Is the Cold War coming out of the deep freeze?
Having caught a Cold War chill I never could quite shake, the current frosty relations between President Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin send a shiver down my spine, as childhood memories of the Cold War are quickly defrosted.
The deepening mistrust and accusations of lying between the US and Russia feels like deja vu all over again.
During the Cold War, Uncle Sam was certain that the Soviets were not only concealing the truth but waging a campaign of hatred against us and our peaceful motives and quickly embarked on his own campaign to dispel the evil lies and promote the American Way of life.
The American media was more than happy to oblige and lend a hand in propagating the facts.
“The poor people behind the iron curtain,” Americans were warned in public service ads, “have seen such political wickedness and cold-blooded betrayal, such Godless depravity in government that they find it harder to believe in our own good intentions.”
“To destroy human liberty and to control the world the communists use every conceivable weapon subversion, bribery corruption, even… military attack!
“Of all these,” the ad said sternly, “none is more insidious than propaganda!”
Crusade For Freedom
Counter attacking these malicious falsehood and spreading the American Way of Life were the Cold War crusaders of truth from “The Crusade for Freedom” the privately funded donation drive that raised “truth dollars” to support Radio Free Europe.
The radio station broadcast news and current affairs to the enslaved people behind the Iron Curtain, broadcasting over 29 transmitters to reach Poles, Czechoslovakia, Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians.
Supported by the voluntary cooperative action of millions of Americans who were, the RFE declared, “engaged in this fight of good versus evil.”
“Truth Dollars,” they explained in one of their many ads,”send words of truth and hope to 70 million freedom loving people behind the Iron curtain.”
“This powerful privately operated organization continually challenge the barrage of Communist misstatements and false truth,” they continued proudly. “RFE is constantly on the offensive against the Red campaign to annihilate right, reason and national pride.”
By both promoting the American way of Life and exposing the calculated lies that Communists were spreading every hour, every day through Soviet controlled broadcast and newspaper Radio Free Europe became a vital strategy in winning the Cold War.
Cold War Crusaders of Truth
For my very first July Fourth in 1956, I would get to hear the cold war truth from them directly.
All across Long island, residents were a buzz over the fact that our towns July 4th parade was being co-sponsored by those Cold war crusaders of truth from “The Crusade For Freedom.” The highlight of the day was the much-anticipated rally that would follow.
A heavy fog had blanketed out town that Independence Day but did not put a damper on the festivities.
As my family and I waited for the speeches to begin, we squeezed in between other newly transplanted families. Indistinguishable from one another but for the different fun to wear easy to care California inspired geometric patterns on their Robert hall no iron Dacron clothes, the wives were a chatty gaggle of amber waves of trouble-free Toni home permanents that had not unfurled in the humidity.
Their you-don’t- know-how -lucky- you-are-to-live-in-the country-children, romped in the fog that hovered over them. A colorful bunch of boisterous backyard buckaroos with cap firing pistols and sputtering sparklers, their purple lick-em- ade stained tongues and lips stood in contrast to their little bodies dotted with pink splotches of dried calamine lotion, that would be the only hint of pink in this all American crowd.
Freedom Needs You
The fog like a veil of secrecy swirled around the large glistening “Freedom Bell” proudly on display near the Legion Halls flag pole. On loan from The Crusade for Freedom, the bell was authentic in every detail and was cast at a foundry very near the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
On the draped podium the featured speaker for the Crusade rose to speak.
A trim, plain-spoken man with protruding, tobacco stained teeth, a regular yankee doodle dandy in a Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt, he methodically fired up a king sized Old Gold cigarette before he spoke, licked his dry, sun parched lips, and briskly smoothed down his army regulation brush cut hair.
“We must make the greatest possible contribution to the defense of our way of life, the American way of life. Freedom …can live only where there is access to the truth,” he began clearly and confidently.
“Communists,” he stated gravely, “teach that America is a vicious enemy of humanity.”
