The Instigator
TruthHurts
Pro (for)
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The Contender
ForSerious
Con (against)
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American public schools should not lead recitations of the current Pledge of Allegiance.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/17/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 787 times Debate No: 56777
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
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TruthHurts

Pro

Hello everyone.

My case is that public schools should not lead recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance as it currently reads. What this essentially means is that schools should not have teachers or administrators leading group recitations of the Pledge, as is often seen in the status quo at the begininning of the school day. Note that this does not preclude students from personally and independently reciting the Pledge on school property.

Round 1: Acceptance and, optionally, an opening statement.
Round 2: Constuctives
Round 3: Continued argumentation
Round 4: Rebuttals (no new arguments)

Thank you, and I look forward to an interesting and informative debate.
ForSerious

Con

I accept the challenge.

Opening Statement: I look forward to this respectful and structured debate. I agree with your definitions so far.
As CON I am arguing that (USA) educational officials should lead groups of children in reciting the pledge.
Debate Round No. 1
TruthHurts

Pro

Thank you Con, and I too hope for an interesting, informative debate. That said, I will move into my contentions.

I. The Nebulous Origins of the Pledge

I shall be brief here, but I will demonstrate that the origins of the Pledge belie any possible traditional or patriotic benefits. The Pledge was created in 1892 by a Christian Socialist named Francis Bellamy [1]. In order to get the Pledge into schools, he used his position on the board of the National Education Association to insert his Pledge into a flag-raising ceremony celebrating Columbus Day, thus setting the precedent for saying the Pledge today. Later, in 1954, under pressure from the Christian Knights of Columbus and anti-communists, the phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge, which in turn had received several other modifications in the intermediary period [1].

The argument I will put forward is that the nebulous origins of the Pledge, written only a century ago, enacted due to nepotism, and changed to an almost unrecognizable point render the entire purpose of the pledge moot. The Pledge has no relevent traditional heritage, no importance to a particular historical moment. It is reflective of parts of society we would usually not prefer to reflect, like corruption, jingoism, and oppression. The Pledge only serves to hearken back to this era, implicitly or explicitly.


II. The Dangers of Nationalism

The second argument I will present deals with the inherent blind nationalism the Pledge foments. The fundamental issue is one of an paradoxical juxtaposition; the United States proclaims to be a nation of freedom and equality, yet forces students to line up, in an authoritarian fashion, to, as one group, pledge allegiance to a flag and a government using words most students cannot understand [2]. What this results in is a blind, rote pledge that impresses itself into the brains of impressionable young students.

What this results in is a blind, meaningless, robotic pledge that students recite without even thinking, with a subconscious allegiance to the government of the United States rooted in the pledge. This necessitates a drop in critical thinking and questioning skills, persuading at least some marginal amount of students to listen to the government and nationalism no matter what, even if doing so requires hatred, bigotry, and violence (as was often the case during the formative years of the Pledge). Such allegiance, indeed, could, and has, been used to perpetuate such despicable acts.

Such a blind nationalism lacks both meaning found in true patriotic displays, where the truly good things of the United States can be genuinly celebrated, and nuance to understand that a government cannot always be trusted. Finally, there is also the idea that forcing children to literally pledge allegiance to a flag is downright unethical, akin to forcing children to sign a binding contract. Even if students are not actually forced to recite the pledge, having a teacher or administrator lead the pledge, with all other children doing so, leads to a de facto social coercion, peer pressure [3].

III. Freedom of Religion

Part of the First Amendment of the US Constition prevents the government of the United States from enacting legislation regarding the establishment of a religion; that is, the government cannot prefer one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion [4]. This means that two distinct cases can be made specifically against the "under God" clause of the Pledge.

The first is purely Constitutional case. "Under God," as stated by a teacher acting on behalf of the state, certainly amounts to a government endorsement of and preference toward a specific religious belief, the belief in monotheism. While the Supreme Court (to this point) has not ruled the Pledge unconstitutional, I see little reason to find that the Pledge does not violate this clause.

