At a time when Americans dedicate their national holidays to barbecues, sporting events, and driving madly on crowded interstate highways to vacation homes and theme parks, it may be difficult to remember an era when patriotic observance was a matter of high seriousness and legislated pageantry.
But now the memory is restored in fascinating detail by Richard M.
Fried in the eye-opening The Russians Are Coming!After summarizing such patriotic developments as the sanctification of the American flag and the wide-and occasionally coercive-acceptance of the Pledge of Allegiance, Fried describes how the Ad Council, the American Heritage Foundation, and other organizations created "campaigns to sell America to the Americans" through carefully constructed "rededication" celebrations like "Know Your America" Weeks, Freedom Weeks, and traveling exhibitions such as the Freedom Train, which in the late 1940s brought original copies of seminal American documents directly to cities and towns across the country.
He vividly recreates the spectacle of clashing New York City parades involving thousands of participants, as celebrants of the newly-created Loyalty Day marched in opposition to pro-Communist May Day demonstrations just blocks away.
Most startling, though, is Fried's account of how Mosinee, Wisconsin was "invaded" by Communists in a staged media event sponsored by the American Legion.
Citizens allowed themselves to be searched at random while local officials acted the part of Stalinists, and the town restaurants were required to serve only potato soup and black bread.Meticulously researched and colourfully told, The Russians Are Coming! recreates an absorbing-and revealing-dimension of American history.