Back in the late 1960s, the City Council in Freeport, Il. (not far from Applesauce World Headquarters), found itself embroiled in a controversy over an American flag.
The Stars and Stripes in the council chambers at Freeport City Hall had become faded with age and needed replacement, whereupon the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks offered a new flag as part of its so-called Americanism program.
But it just so happened that in those days, the Elks Club barred membership to non-white folks. If memory serves, an Elks member couldn’t even be married to a non-white.
Consequently, a petition was submitted to the City Council asking that the gift of a flag from the Elks be declined in favor of one from some non-discriminatory organization, like the Boy Scouts.
After all, Freeport had (and still has) a sizable black population, and two of the city aldermen back then were African-Americans.
The City Council debated the matter at length and decided to keep the flag from the Elks Club. The black aldermen subsequently planted small flags on their own desks and faced them, rather than the flag on the wall, during the weekly recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of council meetings.
I vividly recall the resentment and anger among some of the local Elks who took great umbrage at their racism having been subjected to such ridicule. There were others who were just embarrassed by the whole episode, and rightly so. Here was a pseudo-respectable organization to which many of the community’s movers and shakers belonged, and it had the gall to posture as a champion of Americanism while at the same time barring membership to non-whites.
Yes, the Elks Club had every legal right to practice discrimination (although it has long since repealed that policy). But to simultaneously claim some special dedication to Americanism was pure hypocrisy.
This little drama comes to mind whenever I have occasion to ponder concepts of Americanism. One such occasion arose today when I ran across THIS ESSAY, which defines Americanism in strictly conservative terms:
Americanism has been polluted by other “isms,” and by ideas brought from European nations that don’t seek to empower individuals, as we do. Everything from the welfare state to secular relativism has infiltrated America with help from progressives who stopped believing in the supremacy of Americanism. We feel the sting of their faithlessness every day as we watch our economy weaken, our government expand, our businesses struggle, our taxes shoot higher, and our cultural values become unrecognizable.
Americanism is freedom founded on the power of the individual, and his ability to achieve without undue government interference. It’s the idea that the state exists to serve man, to protect God-given rights, and to allow the greatest amount of political freedom within the bounds of ordered liberty. It’s the idea that people truly own their property and are not merely renting it, and that they are free to use their talents, initiative, and “can do” spirit to make the lives they dream for themselves a reality.
To me, one of the beauties of true Americanism is that I have the right (some might even say the moral obligation) to tell the author of that essay that he’s as much full of crap as those Freeport Elks were with their pretensions to patriotism.
The political right in this country has no corner on patriotism or Americanism.