The second relates to values. The First Amendment makes incredibly clear the importance of freedom of conscience, which we see manifested in free speech, free religion, and free assembly clauses, among others. These values are fundamental to the founding of the nation, which was about freedom of conscience solely. The necessity of respecting these differences in religion and thought are, therefore, integral in protecting American values and liberties. Thus, the Pledge acts against American values, as enshrined in the Constituion, by mandating one religious belief. Such coercion should not be deemed acceptable in the United States.

Conclusion

I have demonstrated that the Pledge has nebulous origins, damaging nationalistic effects, and rights-abrogating clauses. As a result, students in public schools should not be subject to universal recitations of the Pledge.

I look forward to reading Con's argumentation. Thank you.

Sources:
1. http://www.oldtimeislands.org...
2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
3. http://www.dailykos.com...
4. http://www.law.cornell.edu...
ForSerious

Con

Thank you for your well-sourced opening. I move right into rebuttal.
I. Nebulous Origin
You claim the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance to be nebulous. Are you aware that nebulous means "hazy, vague, indistinct, or confused" [1]. Clearly you did not mean nebulous as you then provided a highly detailed and cited, yet irrelevant, history of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Let's assume that by 'nebulous' you meant 'undemocratic'. Indeed, the Pledge was based off of novelist Edward Bellamy's Utopian ideals [2] and not directly based on some touchstone of democracy like the declaration of independence. I agree. The origin of the Pledge is not democratic.
I have two reasons why the origin of a tradition is a minor detail.
First, US culture is not past oriented. We are always talking about what we are going to do. We become offended if someone is late. Restoring a historical building is often like pulling political teeth. Other cultures would care about the origin of an idea, but not the US.
Second, I'd like you try your origin logic on the classic American tune Yankee Doodle Dandy. Did you know that Yankee Doodle Dandy was originally sung by British soldiers mocking American soldiers in the War of Independence? American soldiers altered the verses and sang it right back at the Brits as they retreated{3]. Do you propose Yankee Doodle Dandy stop being an American classic because of its origin?
It is more important that the US has made the Pledge into its own than whose idea the Pledge was and how it came to be part of the school system.
Lastly in this section, I would like to reject two specific claims.
You said the Pledge has been "changed to an almost unrecognizable point" and that this "render(s) the entire purpose of the pledge moot". The phrase "under God" was added, and the ending changed from 'liberty, equality, fraternity' to 'liberty for all'. If anyone read the old version of the pledge they would notice the ending sounded funny and they may even notice 'under God' missing, but they would most certainly still recognize it as the Pledge of Allegiance. You also claim this invalidates the purpose of the Pledge, but earlier you demonized the origins of the Pledge. Why would it matter if the meaning has been changed (though I say it has not significantly) if you disagreed with the original meaning?
You also said "The Pledge only serves to hearken back to [corruption, jingoism, and oppression]". This is a false assumption. The spreading of one concept from a particular age will not usher in the negative conditions of the age it came from. After all, those who teach Darwin's evolution are not afraid that the age of burning atheists will return.

