Posts Tagged ‘Red Scare’

burning flagpledge

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 the cover page of Red Channels, a pamphlet style book issued by the journal counterattack. This tract was published at the height of the ‘Red Scare’ or better known as ‘McCarthyism’. This increased fear of Communism was at its height during the 1950s and this right-wing journal that this image is symbolic of named 151 actors, writers, musicians, broadcast journalists, and others for their alleged Communist manipulation of the entertainment industry. This journal from June 22, 1950 effectively placed the list of 150 on the entertainment industry blacklist. This anti-communist groundswell of feeling actually challenges the concept of liberty and freedom as it is a restriction upon free speech and punishing those who are not of the same political opinion.  These measures could be said to be Communist to defeat Communism spreading in America and the red hand that covers the microphone in the picture was swiftly removed by the anti-communist movement in this period.

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Growing up, I am sure we were all familiar with the smurfs, a cartoon created in the 1980’s, which first originated in Belgium before being bought over by an American entrepreneur. However, many have argued that the cartoon was actually a form of propaganda to promote communism within society. Although they may be blue on the outside, the smurfs have been accused of being red on the inside, a colour which is commonly associated with that of communism. Firstly, many have commented that the character of Papa Smurf is based on Karl Marx, due to similar physical features such as the thick white beard and also the wearing of the red hat. Also Papa Smurf is a gentle, wise, and knowledgeable village elder/leader or as many have quoted him as being the symbol of a communist dictator since it is his duty is to ensure that all the Smurfs of the village get along and respect each other. Furthermore it can be argued that the smurfs do live within a classless society, in which all means of production are controlled by the people and all people are equal which is seen in regards to the smurfs having defined roles, live in identical houses and dress alike.
The capitalist government in return is represented by the character of Gargamel, who is portrayed as a greedy and ruthless man who wished to use the smurfs to gain wealth. It therefore conveys the idea that capitalism is based on the needs and wants of an individual as opposed to the needs of society. What is perhaps more symbolic is that throughout each episode the smurfs constantly defeat Gargamel, thus trying to emphasize that communism is stronger than capitalism.
Thus communism was portrayed via a cartoon probably without a lot of people knowing it and therefore making them more accepting of the communist way of life. Therefore the smurfs was a form of U.S communism.

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