Mary Schafer was a perceptive and kind-hearted woman, who loved teaching first grade at Wynnewood Oklahoma’s Central Grade School. As an experienced educator, she knew that each new class would be filled with apprehensive children, which, in our case, consisted of thirty-eight six year olds who had just exchanged their familiar surroundings, freedom, and childhood playmates, for a large stone edifice full of strangers with schedules to keep. At the time, the learning process wasn’t bolstered (or encumbered, perhaps?) by programs like Preschool, Prekindergarten, Kindergarten, or Head Start, so Mrs. Schafer filled that void with an early form of product bundling whereby her students’ literary, social and citizenship skills could be enhanced through the daily use of one easy exercise. Only now, with the advantage of hindsight, can we fully appreciate the positive role her simple approach played in shaping our lives, and how destructive its loss has been to the fabric of our society.
Once we were “all in our places with bright shining faces,” Mrs. Schafer introduced herself to the class and we reciprocated by introducing ourselves to her, and to one another. Following this exchange of pleasantries, we turned our attention to the classroom’s king-sized blackboard and the letters of the alphabet that were displayed across its top — but on this day, we weren’t concerned with the production of mere consonants and vowels. Instead, we struggled to recognize, recite, and understand a string of hand written, and initially undecipherable, words called the Pledge of Allegiance. Although we didn’t know it at the time, our initial excursion into the wonderful world of reading had begun with a Gestalt-oriented, top-down, whole-word approach, which augmented the standard, tried and true, phonemic-phonetic, sound-it-out, bottom-up process.
During the first week of school, our morning schedule was always the same. Mrs. Schafer would go to the board and point at each word in the pledge, which we would pronounce in isolation before reciting the pledge in toto. She also explained the meaning of each word, (except for the phrase “under God,” which wasn’t added until 1954), so that its overall message of unity was clear. The following week, she erased the words from the board and led us in the pledge each morning. By the third week, however, she had turned that duty over to her classroom volunteers, while she utilized the same teaching method, and a silver dollar, to teach us to read and understand our national mottos, In God We Trust and E Pluribus Unum – From Many One. Our Mrs. Schafer was one innovative, dedicated, and determined lady, but in most of today’s government run indoctrination centers, she would be a persona non-gratia; and her teaching methods considered a malum prohibitum.
Although the pledge remained a fundamental part of our daily routine, as the years went by we learned that its message of unity was but a reflection of the thoughts and words of men who had led our nation through some of its darkest and most difficult hours; men like Washington, Lincoln, and especially Teddy Roosevelt.
In his farewell address, President Washington emphasized the need for national unity, and warned of enemies within and without that would seek its destruction.
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though most often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
Of all the things that could disturb the Union, Washington saw two issues that had to be avoided at all costs: the placing of regional and geographic needs and desires above those of the country, and the rise of political parties, which he believed
…in the course of time and things, will become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
To President Lincoln, Washington’s words must have tasted like honey in his mouth, but turned bitter in his belly. For more than any other man, he foresaw the schisms that threatened to destroy the nation, and openly declared that saving the Union superseded every other issue, up to and including that of slavery. In a rare response to public criticism, Lincoln replied to an editorial Horace Greely had written in The New York Tribune on August 22, 1862, and made clear his policy and position on emancipation of the slaves.
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
Lincoln was convinced that if the Union were lost everything would be lost. Yet even Lincoln’s unyielding dedication to saving the Union pales in comparison to that displayed by Teddy Roosevelt.
Where Washington had spoken in general terms about the dangers posed by the establishment of political parties, Roosevelt expressed his disdain for them in clear and unambiguous language.
The bosses of the Democrat Party and the bosses of the Republican Party alike have a closer grip than ever before on the party machines in the States and in the Nation. This crooked control of both the old parties by the beneficiaries of political and business privilege renders it hopeless to expect any far-reaching and fundamental service from either.
But his disdain didn’t end there. He reserved his most visceral and acerbic attacks for those who would purposefully seek to divide the citizenry in order to achieve their own special interests.
Of one man in especial, beyond anyone else, the citizens of a republic should beware, and that is of the man who appeals to them to support him on the ground that he is hostile to other citizens of the republic, that he will secure for those who elect him, in one shape or another, profit at the expense of other citizens of the republic. It makes no difference whether he appeals to class hatred or class interest, to religious or anti-religious prejudice. The man who makes such an appeal should always be presumed to make it for the sake of furthering his own interest.
If his attitude and language toward those duly elected politicians seems unduly harsh and intolerant, it is because he understood the damage their divisive tactics would do to the body politic, and to the nation. For Roosevelt, one’s allegiance to the republic was an all or nothing proposition.
We can have no 50-50 allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all. There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.
Furthermore, unlike today’s crop of political wind bags whose speechifying resembles MacBeth’s “…tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” Roosevelt exhibited a take no prisoners approach to even the most sensitive of subjects – like what makes an American truly an American, regardless of race, creed or national origin.
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room but for one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding-house; and we have room but for one loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.
We could use a man like Teddy Roosevelt today.
For those who were educated before the days of critical race theory, the pernicious doctrine of systemic racism, the fraudulent 1619 project, cancel culture, BLM, Antifa, and worst of all, the insistence of diversity on demand, the possibility that elected politicians and anti-American citizens would spend every waking hour devising new ways to divide the nation was unthinkable. Yet what was once unthinkable is now standard operating procedure. It is as though our domestic enemies have read the words of Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt and decided to turn them against us. “Yes,” they say. “They were right about the results of the actions they described, so that’s exactly how we’ll proceed.” Their boldness in employing these divide-and-conquer tactics has become so apparent that even Charles Barkley felt it necessary to condemn them.
Man, I think most white people and black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart. But I think our system is set up for our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer. I truly believe in my heart most white people and black people are awesome people – but we are so stupid following our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, and their only job is ‘hey, let’s make these people not like each other. We don’t live in their neighborhoods; we all got money. Let’s make the rich people and poor people not like each other. Let’s scramble the middle class.’ I truly believe that in my heart. The CBS Final Four show, 04-03-2021.
Sir Charles was correct, insofar as he went, but our politicians are no longer content with just pitting black against white and rich against poor. The power mad America haters in and out of Washington are determined to turn every group, no matter how large or small, against every other group. Like the mad scientists in a bad black and white B movie, members of the central government are working tirelessly to enrich every ounce of divisive material available; use it to reach critical mass, and set the destructive process of political fission in motion. And, like all good little mad scientists everywhere, they believe the process is under their control and the fall out can be managed — but they are badly mistaken. We are now dangerously close to reaching supercritical mass, and starting an irreversible chain reaction that will split our national nucleus, and destroy the Union forever.
Just what will trigger the reaction remains uncertain. It could be providing amnesty for some thirty million aliens who are here illegally, packing SCOTUS, the federal takeover of our elections, additional infringement of the second amendment, forcing states to mainstream the lgbtq+ movement or some other unacceptable destruction of our rights and liberties. But regardless of the triggering mechanism, two things are true: the drive to detonation continues apace, and its occurrence will be devastating and irreparable for the Union — but a new birth of freedom for Americans.