II. Dangers of Nationalism
The pledge does not induce blind nationalism!
It is hard to know where to start, there are so many pieces of this argument I disagree with. For your convenience I have arranged them in the order they occurred in your speech.
You say when teachers lead the pledge they "force() students to line up, in an authoritarian fashion". Teachers lead students in various materials, math, science, literature " all of which students typically sit in rows for and listen. Homework is constant and grades are all that matters. It sounds like you are more against how the education system focuses on test results more than caring about creating critical thinkers. The way the Pledge is lead has to do with the values of the school system, not the act of leading the Pledge itself. The Pledge of Allegiance could just as easily be lead in small circles after discussing what it means.
Speaking of which, you said the Pledge contains "words most students cannot understand". What better a place to create a teaching moment than school to explain what the vocabulary means and discuss what the implications are.
You also said the Pledge "impresses itself into the brains of impressionable young". There is not brainwashing going on in American public schools. Not one person has ever in discussion with me attributed the reasoning behind any action to the Pledge they recited back in their school days. Besides, how can it be brainwashing if, as you say, the students don't know what the words mean?
You said the Pledge creates a "subconscious allegiance to the government". If that were true there would be much less crime and much more patriotism. Clearly there is no subconscious allegiance.
You said the Pledge would bring about "hatred, bigotry, and violence (as was often the case during the formative years of the Pledge)". As I said before, a teacher of evolution does not fear bringing about a new age of atheist burning. You seem to have this fallacy stuck in your head that the conditions of when an idea was born are somehow carried with it and could infect the future. That is not how knowledge works.
You said the Pledge has "been used to perpetuate such despicable acts". Would you care to back up that claim with evidence? It seems that you are saying acts carried out by the army, for instance, are despicable and that the Pledge the soldiers gave in their childhood lead them to commit these 'despicable' acts. That would be a horrible and illogical thing to say. I hope you can clear up in your response that you actually meant something else.
You said that leading the Pledge is "akin to forcing children to sign a binding contract". A pledge is not a legal contract and cannot be enforced by law. Pledges are a great way to introduce responsibility and rules to children in a way that they can understand. I, and most children, recited several pledges as children. I recited one for Girl Scouts. I recited a conduct pledge for Tae Kwon Do. For a math class, my classmates and I pledged not to cheat on a take home test. Pledging is a great tool. It in no way takes advantage of children.
You claim that leading the Pledge is the same as forcing the Pledge due to peer pressure. Peer pressure is never going away. Parents should discuss the meaning of the pledge, peer pressure, and the option to sit out. This is a great opportunity to introduce how to handle peer pressure to a student. Would you have public schools remove everything that could possibly trigger peer pressure? Would you make them all use the same school supplies and ban decorations? Would you prevent them from interacting without supervision? Peer pressure happens. You can't prevent it, you can only teach children how to resist.
As a last point in this section, you neglected to go into what the dangers of nationalism are. Would you care to touch on that next time?

III. Freedom of Religion
Students can opt out. Being led is not the same as being forced. This is not a freedom of religion violation. The case you sourced even suggests opting out. You have provided your own solution to this argument. See above my peer pressure rebuttal.
"Freedom of Religion" is such a stock argument I chose to focus my limited time on the more applicable arguments, but even so I feel I have appropriately countered this argument.

The status quo should remain. There is not enough harm to enact a change in policy.

I look forward to reading the PRO's response.

1. http://dictionary.reference.com...
2. http://www.oldtimeislands.org...
3. http://www.npr.org...
Debate Round No. 2
TruthHurts

Pro

Overview

Thank you. I am glad that Con was able to get a response in, and a good one at that. I will begin with two observations about the round.

Firstly, Con has presented no constructive material. Therefore, if any part of my argument flows through, I automatically win the round, as Con has only given defensive, mitigatory arguments.

Secondly, while I appreciate Con's passionate rebuttals, they are almost exclusively assertion without substantive argumentation. In order to be able to weigh these claims, Con must provide more sourcing or logical argument rather than relying on anecdotes and assertions. I will point out specific instances of these during each rebuttal section.

I. Nebulous Origins

While I am glad that Con is concerned about my diction, I assure you that 'nebulous' was the precise word that I intended to use; the usage of the word deals with the confusing juxtaposition of the origin of the Pledge and the ideal of the Pledge. That, rather than the literal origin story, is nebulous. Con is getting to this when she claims I mean 'undemocratic,' though that leaves some context to be desired.

Con next claims, "US culture is not past oriented." This is true in many regards, primarily in the realm of business development. However, the United States is clearly quite enamored with her nationalistic past, as evidenced by the July 4 celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "The Star Spangled Banner" and its beginnings in the War of 1812, etc. Moreover, the core values that the United States, and the Pledge in particular, claim to espouse are liberty, equality, justice, etc. Those are all rooted in the past, through both cultural and Constitutional links, as witnessed in the Mayflower Pact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and the Constitution. We see no other argument from Con regarding this, other than irrelevant assertion and anecdotes.

Con then challenges me to apply my logic to "Yankee Doodle Dandy." This is fairly straightforward. Yankee Doodle Dandy 1) Has a legitimate historical origin at an important junction in United States history (the Revolutionary War), 2) Was changed to reflect American values, and 3) Is not required to be recited in schools every morning. Thus, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" has both historical relevance and no legal repercussions.

