Guns, Democracy and the American Way

Vintage Illustration 1956 Monument to American Freedom

For many Americans a gun represents the heart of our nation’s foundation and identity and symbol of their freedom and democracy but on this cold war creed of American rights, gun ownership was noticeably absent.

 

What you may ask, is more fundamental to the American Way of Life than a gun? Who could argue that gleaming AK 47 automatic rifle is a shining and powerful example of our basic rights which protect the dignity and freedom of the individual?

In fact, most would agree the right to keep and bear arms is written in stone.

Or is it?

A cold war Credo of the “American Way of Life”  that highlighted all the freedoms and rights unique to democracy didn’t deem it necessary to include gun ownership in their patriot doctrine.

This full-page color illustration that ran in Family Circle Magazine in 1956 was the visual embodiment of this Credo of democracy. In the painting set in a symbolic location that depicts George Washington and his men at Valley Forge, the Credo is emblazoned on a stone monument as though the articles had been carved on twin stones resembling the tablets of Moses.

The American Way Of Life

The creed, a summary of basic freedoms intended to distill the essence of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was formed by a group with the hope of building greater awareness of the value of the American Way of Life and improving the understanding of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights at a time when they felt Americans took their freedom for granted.

Curiously enough this Credo with nary a mention of the right to bear arms was not produced by some left leaning liberal group bit by an ultra-conservative organization called the Freedom Foundation.

Freedom Foundation

Formed in 1949 this pro-American, patriotic group could boast a roster of illustrious founders. Hoping to continuously sell the American system to the people during the Cold War, the Credo was cooked up by ad man Don Belding, financier E.F. Hutton with major support from Dwight Eisenhower. As a bulwark against Communism the Credo would help promote responsible citizenship, character, and freedom. And Capitalism.

Each article of the Credo was brief and easy to understand; some were obviously drawn from the Bill of Rights (like “Right to free speech and press” and “Right to assemble”), while others had an economic bent (like “Right to bargain with our employers”).

The words of the Credo  “have been sifted, revised and approved by many great statesmen, industrialists’ jurists and historians,” and has “has been endorsed by over 200 chief and associate justices of state supreme courts.”

Yet it is noteworthy the second amendment which has today taken center stage in our national dialogue was not even worth mentioning in this credo.

Mainstream America

Far from a fringe group the Freedom Foundation gained national media attention distributing more than a quarter billion copies of the Credo by the mid 1950’s.

The Credo was reproduced on magazine covers and for decades celebrities like John Wayne and Bob Hope joined the star-spangled wagon train promoting the foundation’s Americanism on radio and TV spots.

Vintage Cover Family Circle Magazine March 1956

In the cold war climate of 1956 it’s not surprising that Family Circle was proud to devote ten pages to the Freedom Foundation Credo and its patriotic principles.

Own a Piece Of Democracy

The monument was still an artist’s rendering and the Foundation was eagerly looking for donations to build its monument in Valley Forge.

A full color enlargement of the Credo illustration by artist Isa Barnett was offered to the reader for the first time ever, and would be “a perfect addition for your home, school, office church or club.”

Democracy in Five Easy Pieces

“The Credo, the accompanying article explained “brings together a series of short, simple, easily understood propositions derived from our great heritage of citizens’ rights and freedoms. All of the Credo rights fall into easily remembered groups, under five headings.

“Here and on the following pages are pictures that capture the essence of our rights as free men- rights that are not common in the world of 1956, although we who enjoy democracy may take them for granted.”

At a time when it seems the Trump presidency has accelerated the decline in democracy, it is worth reviewing our cherished rights.

Protection

Article Freedom Foundation Credo Statements American Rights March 1956 Family Circle magazine

Rights of Protection – Right to Petition for Grievances; Right of habeas corpus-no excessive bail; Right to trial by jury-innocent till proven guilty

“Our democratic form of government protects our individual rights by giving specific courses of action to invoke when necessary.

“General of the Army Omar Bradley says: “I feel that a monument to freedom…will stand as an American symbol of our pledge to the world that we will eternally serve in this cause…The Freedom Shrine project will place upon imperishable stone – for all to see –the mighty concepts of freedom and liberty which mark the American way of life.

Freedom Foundation – in sponsoring this project-is giving a symbol to the world of the most powerful weapon in this global fight against tyranny – a monument to the principles of freedom… In addition to serving as the arsenal of democracy, we must remember that we are also regarded as the arsenal of hope.

