One from Many
Political slandering and the creation of mottos as propaganda tools have a rich history.
The phrases and images selected as visual or cerebral cues can instill a false sense of patriotism (as in the meaningless term “The War on Terror”). Or, they can be brainless encomiums such as “Just Say No” (to drugs, to sex outside the bonds of marriage, etc.).
They can also be a call-to-arms against some enemy, whether real or imaginary. “Godless Commies” was a popular phrase during the Cold War – it reflected the bigotry of Christianity by claiming Communists had no god, therefore they were “evil”. Never mind thatJohn Birch Society, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and white-bread America in the 1950s to believe it was the “godlessness” of the “heathen” that was the greater crime against humanity than the massacres of millions.
Today, we are not immune to slogan slinging. The current politicizing of nebulous “family values”, for example, in the oft-used “Preserving Family Values” is laughable – the phrase “family values” appears absolutely nowhere in the United States Constitution. A contrived WASP concept of familial-based “morals” was not a concern for the framers of that document. Thus, from a constitutional perspective, “family values” – as bandied about by today’s idiocracy – is of no value.
The simple truth is the men inside fighting the Mexican Army were not only in the wrong they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the trespass on Mexican lands, Texans lobbying for complete independence from Mexico (not necessarily wanting to join the United States, but wanting to be free of Mexico) used the debacle of The Alamo blood-bath as a war cry. [Even today, many Texans harbor a desire to fulfill the original notion of a Republic of Texas, seceding from the United States and establishing a foreign presence on US soil.]
“Remember the Maine!” was a slogan leading to an extended war based on the false belief that Cuba’s military had sunk the Maine, a US ship in Cuban waters, on February 15, 1898. The ship had been sent to Havana Harbor to protect US citizens and interests from danger during the Cuban revolution against Spain. The ship mysteriously exploded and sank. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, always looking for a way to sell newspapers, conflated the accident (the explosion has been investigated many times and the conclusions always point to a boiler mishap) into an incident in which the Cuban military had someone blown up the ship with a mine! His agitation and yellow journalistic rumor-mongering actually created a war where none had existed – the Spanish-American War was a product of Hearst’s slanders, inciting American public opinion against Cuba. [The idea was for Cuba to be wrested from Spain, then for the US to take possession of the island nation.]
Tokyo Rose, a female character created by Japanese propagandists, effectively used banter and catch phrases to undermine prudish, weak-minded US personnel in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. Thirteen female radio announcers in Japan formed a specialized group; all were native speakers of American English. They were collectively known as “Tokyo Rose”. This cadre of Roses broadcast over frequencies US military people could receive.
The most infamous of the “Roses” was an American woman born of Japanese parents on US soil (Los Angeles, California) in 1916. Her name was Iva Ikuko Toguri (later, D’Aquino). She was stranded while visiting Japan when World War II broke out. Educated and intelligent, and desperately in want of a job, she elected to join the Japanese propaganda cause in 1943. Her radio broadcasts (as did most of the Roses’) included music interspersed with discomforting innuendos spoken innocently in sing-songy, teasing English: “American G.I., it’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your wife is?” The phrase “Do you know where your wife is?” proved to be particularly effective. The male American G.I. regularly used foreign prostitutes. It was no stretch for him to imagine his stateside wife or sweetheart enjoying similar delights in the arms of another man.
After the end of the war, Iva was convicted of treason, fined $10,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1949. She was released in 1956 (serving about six years), and disappeared into the American landscape. She was pardoned in 1977 by President Gerald Ford after a later investigation led to mitigating information. She died in September 2006.
One of the concepts championed for the new government was a strong, central presence. This meant the states had to forego some of their rights in favor of federal jurisdiction. Over time, the cohesive sense of the United States was captured in the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”. This translates from Latin into “out of many, one”. It is an elegant motto, describing in simplest terms how strongly a composite can be. In this case, the United States was considered greater than the sum of its humbler colonial parts.
As it turns out, it is not American at all.
The first successful general magazine, though, was started in London in 1731 by Edward Cave, writing under a pseudonym. The Gentlemen’s Magazine had a broader appeal than earlier rags. It was a monthly literary miscellany that was hugely popular. Its cover featured, as was typical of the day, wordy descriptions of its content. Toward the bottom of the cover, though, there was an interesting illustration accompanied by two phrases:
The central image is of a hand grasping a bunched bouquet of flowers. The left-hand phrase, “Prodesse & Delictare” is incidental. It is the right-hand motto that catches the eye: “E Pluribus Unum”. Both the phrase and the illustration are uncomfortably familiar. Modify the fist grasping a bouquet to an eagle’s claw clenching a bundle of arrows, take the “E Pluribus Unum” sentiment, intact, and one has the symbolism and the motto of The United States of America!
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