“This slander against our noble purposes, is one example of the campaign of hatred that is being waged against America and freedom around the globe,” he went on his anger clearly rising.”
“We face not only ruthless men but lies and misconceptions intended to rob us of our faith within and of our friends throughout the world. “
“Millions of people will hear no other version but a hissing, hating tirade against America!” he said clearly outraged. “We think it is incredible that such poison be swallowed!”
The crowd burst into spontaneous applause.
“How do Truth Dollars fight Communism you ask? ” Anticipating the question on everyone’s mind, he answered.
Breaking into a lopsided grin he continued, “By exposing Red lies…revealing news suppressed by Moscow and by unmasking Communist collaborators. The broadcasts are by exiles in the native tongues of the people to whom they are beamed.”
Squinting against the bright afternoon sun that broke through the fog, the speaker mopped the sweat from his brow, took a long pull on an ice-cold Coke and searched for familiar faces.
“Radio Free Europe has pierced the iron curtain with truth, answers the lies of the Kremlin and brings messages of hope, but it needs your help. ……. This is your chance to play a personal part to resist Communist aggression…..”
“Powerful Communist radio stations,” he said pointing his jaw at us contemptuously, “incessantly tell the world that we Americans are physically soft and mentally corrupt that we are disunited and confused that we are selfish and cowardly that we have nothing to offer the world but imperialism and exploitation.”
Mopping the copious sweat from his brow, he continued: “Weaving a fantastic pattern of lies and twisted facts they confound the listener into believing that we are war mongers and that the secret police and slave camps of Communism offer brighter hope for the future than do self-government and free enterprise…”
As he spoke, volunteer crusaders were circulating around the crowd collecting donations.
A pretty, trim woman with curly strawberry blonde hair and fashionable Mamie Eisenhower bangs, her heart-shaped face aglow with dewy fresh dimples, approached us: “Give truth dollars and get in the fight,” she said with pure sugar-coated goodness.
Her creamy, Jergen’s- soft- hands gripped the “Truth Dollars” collection can tightly as her arm extended in Dads direction. “Every dollar buys 100 words of truth. That’s how hard ‘Truth Dollars’ work. Your dollar will help 70 million people resist the Kremlin!”
The collection cans were calculated to resemble the ubiquitous March of Dimes canisters, but instead of a heart breaking picture of little girls with steel braces on their legs, pictured was a map showing radio towers with zig zagging radio signals broadcasting across Europe into The Soviet Union.
And the containers wide opening was calculated to accommodate more than a thin dime. Apparently spreading the truth cost a lot more than curing polio.
“The poor people trapped behind the iron curtain know nothing except that which their government says they should know” the woman somberly explained to us.
Speaking directly to my brother and me the lady leaned in close.
Her snowy white Clorox clean clothes were as sweet and honest- to –goodness- fresh smelling as her minty fresh no-tell- tale mouth breath as she continued: “The communists are weaving fantastic stories and twisted facts about America, unlike in our country where our government tells us the truth.”
Sidling up to us was another faithful crusader, a clean-cut, level eyed, forthright and fact- filled champion of truth who nodded in agreement, “Truth as clear and undistorted as the perfect picture you were promised on your new RCA television set”.
True picture, no blur no distortion that was the American way
The wind picked up and the fog slowly lifted as a cold front moved in. Dad placed a hand over his heart as he looked up towards the bunting draped American Legion Post.
With a gleam in his eye, he gently placed my own little hand over my heart.
I would promise to preserve and protect The American Way of Life taking an oath of loyalty to adhere to the directives from a contingent of Generals- General Mills, General Electric and five-star billion dollar grossing General Motors.
My own military industrial complex.
The Truth, The whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth..
After finishing his hot dog, dad fished in his pocket for his wallet. Putting the crumpled bills in my little hand I deposited the money in the donation cans.
We would fight the big lie with the big truth
Of course the truth of Radio Free Europe being a CIA funded front was something we kept behind our own Made-in the USA curtains for over 20 years.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.