Sadly today we have relinquished our roles as beacons of democracy. America’s global reputation for personal freedom has taken a beating as has our prestige. Trump and his minions  have quietly been dismantling our protections we have fought for since FDR’s New Deal.

Government

Article Freedom Foundation Credo Statements American Rights March 1956 Family Circle magazine

Govrnment- Right to free elections and personal secret ballot; Right to the service of government as a protector and a referee; Right to freedom from arbitrary government regulation and control.

“To secure our personal rights, our identity, we must establish and participate in the kind of government that guarantees our rights to us.

Shown here are some of the many ways all of us enjoy our rights of self-government. The Freedom Shrine will restate these rights in simple terms to remind Americans of fundamental principles

President Dwight Eisenhower, on contributing the first dime to the Freedom Shrine said: “ Thus we will show the world our nations fundamental belief in God, our constitutional government  designed to serve  and not to rule the America people, and our indivisible bundle of personal, political and economic rights…

Identity

Article Freedom Foundation Credo Statements American Rights March 1956 Family Circle magazine

Identity- Right to Worship God in one’s own way; Right to free speech and press; Right to move about freely at home and abroad; Right to Assemble

Those personal rights that allow individuals to establish the identity that is unique in every human being.

 

Ownership

Article Freedom Foundation Credo Statements American Rights March 1956 Family Circle magazine

Ownership- Right to privacy in our homes; Right to contract about our affairs; Right to own private property

 

“Grouped here are the Credo rights that entitle us to have property and enjoy full ownership of it- our homes, fields, businesses and all the other possessions that help make life comfortable and secure.

Property has always been dear to men because it is a bulwark against distress for them and their loved ones.

We have only to look at countries where these rights are not enjoyed and compare our conditions with that of the deprived, to rededicate ourselves to preserving our bundle of freedoms – of which these three give us such rich benefits

Enterprise

Article Freedom Foundation Credo Statements American Rights March 1956 Family Circle magazine

Enterprise- Right to work in callings and localities of our choice; Right to bargain for goods and services in a free market; Right to go into business, compete, make a profit; Right to bargain with our employers and employees

“As citizens of democracy we are privileged to express our individuality through creative work and to enjoy its satisfactions. Because our form of government encourages individual initiative and imagination we enjoy full freedom to translate our work into enterprise.

Pictured here are Americans enjoying their precious rights that relate to enterprise: rights we must remind ourselves, that disappear under a totalitarian regime.”

“As citizens of democracy we are privileged to express our individuality through creative work and to enjoy its satisfactions. Because our form of government encourages individual initiative and imagination we enjoy full freedom to translate our work into enterprise.

Pictured here are Americans enjoying their precious rights that relate to enterprise: rights we must remind ourselves, that disappear under a totalitarian regime.”

 

Democracy Now

Those words directed against the fear of cold war totalitarianism, ring just as eerily familiar today.

The Credo was formed with the fear that the freedom of America’s citizens was gravely at risk, not only from the threat of communism but because Americans took their freedom for granted.

Today while the spot light on gun rights as an attack on our freedom seems to outshine all other rights, many of our basic rights are already being infringed on.

The foundation on which the monument stood was the words “Constitutional Government designed to Serve the People.”

If our democracy is slowly eroding, we must pay attention to who is being served .

Copyright (©) 20018 Sally Edelstein Envisioning the American Dream All Rights Reserved

 

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6 comments

  1. A typically astute observation, Sally. Also worth noting is that, in a era marked by racial inequity and the routine absence of people of color in mainstream media, the article features a photo of an African-American at the podium at a racially mixed forum. The caption: “The right to petition for grievances.” Representative of today’s conservatism?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan G

    An article in Newsweek (April 10, 2018)
    http://www.newsweek.com/antonin-scalia-ronald-reagan-supreme-court-orlando-shooting-newtown-sandy-hook-472460 revisits the Heller decision and reminds us that “The late justice [Scalia] also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Over to you, Congress.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Guns, Democracy and the American Way | ravenhawks' magazine

  4. Reblogged this on zobop republic and commented:
    Now more than ever needed!

    Like

  5. Love the site. I will come back to it many times, especially for my Contemporary Studies history class. Although, I don’t see a “decline in democracy” or that our “democracy is slowly eroding” because of Trump (I don’t agree with everything he does). You cannot discount the previous eight years of Obama’s “socialist” presidency.

    Like

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