Finally, I will address the Con's claim that the changes to the Pledge are not significant and do not perpetuate hate. If you reference my previous source material, you will find that the significant changes to the Pledge ("under God," "the flag of the United States of America," etc.) were all created in response to a perceived threat from those of other ideals, especially immigrants and Communists. These, and, indeed, the Pledge itself, were direct manifestations of these horrific relics of a bigoted past. These are not merely residual societal values, these are the direct reasons the Pledge was created and changed (see earlier source material). The Pledge, then, reflects these values. That is the key argument here, and Con has not substantially addressed it.

II. Dangers of Nationalism

The first argument Con puts forward is that school is authoritarian in nature, and the recitation of the Pledge is a manifestation of this. Note that this argument does not clash with my resolution, which is that the Pledge should not be led by school officials. Any such leading action is authoritarian in nature, both in small groups or in a larger group. This leads to a decrease in critical thinking skills, as dissent is crushed. Con seems to agree.

Con next claims that the advanced vocabulary of the Pledge provides a teachable moment for young students. I apologize; the claim that a kindergardener or a first-grader could fully grasp such concepts as liberty, a Republic, indivisibility, and justice is absurd. The importance of this is that students are forced and subjected to this language before they can understand it, causing an innate, unfounded nationalism merely through recitation of the Pledge. This nationalism is already firmly rooted before students can be reasonably expected to understand the Pledge.

Moving down, Con discounts the idea that the Pledge is a form of brainwashing. She claims that she has not encountered anyone using the Pledge to justify actions and that if the allegiance were legitimate, less crime would occur. These claims are both assertions and anecdotes, along with being irrelevant. The entire crux of my argument is that the blind nationalsim fomented by the Pledge manifests insidiously, since it has been planted at such a young age. The idea that being forced, either de facto or de jure, to recite a pledge does not constitute brainwashing is comical with this in mind.

Con then attacks the argument that the values resulting from the origin of the Pledge manifest in bigotry, hatred, and violence. She claims a logical fallacy has been employed, that conditions of an origin do not necessitate these conditions being perpetuated. However, she misses the key distinction, that the Pledge was created and amended directly as a result of these values. This is not residual or environmental; these terrible ideals birthed and changed the Pledge.

Thus, the Pledge foments violence, hatred, and bigotry through perpetuating blind nationalism and American exceptionalism [1]. This causes both direct xenophobia against immigrant groups [2] and a backlash among the international community, both of which are negative consequences of nationalism. Note that this xenophobia causes the Pledge, and continues to grow today.

Finally, Con responds to my argument that such a Pledge is unethical and coercive. The difference between the pledges Con discusses and the Pledge of Allegiance is that 1) the Pledge is universally required of all schoolchildren and not voluntarily opted-in to, and 2) these other pledges discuss conduct and morality, not simply blind allegiance. The impact of this is that, de facto or de jure, children are coerced by teachers, other students, and others to recite the Pledge, as my previous source material attests to. Any such coercion ought to be minimised, which can only be done by doing away with staff-led recitations of the Pledge.

III. Freedom of Religion

Firstly, Con completely drops the entire freedom of religion argument that I present. I argue that the faculty-led component amounts to a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, just like faculty-led prayer is [3]. Con does not respond to this whatsoever.

Con's only defense here is that students can opt out. Note that my earlier source material dismisses opting out as a legitimate option due to the coercive forces I have previously discussed. Either way, students should not have to opt out of being subject to religion in a public school, as this leads to coercion and a stigma attached to those who opt out.

If Con cannot refute this argument, the resolution stands by default.

Conclusion

Con has not presented any constructive material, and the defense employed has been filled with assertion, anecdote, and non-responsiveness. This, combined with the force of my argumentation, has shown that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools has numerous harms, historically, philosophically, and constitutionally.

I am proud to propose, and I look forward to reading future argumentation.

