|Envisioning The American Dream BLOG
A visual remix of the American Way, is offered in this collection of satirical vignettes, ironically disarming media myths about war, peace and political propaganda. Utilizing collage, the collection of images form a pastiche of postwar possibilities presented in a Cold War media calculated to sell American exceptionalism to the world. The images are appropriated from sources as varied as mass media periodicals from the 1940's, 50's, 60's, vintage advertising illustrations, vintage children's school books from the 50's and 60s, and an array of ephemera. The result is a cultural jamming of the Cold War Culture of Consumerism and Capitalism.
Never were American dreams more potent or more seductive than in Post-War America when the U.S.A. stood united and confident at the pinnacle of global power.
Like most American school children, I was innoculated with a strong dose of Americanism, which if administered at an early age would build up your immunity to any opposing belief system. To further boost my immunity, a long term slow drip dispensed by the school district would guarantee a constant infusion of truth justice and "The American Way"- the very embodiment of freedom, democracy and progress. back to top
Follow The Leader
With our sparkling minty-fresh smiles and anti-bacterial clean handshakes, Americans would meet our obligations to the Free World- a Coke in every Frigidaire and a Chevy in every garage. Spreading our way of life around the globe made star-spangled, finger- pointing, wash n' wear wearing Uncle Sam the best-loved uncle in the world. The path to the future would be bright and profitable. back to top
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
"I'd Like To Buy The World a Coke!"
We would help underdeveloped countries improve their lives and know the real joy of good living by exporting American consumer goods so they could better resist Communist pressures.
Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of democracy think of ice-cold Coca Cola- the sign of good taste.
Choosing Up Sides
When the oil-lit torch was passed to JFK he enthusiastically continued to encourage American consumer exports to developing markets, stating:"too little attention has been paid to the part which an early exposure to American goods, American skills and the American Way of doing things can play in forming the tastes and desires and customs of these newly emerging nations."
Winning their hearts and minds we would help starving counties grow big and strong like Americans. back to top
Who Do You Trust?
Meanwhile a manipulative Moscow stopped at nothing to incite hostility and fear and suspicion of a well-meaning America.
Even All-American Coca Cola, that passport to refreshment, came under attack from the Communists, claiming they were agents of U.S. Capitalism. An article from Time Magazine in March 1950 reported that :"France's Communist press bristled with warnings against 'Coca-Colinization'. Coke salesmen were described as agents of the OSS and the US State department. 'Tremble,' roared Vienna's Communist Der Abend, 'Coca Cola is on the march!"
Face The Facts
The Soviets' slanderous lies were put forth in a classic Cold War tome entiltled The Soviet Image of the US: A Study in Distortion published in 1950.
"Soviet propaganda" the book authoritatively explains, "claim we were attempting to subject the world's people to American domination and that Americans use a wide range of tactics in which fraudulent promises and threats of force predominate."
"The predatory nature of American Capitalism is attributed to the lust after power and wealth of a small group of all powerful Wall Street Magnates."
Our Answers to these Krazy Kremlin claims?
The Big Payoff
American industries are the symbol of our strength and like the biceps of the healthy and strong bespeak the wisdom of our ways.
Apologize for being big? We're proud of our size...we grew the hard way...the American way...the competitive way!
With the conviction of a car salesman selling a wouldn't-you-really-rather-have-a -Cadillac, we were convinced that America was the standard by which the world's other countries were to be judged. Indeed when you compared, we were beyond comparison- where else would you find a counry that offered so many advantages. No other country ever inspired such a deep or widespread admiration as the U.S.A., the Cadillac of countries.
AMBASSADOR OF PEACE
"Mr. Trouble never hangs around...when he hears this mighty sound....Here I come to save the day!"
Just as you could count on your parents to protect you, so we were taught the U.S. could be relied upon in all matters of safeguarding the peace and security of the world. "Our soldiers don't have to swagger to command respect." stated an ad run by the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Services in LIfe Magazine. Their friendly presence in key spots around the globe inspired confidence in millions of people who are troubled and uncertain."Our nation meets the threats to freedom and works for world peace wherever its needed."
Fun and Fortune
Following in Uncle Sam's globetrotting footsteps, Post-War Americans of all stripes were traveling abroad venturing out into the Cold War world as never before, spending billions of dollars on fun for-all vacations. But tourists weren't the only ones packing their passports. American soldiers were seeing the world too. Uncle Sam had gotten into the travel business offering soldiers a trip of a lifetime.
Join The Army See The World
The Great Getaway
Uncle Sam's boys were everywhere to be found. Today's Army wants to join you!
From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli....Far from the hum-drum of life at home, he offered so many travel packages, accommodations, tour plans, promising a date with adventure...pack your bags...join your friends.... it was hard to refuse.
A Trip of a Lifetime
Some lucky lads might be off to the Mideast where Aladdin never had it so good, as storybook pictures come to life, or Latin America, glamour-land of the New World where you can live out your daydreams you've had for so long, while a travel adventure awaits you in Sunny Guatemala.
Imagine! All the foreign flavors of a romantic city are yours to enjoy in Beirut...life takes on a new sparkle as you enter the fun world that awaits you in Berlin....the breathtaking splendor that lies ahead in Laos....romance under the stars is the perfect setting for an evening filled with thrills in Iran....the land where yesterday meets tomorrow in the Belgian Congo where surprises are in store for you.
Wherever Uncle Sam sends you, you could be sure there would be a welcome mat. Along with soldiers and their nuclear installations, their happy nuclear families arrived by the boatloads. Unofficial Ambassadors, these military families would cheerfuly spread the American way of life in the hundreds of bases that circled the globe . Where there's Coke there's hospitality.
