Allegiances

Artist: Thomas, Hank Willis. Title: Stars and Bars. Date: 2015. Medium: decommissioned prison uniforms.
Photographed on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum in October 2020
[Image Description: Artwork by Hank Willis Thomas created from the blue field/stars of a U.S. flag, surrounded on three sides by black and white stiped fabric sourced from prison uniforms, creating a visual like a double United States flag.]

I will no longer pledge allegiance as I was taught,
to a nation, religion, or book,

If pledging to the nation requires I pretend liberty and justice applies to all,
in light of clear evidence contradicting.

If pledging to a book canonized by men insists I make-believe its words prevent sin,
when those words are all too often used for hate instead of love.

If pledging to a Christian flag demands I swear an oath to so-called brotherhood,
united to exclude, traumatize, and injure those it views as other.

If my allegiance to a flag and nation means
I endorse its government killing citizens in the streets,

killing innocents in the middle east,
killing refugees in camps,

then I withdraw the allegiance
I spoke every time I said the words.

If my allegiance to a book means
I must blame the abused for their abuse,

blame victims for their suffering,
blame the struggling for their struggle,

then I withdraw my hand from the cover
of that leather-bound volume and turn away.

If my allegiance to Christianity means
I must advocate harm of the marginalized,

harm of the poor,
harm of our earth,

then I will not be a Christian,
will keep my allegiance to myself,

refusing to make any pledge to idols
that desecrates the still, small voice of the Divine within.

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