Thursday, January 5, 2012
Hippie News & Stuff, Jan 10, 12: Bothered
You pretty much cannot go into the blogosphere--that seething, churning cauldron of hegemonically mis-directed rage, contempt and general loathing--without reading some variant on the following:
"What HAPPENED to "the America I thought it was," when I was growing up?"
If it's not just misplaced nostalgia, not just empty longing for times that never were, then when DID things start going wrong?
Well, the other day, amid musings on the Pledge(s) of Allegiance, I think I may have accidentally stumbled upon, if not the answer, then at least the date from which I think you can reliably date the recognizable configuration of the decline:
July 11, 1954.
That was the date on which an act of Congress inserted two words--a preposition, and a noun--into a non-binding, sentimental paean written by a radical Socialist minister to the (already transparently mythological) values of the Country.
I think the insertion of those words into that document opened the theistic floodgates and pretty much forever changed the balance of power between the Church and the State.
I think at that moment, the balance tipped, and the Billy Grahams of the world gained ascendancy, and the "noble Experiment" that was our secular democracy was mortally wounded, when that essential barrier was fatally and forever breached...
The two words were "under God," and the document was the Pledge of Allegiance.
It's true that it isn't one of the "founding" documents, but--by virtue of the precise summary of it that it offers--it is undeniably PART of the founding mythology. It also bears the Presidential and congressional imprimaturs. (Which isn't bad for a bit of writing meant to both increase magazine consumption AND the loyalty of immigrant children).
Unnoticed at the time--like the first faint lump of a tumor--in retrospect it seems to betray a really disturbing symptom of a failure of confidence by a country which had emerged from the worst wars in the history of the world as the greatest POWER in the history of the world, and had done so under the banner "E Pluribus Unum"--From the many, One." That put the power in and with the people. With the introduction of the Deity, the power is withdrawn from the people and replaced with "trust" in some absent, unaccountable, probably imaginary Being.
And in that moment, I think you see the origins of the ideological conflicts which now beset and bother and bewilder us almost into paralytic distraction, today.
So, hippies, if anybody asks you where the decline of America began, tell 'em God started it. See ya at the beach...
Written by Francis Bellamy, for inclusion in a propaganda campaign to win immigrants' loyalties, it appeared in magazine being marketed to school children "in honor of" the 400th Anniversary of Columbus landing. Before the last addition, the Pledge had been modified three times previously: In 1923, the National Flag Conference called for the words "my Flag" to be changed to "the Flag of the United States", so that new immigrants would not confuse loyalties between their birth countries and the United States.
The words "of America" were added a year later. The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time, in the following form, on June 22, 1942:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
It is required that it be recited in every classroom in New Mexico once per day. Most schools have a different kid every day recite it over the intercom. Most states have similar laws. Some states require each student to recite it: Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Maryland and Mass. "in God We Trust" was foisted off in the Cold War to replace the ancient national slogan, E Pluribus Unum," in almosthe same year "Under God" was stuffed into the Pledge, and for the same reasons: the Red Scare. This is an early example of how a skillful manipulation can turn the national fear into political advantage. We'll NEVER return to "E Pluribus Unum," and it signifies, really the first evidence of the "failure" of the Amercan dream....