Sources

1. http://www.pewresearch.org...
2. http://patimes.org...
3. http://www.uwlaw.com...
ForSerious

Con

First off, I don't have burden of proof, you do. You are the one suggesting a broad scale policy change. I am suggesting we not. You need to prove that banning the Pledge should be done, not just that it shouldn't not be done.

Next, I remind you of my rebuttals and how I did NOT drop an argument.

I. Origins Don't Matter
It is irrelevant where the Pledge came from. What matters is how we use it today. US culture is present and future oriented. The Pledge of Allegience is an American tradition, not because of who wrote it, but because we have made it a tradition through its continued use; this is just like how we re-purposed Yankee Doodle.

II. Brainwashing Conspiracy
This idea that a pledge can instill blind nationalism through brainwashing is ridiculous. Sites that spread this idea that the Pledge is brainwashing also spread ideas such as “Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money is a 'Trade Secret'” and “Hillary made a secret deal with Huma to keep Weiner quiet” [1]. It is fun to read about conspiracy theories, but we must not give them any weight in rational arguments. PRO would also have you link xenophobia and violence to the Pledge. There is no secret message within the Pledge causing the flaws in US culture. I concede US culture is flawed, but the source of these flaws is not a school pledge. Perhaps instead of attacking the wording of the Pledge, our time and energy ought to be put toward determining the source of flaws in US culture.

III. Freedom of Religion Doesn't Apply
The Pledge is led, not forced. The worst a public school can do is insist you stand with your classmates. They cannot make a student recite the pledge. At most schools, students can opt out entirely [2]. Freedom of Religion doesn't apply. I did spend a few sentences on this in my previous speech, hence, not dropping the point.

As this is not the last round, I am free to add new argument.

A. Public Education, State Controlled
The government funds and implements the public education system. The government has the right to teach or not teach the concepts it chooses. The government chose not to include Creationism and Stem Cell research in its curriculum. The government may choose to have teachers lead students in praise of the government.

B. Easy and Educational
As I talked about in my previous speech, a pledge is a simple way to get through to children. Signed contracts and history texts are often too difficult for young children to comprehend. The repetition, listening, and speaking aspects of a pledge make the message digestible for children.

C. Necessary Preventative Manipulation
Children are very impressionable. Until they can think for themselves, it is better they are fed blanket positive statements about their home country, than be susceptible to manipulation by ideologies of foreign countries. Brains are not fully developed until age 25 [3].

D. Unnecessary Insult
77% of adults in the US in 2012 identified as Christian [4]. It is not worth insulting the large majority of the adult population. Insisting on eliminating the words 'under God' is a heavy handed insult to Christian's by implying the mere mention of their God in manipulative. As I said in my rebuttal of PRO's point III, freedom of religion is not breached by an optional pledge. Religion is already restricted in so many ways. Don't add another by eradicating every mention of it.

As you can see, PRO's points do not hold up against even light rebuttal, and there are even strong reasons to leave the practice of leading the Pledge exactly as it is.

1. http://www.abovetopsecret.com...
2. http://www.pewresearch.org...
3. http://www.academic.marist.edu...
4. http://www.gallup.com...;
Debate Round No. 3
TruthHurts

Pro

I forgot about this debate, so I will attempt to get in whatever response I can.

Remember that while I have the BOP, if some significant portion of my argument flows through, I win the round.

I will begin with a rebuttal of Con's new constructive material, then I will crystallize upon my original three contentions.

Rebuttals

I. Public Education/State Controlled

Two responses:

1. If the subject in discussion is itself a constitutional violation, then a state does not have a right to choose whatever it wants.

2. If you don't buy that, this debate is still a "should," not necessarily a question of whether they have the ability. If I can still show that the Pledge SHOULD not be recited, then I still win.

II. Easy and Educational

This seems to me like bona fide propaganda. Just keep repeating something, and people will believe it and find it to be true. Either way, this does not seem to be a legitimate way to foster critical thinking skills. Worst case, this is a wash that should not affect the round.

III. Necessary Preventative Manipulation

Two responses:

1. My opponent ridicules me for conspiracy theories (more on that later), yet claims that children in the United States are at risk of manipulation from foreign governments if we remove the Plege. Ok.

