Truthfully, I would always remember my first July 4th.
It was 1956. The cold war was frozen solid.
Never were American dreams more potent or more seductive than in Cold War America when the USA stood united and confident in our role as leader of the Free World.
It would soon be my first Independence Day and my parents believed it was time for its littlest citizen to be introduced to her Uncle Sam and “My America.”
What better place to be inculcated with truth, justice and the American way than at an honest to goodness Fourth of July parade.
Like most American children I would be inoculated with a strong dose of Americanism which if administered at an early age would build up your immunity to any opposing belief system.
That year, the theme of our local parade was the celebration of The Four Freedoms.
All across Long Island, residents were a buzz over the fact that our towns parade was being co-sponsored by those Cold war crusaders of truth from “The Crusade For Freedom”.
Cold War Crusaders of Truth
The Crusade, was a privately funded donation drive that raised “truth dollars” to support Radio Free Europe, the radio station that broadcast news and current affairs to the enslaved people behind the Iron Curtain.
In the black and white cold war world of us vs them, we were convinced that the Russians were hell-bent on destroying freedom and the American way of life and it would be up to us to contain them.
Who Can You Trust
Like so many war born marriages it turned out our grand alliance during WWII with the Soviets was more a marriage of convenience and our relations had turned frosty.
As if shifting gears between enemy and ally was as effortless as the automatic transmission in your Chevrolet, the considerable fury and fear that had fueled our hatred of those bloodless Nazis had been seamlessly and swiftly rerouted to those Godless Russians Commies, uniting our country once again.
Uncle Sam was certain that the Communists were not only concealing the truth but were waging a campaign of hatred against us and our peaceful, decent motives.
They were weaving fantastic stories and twisted facts about America unlike in our country where the government told us the truth.
Truth as clear and undistorted as the perfect picture you were promised on your new Philco television set.
True picture, no blur, no distortion, that was the American Way.
Truth Justice and the American Way
By exposing the calculated lies that Communists were spreading, and promoting the American way of Life, Radio Free Europe became a vital strategy in winning the Cold war.
The Crusade For Freedom had aired public service announcements on the radio all week leading up to the parade, as well as advertisements in all the papers.
“Every hour, every day, millions hear no other version but hating America” Dad read aloud from a full-page ad in the NY Times, paid for by the Crusade and their Truth dollars. “The unfortunate people behind the iron curtain are fed a steady diet of lies and misstatements and the poor people are made to swallow that poison”.
Sugar Coated Goodness
Dad wanted us to realize how vital Radio Free Europe was.
As my brother mindlessly popped fistfuls of sugar crisps into his mouth -for breakfast its dandy, for snacks it’s so handy or eat like candy: Dad tried to explain :“Just as mom feeds us wholesome good food, we needed to feed the poor people behind the iron curtain the good nourishing truth”.
America was not only the greatest nation in the world it was the very embodiment of freedom, democracy and progress.
With my made- in- the- USA regulation rattle in one hand and my National Dairy Council issued bottle of milk in the other I was ready to brave the fog to be inducted into Uncle Sam’s service and pledge my allegiance to the land of the Free.