DEAR ABBY: Would you please tell your readers that not reciting or participating in the Pledge of Allegiance does NOT mean that someone is a “bad American”?

For religious reasons, I cannot say the Pledge. I sit quietly while it’s recited, but unfortunately, others can’t keep quiet about my silence. They make a scene and begin interrogating me – especially at sporting events. Others have better manners, but still insist that I stand in “respect” – but standing IS participating.

Abby, I have been punched, kicked, cursed at and spat upon, often in front of my children. People scream about their war records or their soldier relatives. Well, I have kin “over there,” too. Please do not assume that non- participants are bad people. They might even be Canadian! – SILENT SUPPORTER, BENSON, N.C.

Thank you for a letter that may educate those who do not understand that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance does not automatically make them more patriotic – or better Americans – than those who do not. Physically or verbally attacking someone because the person doesn’t conform is not a sign of patriotism. It’s a symptom of intolerance, and should get the guilty parties tossed out of the events.

For anyone who may not already know, Quakers do not take oaths – even in courts of law – nor do they salute religious symbols. The person remaining silent (and seated) when the Pledge is recited could also be a member of a religion outside the Judeo-Christian matrix, or even a member of a certain sect of Buddhism.

DEAR ABBY: I am in desperate need of your wisdom. Recently I went out of my way to help my sister get a very good job. She’s always down on her luck and seems to get laid off for no good reason.

Well, now that she’s working with me, it’s crystal clear why she can’t keep a job more than a few months. She’s in her late 20s, but acts like she’s still in high school. Each morning she describes every intimate detail of her adventures from the night before. She calls in sick frequently, then goes on and on about her health conditions, most of which are so far-fetched they are impossible to believe.

I have tried to speak casually with her about saving her stories for break time, but she doesn’t “get it.” Now there are rumors that she will be fired soon. Because we don’t work in the same area of the office, I figured I was OK, but today I overheard co-workers discussing what a mess she was. How do I protect what is left of my credibility and fix this nightmare? – HUMILIATED IN OREGON

Your sister appears to be not only immature, but also suffers from an exaggerated need to be the center of attention. Her work ethic could also use some retooling.

While she may be an embarrassment to you, she is not a reflection on you or your career. When she’s gone speak privately to your bosses and apologize for any inconvenience your sister has caused them. That’s all you owe them.

If your sister should ask, and only if, then tell her why she was let go. But casually hinting around won’t change her, and she may have to learn these lessons the hard way.

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