2. This seems to substantiate my claim that the Plege is a brainwashing, fostering blind nationalism. If we are feeding people who cannot think for themselves information, that is the definition of brainwashing [1].

IV. Unnecessary Insult

This is preposterous. If we follow Con's line of argument, any policy action that could offend a majority of people could not be done. I suppose that means that we should have allowed slavery to continue in the South, that we should ban gay marriage and abortion in conservative states, and that we should censor all ideas that could be construed as offensive. I am sorry, the United States is not a theocracy; rather, we treat all religions equally, per the 1st Amendment. I think the sponsorship of monotheism by the government is far more offensive and stigmatizing than removal would be.

This point literally does not matter.

Points of Crystallization

I. Nebulous Origins

I have shown all round that the Pledge, and its later permutations, were the direct result of jingoism and racism. Again, the only reason the Pledge was created in the first place was xenophobia, and it was changed in the throes of various Red Scares (see earlier source material). This casts a permanent stain on the Pledge, a stain that, with continued ignorance and continual of the status quo, will only sink further into the innate psyches of those who recite it.

Con, all round, has not provided significant argumentation against this, other than "it doesn't matter." I have debunked how this is the case, and demonstrated the risks of nationalism and xenophobia (which I will further expound upon later). Con cannot just laugh this off the flow, and, combined with my refutation of the faulty analogy with "Yankee Doodle Dandy," I have rebutted all of Con's claims. If I have shown that the origins of the Pledge are shameful, then we should not recite it, just as we should not recite the Confederate national anthem in schools.

II. Dangers of Nationalism

If you read my earlier arguments, I make several arguments and cite several sources that demonstrate the dangers of nationalism and xenophobia on the global and domestic scales. Con has resorted to attempting to criticize my source material and claim that my ideas are conspiracy theories. The two examples Con claims as analogous are the Red Cross refusing to disclose spending and Hillary Clinton covering up the Weiner scandal.

The interesting part of this is that both of those ACTUALLY HAPPENED [2] [3]. These are not conspiracies; they are mainstream news. By extension, using Con's only counter, we should see that my argument is true as well. Either way, I have demonstrably shown the dangers of nationalism. Con agrees that the Pledge instills nationalism (see Con's new constructive material), and, since I have shown it is bad since my first speech, I win on this.

III. Freedom of Religion

I don't think Con understands the argument here. If the government (the school is an extension of the government) espouses a religion, it is unconstitutional. I have argued this all round, and we have heard no refutation from Con. You, then, must find this as true, being a violation of the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment.

Con's only counter is that students can opt out. I have argued all round that 1) Students should opt-in, not have to opt-out, of religious activities in schools, and 2) De facto coercion is strong enough to negate the utility of opting out (see earlier source material). Just as a student having to opt-out of a prayer would (and has been found) [4] to be unconstitutional, having to opt out of an explicitly religious pledge is likewise unconstitutional in word and spirit. Con has not given any other counter, and cannot do so.

Thus, I have demonstrated how I win on all three of my constructive points, and have deconstructed Con's only contentions. Thus, I have won this debate.

I would like to remind Con that no new arguments are permitted (the only new arguments I presented were refutations to the new constructives, which is allowed in standard debate formats).

Thanks.

Sources

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
2. https://news.vice.com...
3. http://pagesix.com...
4. http://members.tripod.com...
ForSerious

Con

Something came up.
I apologize for not finishing.

Thank you for a debate with such direct clash.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by TruthHurts 2 years ago
TruthHurts
Whoa, I barely got that one in. 1 minute to spare.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Yeesh. Submitted with just under 12 minutes on the clock. I don't usually cut it that close!
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Yeesh. Submitted with just under 12 minutes on the clock. I don't usually cut it that close!
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Ah! The timer just went under an hour left.
Freaking out a little bit. Gotta stay focused!
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Never mind! As I hoped I made it back to a computer with enough time to respond.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
I apologize if I forfeit the round.
Chances are I'll return in time to post.
I'd rather risk forfeiting one round than post a half-baked response.
But don't worry. I haven't disappeared from the site.
No votes have been placed for this debate.