End of Empires
the pledge of allegiance WITH Ronald Reagan
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
“Thank you, class,” I said. “You may be seated.”
Moe sighed as he crammed his long legs down under his desk. “That gets old, Mr. Franklin,” he said. “We’re not even in class right now.” His sad demeanor vanished and he broke out into a huge smile. “Are we time-travelling or what?”
“What do you care, Moe?” Amelia intervened. “Since kindergarten, you’ve always looked for ways to get out of school work. I think you’d be a big supporter of the pledge and would try to add more paragraphs to it so that the classwork is stalled even longer.”
“That’s a good idea,” Moe replied, his finger wagging in the air. “I wonder what else we should say in the pledge?”
“I remember in first grade,” Raven said, “when Moe brought a packet of ketchup to school and squirted some up his nose to make Ms. Beavis think he had a bloody nose. Moe did all that just to get out of class.”
“I got out of class all right, but Nurse Nutter shoved so much gauze up my nose it hurt for days.”
“Didn’t some people try to take the pledge out of public schools?” Jax asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “Some have. But attempts so far have failed.”
“I don’t want them to take the pledge away,” Raven said. “Since I’ve been in your American history class, Mr. Franklin, I understand the privilege of saying the pledge.”
“I’m so proud to hear that, Raven. I’m sure that makes God happy too. But atheists don’t believe in God,” I explained, “so they want the words ‘under God’ taken out of our schools.”
Jax, with his insatiable appetite for trivia, was already thumbing through his history book.
“The Pledge of Allegiance,” he read out loud, “was originally written to express to young Americans a love for their country, a love for the principles and ideals that the early founders wrote into the Constitution, and a desire to continue those principles forward. The words ‘nation under God’ steered our country to prosperity and still strengthen us today.”
I cleared my throat. “'If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under' . . . Who can tell me which U.S. president said that?" I asked the class.
“George Washington?” Raven guessed.
“Nope,” I answered, “but this president talked about how America should believe and act just how the forefathers would have. This president said, ‘George Washington believed that religion, morality, and brotherhood were the pillars of society, stating you couldn’t have morality without religion. And yet today we’re told that to protect the first amendment, we must expel God, the source of all knowledge, from our children’s classrooms. Well, pardon me, but the first amendment was not written to protect the American people from religion; the first amendment was written to protect the American people from government tyranny.’”
“Ronald Reagan,” Jax said, his face buried in his book. He then looked up. “That was definitely Ronald Reagan.”
“Yes. President Reagan was famous for understanding how freedom and faith must go together to have a successful democracy. He knew that taking away people’s freedoms meant also taking away their faith.”
“Like the communists did that didn’t believe in God,” Amelia said.
“Yes. And Reagan understood that freedom not established in faith meant mayhem. He wanted all people to experience their personal freedoms but not to forget their personal faith, because it’s just as important as freedom. There’s so much we could learn from Reagan!”
“Chill, Mr. Franklin,” Moe said. “You’re pacing again like you do when you start talking about the Revolution.”
“Everyone gather around.” I set the timepiece for 1988 and as the time portal opened I yelled out, “Moscow, Soviet Union.”
* * *
“I look like the bad dudes in Red Dawn!” Moe exclaimed, fist pumping like he just scored a touchdown.
We stood in a chilly drizzle. Our coats were heavy, our boots were squeaky, and our hats were furry.
“That is the coolest castle I’ve ever seen!” Raven said.
The “castle” stood in front of us with seven towers reaching up, all different heights and colors. The top of each tower was tear-shaped with a different swirly design or checkered pattern.
“That’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral,” I said. “It opened in 1561.”
“They look like ginormous onions sitting on the towers,” Moe said.
“They look like soft serve ice cream cones to me,” Jax observed. He pointed to the green- and yellow-swirled one. “That’s lemon-lime, and that one,” he said, pointing to the blue and white top, “is blueberry pie.”
“Where are we?” Amelia asked.
“We are in the Red Square of Moscow in the Soviet Union. What is now called Russia.”
“We’re in 1988,” Jax observed, “so all those dudes with machine guns are communists!” He motioned to a group of marching soldiers across the square.
“We can’t let them see us,” Moe said. “They’ll shoot any invaders!”
A big, bushy tree stood next to us alongside the sidewall of the cathedral. Moe jumped in it and disappeared into the foliage.
“C’mon!” he said. “Hide in this tree.”
We climbed in and up the tree. “Thanks, Moe,” I said.
The guards marched passed each building, heading for the cathedral. They wore gray from head to toe and carried guns on their left shoulders.
“Shhh, Raven!” Moe whispered.
“Can’t help it,” Raven replied. “It’s my allergies. Achoo!”
“They’re coming this way,” Amelia said. “No more sneezes!”
Raven climbed up to a higher branch and sneezed again. “I can’t get away from whatever’s making me sneeze!”
“Hold your breath,” Amelia insisted. “The soldiers are right there!”
“Hey, I see an open window to the cathedral,” Jax whispered. “We should escape in there.”
