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A Good Reason Not to Move to America

by Nymeria


I’m moving to California for Mama’s job, which means in a week I’ll be tossed in with a class of American fifth-graders. I know English well enough, but I’m still afraid I won’t fit in.

I only have one more week here so I’m hanging out with my friends a lot. I tell them that I’m moving to America and their eyes get real big. For some reason, all they want to talk about is some Pledge.

“They force you to do the Pledge at school,” one says ominously. “So that you can never leave. You have to stay forever to fulfill the Dream.”

I think they’re just messing with me, but it’s still weird. It makes our goodbyes awkward.

My aunt’s home is on the way to the airport so we visit her family on our way there. Mostly I spend time with my grandfather. He gives me candy and I sit in his armchair with him one last time.

“Now, I don’t know how much you know about the States, Mago,” he says to me. “But it can be a dangerous place. When you get to class, they’re gonna try’n get you to say the Pledge, but you gotta refuse. You gotta tell them, ‘No, I will not be brainwashed’ and you stay sitting in that chair and you plug your ears and don’t look at that flag, alright? Promise me you’ll do that.”

I nod. I’m actually kind of scared now. I think it’s too crazy to assume that my Ojiisan would conspire with my friends to play a trick on me. Only that means they’re telling the truth.

“Papa, what are you telling her?” Mama says out of nowhere, startling me.

“Just sayin’ to be careful in the big city,” Ojiisan says.

“Is this the Pledge stuff again?” Mama asks accusingly. Ojiisan shifts in his seat.

“It’s true! That’s how that country got so powerful! They get kids to Pledge themselves to the flag so that they can use their souls for the Dream,” Ojiisan explains. Mama shakes her head.

It’s Monday and it’s my first day of school. My father tells me that the Pledge stuff is fake, but I’m still so nervous when he walks me to the classroom that I might cry. He leaves me and I’m left with twenty boisterous American fifth graders that wear athletic shorts even though it’s cold out. The teacher, Mrs. Gibson, makes me introduce myself to the class and I almost cry again. Then she says the words I’d been dreading:

“Can everyone please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?” A demand, not a question. Twenty ten-year-olds rise and face the flag. The urge to stand with them is almost overwhelming.

“Hana, please stand with us for the Pledge,” Mrs. Gibson commands. Twenty pairs of eyes slide in my direction. My cheeks feel hot and I’m shaking. I’m terrified but I want to stand with the others and I don’t know why. The class watches as I rise slowly from my seat.

“Hand on your heart and face the flag, everyone,” Mrs. Gibson says. Twenty-one fifth graders do as she says and the chant begins.

Our voices move as one through the Pledge. My promise is broken. I can’t tear my eyes away from the flag. I stare at it, unblinking, and I recite every word. Why do I know the words? I can feel my pulse in my head, my chest, the tips of my fingers. The words of the Pledge fill the room, the air gets heavy with them. I can’t tell if it’s suffocating or invigorating.

The Pledge ends and twenty-one fifth-graders sink back into their seats, all of us heavier than we were before. I feel strange, sedated. My eyes keep flicking back to the flag, it’s stars and stripes watching me from the corner. My heart rate has slowed. Is it slower than it used to be?

At dinner, I know I have to make my confession. I set down my chopsticks.

“Mom, Dad,” I start. They look up at me expectantly. “I’m an American now,” I say.

Mom squints at me and Dad frowns. I pick up a fork and continue to eat. 


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26 Reviews


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Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:05 am
DariaTheGirlWhoLovesPizza wrote a review...



Hi. I loved this story, especially the emotions towards the end. I felt like I was sweating-

And I totally agree abt the flag thing. At my school, we are all forced to do the pledge of allegiance or else we get detention or ISS (in school suspension) for not “following instructions.” Yeah, not fun.

I do feel like this text has a very eerie tone, like when she did the pledge, it felt like she just exploded the world or something. I honestly expected the teacher to actually be evil idk, something more than what happened. I think that’s what I like most about this story. The fact that it was just the pledge and nothing more. In some strange way it was weirdly unexpected.

Alright. I have to go, but keep writing

-Daria




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Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:50 pm
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Hereticteen wrote a review...



