Dear Watertown resident,
I wanted to say a few words to you before the town council meeting tonight.
As many of you know I knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance at the inauguration. I did so because I can not say “with liberty and justice for all” while that is not true in our country. People of color throughout our nation do not experience the same rights and privileges as white Americans. From the disproportionate punishment young children experience in schools to the disproportionate arrests, convictions, and sentences adults receive in the criminal justice system, people of color live with discrimination and persecution that people who are white do not experience.
As long as our nation is not living up to the ideals that our flag is supposed to stand for, I can not say the pledge. We live in an America where there are those among us who can not access the liberty and justice that should be the right of every American. There are children in our country who can not grow up expecting the same rights as other children, solely because of the color of their skin. This is not the America my flag is supposed to stand for. I feel refusing to say the pledge is not an act of irreverence towards the flag. On the contrary, it is because I care so much about our flag, I can not say a false oath before it.
My intention was never to show disrespect. In fact, I feel refusing to declare a false oath is the most respectful thing I can do. However my decision has caused a lot of anger and anguish to some Watertown residents, for which I am truly sorry. So I have been searching for a way to follow my own conscience and extend an olive branch to those who are so upset. People’s distress, combined with the fact that I feel it would be difficult to kneel in a respectful manner behind the council table, has had me searching for some middle ground. So tonight, as an act of compromise, I have decided to stand, with my head bowed in prayer during the pledge. It will not violate my conscience and I hope those who are so upset will be able to accept this in the spirit I intend – as an act of peace and conciliation.
Councilor At Large
(This letter was sent out by Caroline Bays to Watertown residents on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.)