The window was only a short distance. We could all reach it if we climbed up to the branch Jax was on. The soldiers were approaching, turning around the cathedral and right toward our tree. I motioned to the kids to go through the window. We didn’t need Raven sneezing on top of the communist military. They didn’t look like the type who would say, “God bless you,” when she did.
Jax was first. He dove into the opening three stories up. Luckily, the soldiers paid no mind to our movements. Amelia and Moe went through the window next.
“Aaaaah—” Raven started to sneeze. I pushed her and myself off the tree branch and into the cathedral tower just as the “chooooo” came out.
A soldier looked up as we were leaping over him and into the window. Our jump knocked a nut off the tree and it dropped straight down on him. Hopefully, it knocked him out, but I wasn’t looking back out to find out.
Raven and I toppled onto the floor of the cathedral tower. We dusted ourselves off and got to our feet.
The look on the kids’ faces was pure awe.
The small room was surrounded with walls of gold pressed with delicate designs and décor. Medieval paintings of angelic beings hung on one wall. The light from the window framed the middle painting like a spotlight.
“Is this Rapunzel’s tower?” Raven asked.
“It is one of the most exquisite chapels ever built, isn’t it?” someone asked from behind an altar in the back.
We all froze in place like ice sculptures.
“Oh, we are so sorry!” I said, my back still to him. “We had no idea anyone was in here. We will just leave—”
“Nonsense, please stay,” the man said. He got up from kneeling. “I was just praying. I always pray before I go into a Summit Meeting. While never willing to bow to a tyrant, our forefathers were always willing to get on their knees before God.”
“President Reagan!” Amelia screamed.
“Yes,” Reagan chuckled. “I’m surprised to see young Americans here.”
“Well, we kinda slipped in,” Moe said.
“I see that.”
Reagan pointed to the painting of an angel. “You know, when this country turned communist, the leaders closed this cathedral down because they had no need for religion. One leader, Lenin, said, ‘We do not believe in God.’ He said religious faith and communism conflicted with each other*.” Reagan shook his head. “It’s appalling that these naturally religious, good Russian people are being denied basic rights because of their government’s philosophies. God intended people to be free. Messing around with that is unbiblical.”
Reagan walked to another painting and studied it. It was of Mary swaddling baby Jesus. The kids gathered around.
“I've always believed that our blessed land was set apart in a special way,” Reagan continued. “That God had a plan that placed our great continent between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love for freedom and the courage to uproot themselves, leave homeland and friends to come to a strange land. And with coming to our land, they created something new in all the history of mankind—a land where man is not beholden to government, government is beholden to man.”
“Some Americans don’t believe that God has a part in our country,” Jax said.
“We must be careful and diligent then, because if we let our faith die, we invite much destruction. Without faith, freedom could lead to confusion, wickedness, and even the destruction of other people’s freedoms. Faith is what builds disciplined freedom, where we all look out for the well-being of others.”
“Many people want to take the words that have to do with God out of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Raven told Reagan.
“America is a nation under God,” Reagan said. “With our freedom, we must stand up and protect our faith. Faith makes democracy work because faith is what compels us to love and serve our neighbors, which is absolutely essential for democracy or else we have tyranny all over again. It is the twin beacons of faith and freedom that have brightened the American sky, each strengthening the other.”
“That makes so much sense!” Moe said.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” Reagan said. “I have a Summit meeting to attend. I don’t want to keep the leader of the most powerful communist nation waiting.”
“Do you ever get nervous?” Raven asked.
Ronald Reagan rubbed his chin and grinned. “You know, it’s intriguing,” he said. “At each of our Summit meetings so far, I have opened them in front of the leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, with a prayer for guidance, and Gorbachev has always closed with the words: ‘If it’s God’s will*.’ Even the leader of a communist country that denies both faith and freedom to his people will still state God in his dealings. America should do the same.”
Ronald Reagan opened the gold-plated door. A throng of security guards waited for him on the other side of the door.
* * *
“Ronald Reagan had unbelievably strong faith to go to an atheist country and pray in one of their banned chapels,” Amelia said once we were back safely in our classroom and away from communist soldiers.
“He did!” I chuckled. “Reagan fought a public spiritual battle against communism, truly believing religious freedom is the heart of personal liberty. Reagan once said, ‘There hasn't been a serious crisis in my life when I haven't prayed, and when prayer hasn't helped me.’ Reagan lived and led the country by the words God said in the Bible in 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ When he was president, Reagan contributed to America’s economic recovery and the eventual USSR’s end of communism because he was a man of great faith and daily prayer.”
“Our forefathers really had strong principles and a whole lot of faith to guide them to make a fair and free country,” Raven commented. “The Pledge of Allegiance means so much more to me after hearing what the great Ronald Reagan had to say about protecting God’s presence in our policies.”
“Hey, guys,” Moe said, walking to the front of the class. “Can we say the pledge again? Reagan was right, we have to do everything we can so we don’t lose our country.”
My Band of Patriots stood in unison and joined Moe.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”