In more than 100 countries...over 58 milllion times each day someone enjoys the always welcome lift of the U.S. military, the sense of right entitlement that belongs to the U.S. alone... erect a military installation anytime, anywhere.
You'll Love Everything About Vietnam...
It has everything you'll want... for gaiety and gracious hospitality, the old world colonial charm of sparkling Saigon will keep your cameras clicking.
War's Lighter Side
Be sure to take home a souvenir chrome-plated Zippo lighter for the folks back home. Have a local craftsman engrave it with a "cute-as-a button Snoopy on his doghouse". It's sure to bring years of useful pleasure and fun.
No visit to Vietnam is complete without using that memento Zippo in an old native custom of hide and seek or as the Marines called it "search and destroy". Nothing sets a village's grass huts on fire quicker than an All-American Zippo!
Yes Sir, when there's a wrong to right Uncle Sam will join the fight!
In God We Trust
Long before George W. Bush marched into the Bible Lands with God on our side and his belief of America as Crusader State, God has had a long standing in our government. Presidents from Lincoln to Wilson larded their speeches with salvation.
From God's lips to Give-em' hell-Harry Truman, "We were God's Chosen Nation" charging us with the obligation to assume world leadership and spread our way of life around the globe.
Even in the POW!WOW!ZAP! 1960s, the Johnson Administration echoed Harry's hubris when they claimed to be conducting a Holy War against those godless Communists in Vietnam. "Holy Hanoi Batman", we were on a crusade! back to top
Americans were the most envied people on the planet. You couldn't help but stand and admire us. No other country so accented the march of new ideas. With more bounce and zoom in every step we could run faster and jump higher.
No other country was so generous and tolerant embodying the best of democracy, diversity and tolerance.
Victorious after WWII, hadn't President Truman thanked Almighty God for enabling the American's to defend "His Civilization" against the evil of the Japanese?
Who wouldn't want to embrace the American Way? back to top
One need only look at the outpouring of love we received from the Japanese during our Post-WWII Occupation as the very model of how others embrace us.
An article entitled: "Why The Japanese Love Us" that appeared in Life Magazine, December 2, 1946 joyfully informs the reader that: "The Japanese admire victory in war above all else. ...When Americans arrived they obviously deserved admiration as victors."
"They proclaim they were beaten by Americans....and finally the only way for Japanese to save any face at all was not to admit but to proclaim that they had been beaten by superiors which moreover left them a chance to save face completely by becoming eventually more American than Americans themselves!" back to top
Oil The Way To The Bank- Finders Keepers
Contrary to what we might believe, the image of beefy, swashbuckling Americans racing across the deserts carrying the blazing torch of the light of democracy to the darkest deserts of the land of Aladdin, was never part of the thousand and one stories of The Arabian Nights.
The Middle East has long been a battleground for the hearts and minds and petroleum of the people who live there. Oil and progress go together.
Begining in the roaring 20's as Model T's kept rolling off the assembly line and energy- consuming Americans swooned over Rudolph Valentino in "The Shiek of Araby" falling in love with Arabian Romance, the roving eyes of U.S. oil companies lusted after more than the harem girls of Hollywood ; they covetted the rich oil supply in the enchanted land of Aladdin.
The big Oil Companies have been carrying a torch ever since, creating a whole new alliance- a religious -military -industrial- complex. In the great American tradition, the better you live the more oil you use! And the U.S. would be on the march to provide it for you.
Perhaps oil's not well that ends well, especially when fuels rush in.
SHELL SHOCK AND AWE:
Whether they were class president, chairman of the teen canteen, Senior Prom Queen, or lead in the class play, a graduating teen's future loomed ahead with possibilities.
Perusing through my vast collection of vintage high-school and college yearbooks from the 1940's, 50's 60's and 70's, it was clear that no matter the decade, whether the graduate was sporting a flat-top or slicked-backed pompadour, beehive, pixie-cut or anchored with a bow, scruffy shag or neatly clipped patent-leather hair, the fresh, eager faces filled with optimism were interchangeable.
2-cute-2 B Forgotten
It didn't matter if they were jitterbugging at a sock hop, doin' the hustle, or twisting the night away, there was a whole lotta shakin' going on as these teens anticipated an exciting world of future endeavors.
Be All You Can Be
The real possibility that so many of these hopeful faces might have been lost to war seemed especially poignant.
In contrast to the reassuring announcements of dramatic American victories we heard at home, were the searing images of death and horror we saw in Life Magazine and later in our own living rooms on TV.
By juxtaposing the yearbook portraits with iconic images of the horrors of combat from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, my collage "Shell Shock and Awe" narrates the full story of the devastation of war. back to top
MOTHERS FOR PEACE
The bold centerpiece image of my collage , "Shell Shock and Awe" is an ad from 1939 before the U.S. entered WWII.
The ad ran in a Woman's Home Companion, a mainstream woman's magazine. This full- page advertisement appeared alongside recipes for the 1940's housewife for husband-pleasin' meals and advice on hanging dainty curtains. The contrast between the usual vintage advertising to women and a daring war protest ad was startling.
With its powereful stereotypical image of a loving mother holding her tiny son, she asks the question whether she would be raising her son only to send him off to war. Confronted with war preperations on an unparalleled scale and the casual talk of another inevitable war, the ad was an urgent call for women and mothers to unite against war.
Bucking the usual media stereotype's of women as happy housewives in the 1950s and 60s, anti-war and peace advocacy groups led by mothers and women have historically sprung up in reaction to war. One such group Another Mother For Peace, founded as a grassroots group in opposition to the Vietnam war is still active today, joining other groups such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace in their opposition to war. back to top