It's funny you should mention that. The "Pledge of Allegiance" Actually started as "The Oath". Once Lincoln became president he added a bunch of new stuff like "One nation, Under god." I am a highschooler and I refuse to recite the Pledge because nowadays it's more of a symbol of tryanny than patriotic. It IS very interesting how we are so hard-wired to believe that not putting your hand on your heart and reciting the Pledge is wrong, and frowned upon. The meaning has been incredibly altered over the years and it's nowhere near what it was intended to mean.

More on your story:
This story is really well written. I actually really like how you ended it. You did an amazing job setting the tone in the classroom and describing the protagonist's emotions through the entire story. I like how you said, "it’s stars and stripes watching me from the corner." All together, you did an amazing job describing the issue at hand from the perspective of a young student. I'm really glad you made a story about the Pledge, I realize now that you've done it that it needed to be done. So, thank you for doing it, and doing it REALLY well. I might actually share this story with my friend that taught me a lot about american history and constitutionalism.




niteowl says...


Lincoln had nothing to do with the pledge, as it was written after he died. It was President Eisenhower who encouraged adding "under God". http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm


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Hereticteen says...


Interesting. Thank you for correcting me. I'm sure of got all of my info mixed up in my head.



Nymeria says...


Thank you so much! I'm flattered that you want to share this :)



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Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:18 am
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TheLittlePrince says...



not a review, but this was so profound. loved it!




Nymeria says...


Thanks!



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Thu Nov 21, 2019 9:22 pm
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papillote wrote a review...



Hi, there. I don't know if it's much of a review, because this is going to be short.

This...was a little weird for me. I was vaguely aware that the Pledge was something that maybe took place somewhere, but I didn't know for sure. Does this happen EVERYWHERE every morning? We've got nothing like this over here, France's got a national hymn, La Marseillaise, that's being sung in some celebrations and when we play soccer internationally, but it's mostly about going to war and bathing our path in impure blood (literal translation, don't blame me), and nobody knows much more than two verses.

So, your story...It really got me going. I couldn't figure out what kind of story I was in. I started out thinking it was a cute story about a kid moving to America. But I was really with your MP and, when she started wondering and worrying, I did too. Maybe the genre was horror, finally, or fantasy. Maybe countries have souls in this universe, and they feed on their people through rites like the Pledge.

Then, I went to the really weird places in my head. Maybe it was metaphorical. After all, where does patriotism stop and where does indoctrination begin? And when does someone's devotion to a country, an idea or a symbol stop making them happy and start costing them?

It ended before I could make up my mind, and I love your story for that.

I agree that you need to put some skin, some flesh on these bare bones, but don't lose that tone. It was great.

Keep writing :D




Nymeria says...


Thanks!



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Mon Nov 18, 2019 6:16 pm
niteowl wrote a review...



Hi there, Nymeria! Niteowl here to review!

Overall, this is an interesting and almost-humorous take on moving to America. Being born and raised here, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance seemed normal as a child. It's just what we did. But looking back on it, it definitely feels weird and creepy. I was so spooked by this, expecting that some horrible thing would happen to the protagonist once she gave in to the pledge. I also really like the ending, the subtle change of utensils being sort of a symbol of assimilation.

One thing that seems weird to me is that the characters seem almost fixated on the pledge, as if that's the only difference between Japan and America. It just seems like it's not high on the list of differences kids would notice. I'd think they'd probably think about things like what they see in TV shows or movies to inform our narrator (however inaccurately) about America. I could see a child maybe mention the pledge in passing, but it makes sense for the grandfather to focus on it more.

Another thing that seems weird is the time frame. The family wouldn't just up and leave in a week given the logistics of moving internationally. There'd be weeks and months for the kids and grandfather to put all sorts of ideas in our protagonist's head.

Also, does the protagonist's name change? The grandfather calls her Mago but then later the teacher calls her Hana.

Overall, I really like the story you're telling here, using the pledge as a sort of symbol of assimilation. Keep writing! :D




Aari says...


I think mago means grandchild. :D



Nymeria says...


Hi, thanks for the review! This was actually for a class and we were limited to one page, so I hade to keep everything super condensed. You're right that things move along weirdly fast.

Mago is Japanese for grandaughter if the internet told me true.

The fixation on the pledge was meant to be weird and unrealistic, like there's a bit of dark magic in place or something. Also, Japan is just a random country I chose. I might change it to the UK since I feel I could better write from that perspective. Except then I couldn't use the chopstick thing!! Ah, I don't know. We'll see.




This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
— T.S. Eliot