledge of loyalty to our country (on July 4th)….

    but his request, that people “turn the other cheek” or “walk the other way” at his choice(s), rather than be argumentative, and allow him the freedom to do and believe what he chooses, rather than slinging hurtful epithets and posting negative diatribes, which only serve to fuel a fire that has NO GOOD purpose and NO GOOD end!

    As a Jewish individual, I choose NOT to argue with those that believe otherwise….I simply ask them to be respectful of my choices, or there’s the door! That is all he was doing as well….

    And yet, you managed to find an entire blog in it….

    From a journalistic perspective….you can do much better!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      I’m hardly a journalist – never claimed to be. From a writer’s (a completely unpaid one, at that) perspective, I write about what moves me. For a guy who does so much for his community and sport, this sentiment saddened me. You and I interpreted his words differently. I hardly considered my post a diatribe, rather than a plea for him to adopt an attitude like the one you’re insisting he’s promoting. It’s possible my interpretaion is wrong, and yours right. The reverse is also a possibility. Regardless, I don’t leave a room or a discussion simply because one disagrees with me.

  • S.A.

    True that!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      :)

  • Matt

    I unliked. I don’t appreciate the “if you don’t like it then you can GTFO” attitude. He’ll probably be gone to free agency within a couple more seasons anyway.

  • Joy Sharp

    Vive la difference!


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