I’ve seen all of the Rocky movies, and I watched the first one again this past week, but Rocky IV, in which he goes to Soviet Russia to fight Ivan Drago, will always be my favorite. Throughout the Rocky series, Rocky is portrayed as the average American joe; a hard-working, honest blue-collar guy with a loving wife and friends. By portraying Rocky this way, even after he becomes rich and famous, the moviemakers are able to keep him connected with what they view as the majority of Americans. But what I love so much about Rocky IV is that they essentially have Rocky defeating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and winning the Cold War for the United States.
In the first Rocky movie, Rocky lives the American Dream, going from rags-to-riches after getting the chance to fight on the national stage. This in itself is pretty momentous, the movie is telling people that if you keep working hard, you’ll get a break eventually and achieve all of your goals. In Rocky IV, this idea is taken 1000 steps further, because one guy essentially wins the Cold War. Rocky IV ends with the Soviet Russian crowd all cheering for Rocky, even though they hated him at first because he’s American. Overlooking the match are the Soviet government officials, who hate him too; but by the end, even they are willing to rethink their preconceptions. I believe that the movie implies that just as Americans believed certain negative stereotypes about the Russians, so too did the Russians believe certain negative stereotypes about us, and that at the end the Russians are cheering Rocky because they are willing to move past the stereotypes. One man changed all of their minds, which I believe is an American ideal as well, the idea of one person being able to make a real difference on the world. All of the Rocky movies are super American and patriotic, but Rocky IV is the most patriotic, because at that time, Russia and communism was everything Americans hated, and to defeat them was to tout your American pride.
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Upon considering America’s personal meaning to me, I realized that I had stumbled upon yet another great contradiction. The first thoughts that came to my mind when thinking of America were images of the burning American flag during the protests in Ferguson and of the American Humanist Association’s recent protest against the Pledge of Allegiance. To me, these highly controversial “anti-flag” images really exemplify how I am living in a nation where disrespecting such an important symbol is not punishable by law (see: Texas vs. Johnson 1989). This freedom truly upholds the power of our First Amendment, and, to me, illustrates the level of freedom here in America.
Yet, it occurred to me that even though it is my right as an American to rebel against the pledge or the flag, we as a nation still have a pledge of allegiance set as a social norm in the first place, thus creating the contradiction. We are given the freedom to do what we want (within reason) yet there is an expected way to behave when it comes to patriotism. Sure, we have the ability to sit out the pledge of allegiance, but why should such a free country need to instate a pledge in our schools and courts in the first place? To demonstrate what I mean, I will provide a hypothetical example; for instance, if it were broadcasted on the news that North Korea had implemented a pledge of allegiance in which all citizens were expected to stand and chant out an ode to their nation in a cult-like fashion, many American’s would deem this a “commie thing” and lambast North Korea for it. However, is that truly any different from us pledging to a piece of cloth to show the world that we are not a godless nation? In my personal experience, not saying the pledge will not get you killed, but there is certainly backlash to go along with this act of civil disobedience. While I never sat out the pledge myself, I have received criticism merely for omitting the “under God” portion even though I am given the right not to say any or all of it. Similarly, the image of the burning flag can practically reignite the Red Scare, and lead the burner to be deemed godless, communist, or savage (just look at the video description of the video linked below or any of the angry comments). Yet, both of these actions are one hundred percent legal according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ultimately, I am extraordinarily thankful for the amount of freedom given to me as an American citizen. I can voice my unpopular opinion without having to fear for my life. However, it becomes evident that there are a set of cultural norms here in America and they define my vision America. While I have never burned a flag, nor would I ever desire to do so, I am happy to live in a nation where if I were to choose to do so, I would be protected by our Constitution. America is a nation in which everyone is given a vast amount of personal liberty, yet one must truly be daring to take advantage of this liberty to its fullest extent.
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This image is a cover page of a 1961 anthology, taken from the Catholic comic Treasure Chest. This was a publication distributed bi-weekly to Catholic school-children in the U.S.A. The comic is a cautionary tale of the evils of Communism (branded in the comic as ‘the work of the devil ‘), charting its history from Karl Marx right down to the then-current leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. Included within, is a theoretical scenario of what could happen should the U.S.A fall to the Soviet Union. The comic ends with advice on what school-children should do to help combat this false doctrine. Children should prepare their minds and bodies so they can be vigilant against the inevitable apocalypse that would come. One of the last lines in the comic states that: ‘the final triumph of truth in the world may well be up to you.’
