During WWI & WWII, the United States waged a massive public relations blitz with tens of thousands of war posters, often seen in libraries, post offices, gas stations, schools and even churches; in big cities and small towns. The extent to which these mass-produced images recruited men and women not only for the various military branches, but extended into the everyday lives of those left at home were, in some cases, surprisingly comprehensive about 'pro-patriotic' personal grooming products, how to be thrifty to feed one's family, and supporting the effort with war bonds. The degree that these images delved into American home life speaks to the US government's levels of 'sanctioned' patriotism, but it also addresses that era's public obedience and adherence to its governing authority. (It's a concept not as readily shared today for numerous incidents of our government's and politicians' predilection for abusing the public's trust starting with Nixon, and the wars in Vietnam, Central America and Iraq).
I do not know the names of the artists who created these images, and really that's not the motivation for writing this article. Instead, the following bombardment of chest-puffingly proud images is so we, too, can feel the 'swell of patriotism' that people must have felt when first seeing them. The messages are quite inspiring, serious, conceptually inventive, and sometimes humorous, but in general they call us to come together as a unified front, to help in any way we can to win the fight, to keep up the morale of our troops, keep out a diligent eye for spies and pray that our side will be victorious over the enemy.
The lines of what was perceived as Good vs. Evil were maybe more clearly drawn back then, but still, the government's call to service was multi-layered and multi-generational. The results you will see below, did their job and unified the country to service for a common good. Propaganda like that rarely works in today's world. Our jaded experiences with our government's prolonged war efforts mandate that we have some kind of updated awe-inspiring "Be all you can Be" pre-movie trailer, or some advertising blip before enjoying our Maroon Five Youtube video.
The concept of political posters is maybe old-fashioned, and reminds us of our parents' and grand-parents' era. It's from a time we still consider innocent; where a man's word was to be trusted, and a handshake and a slap on the back while saying "Thank You for your Service" was sincerely expressed and made people weep. Wouldn't we all like to be able to erase a little of this generation's ignorance of anything other than Youtube videos and Ipods, and wouldn't we like to be able to trust a politician's word, and believe in a common good? It may come back in some nostalgic way. (Some believe it started to in 2008.....)
It does come back, a little, when seeing these prints, these vestiges of our past when we could choke up while singing the National Anthem, drink powdered milk (which sucked), car-pool, raise our own food and can it, recycle books for the troops to have something to read, and conserve our electricity by turning off the lights and going to bed at a 'reasonable' hour. What a time it must have been to live in, and what a shame this current generation can't appreciate the sacrifices EVERYONE, not just the soldiers, had to and were
willing to make for the 'Cause'.
One can only hope some spark of that nostalgic patriotism kicks in on Memorial Day, when the family prepares for its first of the summertime cookouts. It's a place where everybody's taste in clothing goes out the door for the day and revolves around some red, white and blue garment, emblazoned with the US flag, and old veterans bring out their military caps and polish their dust-covered medals. And kids wave their little kid-sized American flags and suck on those red, white and blue rocket cooler pops, and everyone heads into town to set up their chairs along Main Street America (just like we saw in 'True Lives') to wait patiently for the Memorial Day parade where the floats and beauty queens cruise by. And maybe a tug of patriotism will catch our breath as everyone follows the high school marching band, like children skipping to the tune of a pied piper, to the local cemetery; where a sea of US flag-strewn wreaths have been reverently laid to rest upon all the soldiers' graves. And maybe it will kick in only when a military drill team, in their crisp, clean sparkling-buttoned uniforms and glass-like polished shoes, gives it's ear-splitting 21 gun salute to their fallen brethren. Or maybe the solemnity of it all will hit us after one of the town's ministers calls for a moment's silence to ponder the tomb of Unknown Soldier, whoever he/she was, and make us wonder how that person's family will Ever be able to get closure. Maybe it won't become real for some of us until we look at the old family albums of relatives who served in the military; whose surviving mothers and fathers wipe tears from their eyes as they speak softly how their son or daughter used to run in the cornfields with their dog, or was the captain of the high school football team. But truly, it has to kick in when the families of the military; the grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends sit close to the phone or the computer all day hoping THE five minute call or skype message with their loved one can be stretched out just a little longer.....
Memorial Day brings out the stories of the fallen, and those currently serving around the globe. Its never been easy for anyone who has a family member or friend in the service. Some piece of us is missing when they aren't around, and the home-comings are all to short, but we understand it's been a part of our heritage, and it is part of our culture. The best we can do is pray for their safety and look forward to the day they come back to us, and back to their own lives.
Thanks to all the men and women of the military. You are remembered and will not be forgotten.......