July 4th: What History Class Didn’t Teach You

In celebration of the Fourth of July here are some forgotten or little known historic facts.

The pledge of allegiance was written by socialist minister  Francis Bellamy (1855-1931).  In its original form it read,

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923 the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. In 1954, the words “under God,” were added by President Eisenhower.

The United States has a history of suppressing free speech and separating families for political purposes.  The Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 was a series of four laws passed by Federalists who believed that Democratic-Republican criticism of Federalist policies was disloyal.  They feared “aliens” living in the US would sympathize with the French during a war.  It was one of the first tests of freedom of speech.  It permitted the deportation, fine, or imprisonment of anyone deemed a threat or publishing “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government of the United States.  Makes me wonder how Fox news as a whole hasn’t ended up in prison.

The Mexican war of 1846-1848 was an illegal act of aggression (not unlike Russia and the Ukraine) in which a militarily unprepared Mexico was pitted against the expansionist administration of James Polk.  When the war was over, Mexico had lost the territory that is now California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus citing national security.  The writ was a first line of defense against tyranny. It stated that any judge or court may compel those holding a prisoner to produce that prisoner and prove that the individual was legally incarcerated.  The suspension was invoked against John Merryman, a Maryland state legislator, arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington.  He was held at Fort McHenry by Union military officials.

The Palmer Raids of 1919-1920 were fueled by anti-immigrant hysteria and fears that “foreigners” would start a worker’s revolution.  No doubt this revolution would be for things like living wages, humane working conditions and the abolition of child labor.

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese American citizens were held in internment camps as a reaction to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  It was widely recognized as the most atrocious human rights violation ever committed by our government.  Until now.

The US has a history of taking what it wants and suppressing what it doesn’t like, all in the name of national security.  Then we wrap it all up in the flag, call it patriotism and celebrate our freedom of speech.  At least until we say something that annoys the government.

I love my country but I am ashamed and embarrassed to be an American at this moment in time.  The amoral  occupant of the White House is systematically dismantling much of what has made this country great and replacing it with fear and hatred. He is alienating our allies with his “America First” rhetoric. All the while tax cuts to the rich are spurring record profits for corporations, manufacturing jobs are moving overseas for cheap labor and the national debt is skyrocketing. History is repeated with anti-immigrant rhetoric and all-out war on human rights, women’s rights and civil rights.  He is polarizing political camps and feeding the gridlock that happens all too easily when party loyalty comes before loyalty to country.

The lines between patriotism and nationalism are dangerously thin. This is a time for true patriotism. It is a time for those who truly love our country to not be afraid to stand up to tyranny and the rule of the rich by the rich and for the rich. Sydney J. Harris clearly differentiated patriotism and nationalism:

“The patriot is proud of his country for what it does.  The nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does.  The first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.”

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