This publication essentially indoctrinates American children with the belief that Communism, and the efforts from the U.S to stop it, boils down to a black and white conflict between the forces of good and evil. It makes mention that on multiple occasions, through the lives of officials such as Lenin and Stalin, that the Communists lie, steal and kill in order to increase their power and to fulfill the dream of uniting the world under Communist rule. It draws sinister parallels with the events of the Book of Revelations (hence the one-world government.)
The comic instills a culture of fear and suspicion against the terror of the Red menace. A letter from the director of the FBI, John Edgar Hoover, writes that it is essential that children should learn more about communism: ‘for it helps us to recognize and detect the communists as they attempt to infiltrate the various segments of our society.’
The comic’s stark warnings of the Communist menace infiltrating American society has a tinge of irony considering it is a published by Catholic organization. Richard Hofstadter’s article The Paranoid Style in American Politics charts the long list of organisations that were perceived by paranoid American society as working in league with sinister foreign groups in order to destroy American values. Hofstadter lists Catholicism, as just one of these organizations that was concocting conspiracies to take down the United States. For example, Hofstadter relates the case of a false encyclical attributed to Pope Leo XIII telling American Catholics that on a certain date in 1893, they would rise up and exterminate all heretics. He states that: ‘a great many anti-Catholics daily expected a nationwide uprising.’
Therefore, for a Catholic organization to print propaganda branding Communists as subversive and sinister, when only a hundred years earlier, Catholics were being accused by American society of being exactly the same, is extremely hypocritical.
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The Lavender Scare/The Red Scare.
This political cartoon accused President Truman of protecting “traitors and queers”. President Truman’s loyalty board refused cartons like this from appearing in the Washington Herald Times. The picture is an anecdote to Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy depicting President Truman.
Around the same time the ‘red scare’ was taking place in the United States fronted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He used Communism to exploit homosexuals in government positions. A Senate report branded these people (homosexuals) with; ‘the lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of the foreign espionage.’ (http://diogenesii.wordpress.com/tag/the-lavender-scare/ ). It was thought in the 1950’s that homosexuality was a mental condition therefore these people would be more susceptible to becoming a spy or they could be blackmailed if they worked for the government. Richard Hofstadter refers to this type of propaganda as the ‘paranoid style’, playing on people’s fears and seeing the fate of conspiracy in ‘apocalyptic terms’ with the threat of nuclear warfare. Eric Foner points out that anticommunism was a form of self defence against Republican charges of disloyalty and became ‘ at tool wielded by white supremacists against black civil rights, employers against unions, and upholders of sexual morality and traditional gender roles against homosexuality., all allegedly responsible for eroding the country’s fighting spirit.’ (Foner, E (1998). The Story of American Freedom . New York : W.W. Norton . pg256.)
Anti-Communism was a means of keeping the minorities within American society under control and prevented them from mobilizing through exploitation and oppression in order to maintain capitalisation in America.
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For this week’s assignment we had to find a striking image of American ‘Anti-Communism’. I Google searched and this was one of the first images in found. I found this picture remarkable as it shows how the level of propaganda in the US had almost brainwashed its people into thinking that death was worse than communism; now there are no doubts that in some instances this maybe was the case, but it was not the case all of the time. I found this picture on a website called ‘Les Anglonautes’ (http://www.anglonautes.com/hist_us_20_cold_war/hist_us_20_cold_war.htm), which is a blog with lots of pictures relating to in this particular section, the Cold War. Along with these pictures there are descriptions of what those pictures are, where they were took and in some instances they are accompanied by articles from the ‘Times Online’, for example. The picture that I have chosen that has been taken at an Anti-Communist Rally in Hollywood Bowl in 1961 by the photographer Ralph Crane.
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This is a striking image from the Captain America comic, 1954. The title of the image is “Captain America… Commie Samasher”. This is particularly striking as this is such a renowned comic yet it uses the derogatory term ‘commie’ in it’s title and also shows the hero of the comic beating up a communist. It also contains a side caption which says “See Captain America Defy the communist hordes”. This shows just how strong anti-communist feeling was in America at the time as Captain America represents how ‘true Americans’ should feel about communism.
This image is also useful in relation to the freedom of speech aspect of our module. Foner describes how freedom of speech was not always a prominent factor in American society and the American feeling towards communism is another example of this. The image clearly shows how anti-communist Americans were and therefore communist ideas and views were looked down upon.
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This image of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg is a haunting reminder that the anti-Communist hysteria led to the execution of the second woman – a mother of 2 – by the American government.
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