Wednesday, February 14, 2024

One Nation Under God: Not So Much


One Nation Under God: Not So Much

Peter Schultz


            Kevin Kruse, his book One Nation Under God, argues that during the Eisenhower years, public religion unified America but then things changed and “The rhetoric of ‘one nation under God’ no longer brought Americans together; it only reminded them how divided they had become.” [274]


            Not quite. From the outset, during the Eisenhower years, “the good old days,” as many would describe them, the rhetoric of one nation under God didn’t intend to build a unity without enemies. It was intended to identify the nation’s enemies, to create them even. The unity it allegedly sought required enemies, as all political unity requires enemies. And, of course, during the Eisenhower years and later, America’s enemies were readily identifiable as not just as communists, but as atheists as well.  


            So, when Kruse implies that at one time the rhetoric of one nation under God unified the American people, and then, because a polarization occurred, at a later date that rhetoric no longer unified Americans, he overlooks or marginalizes the inherent divisiveness of that rhetoric. Why then was that rhetoric adopted? It was adopted because the goal, the agenda of the Eisenhower years and of later years was control disguised as unity. Unity was the cover story, so to speak, while the real story was control.


            As the cover story made less and less sense, as feminists, blacks, anti-war types, and gays and lesbians, for example, tried to claim places within the alleged unity of the nation, and were repulsed, the real purpose of the rhetoric of one nation under God, and its divisiveness became clear. It was not that “the political climate had been thoroughly transformed,” as Kruse put it. Rather, it would be better to say that the divisive political climate that came to characterize the U.S. was created by the rhetoric of one nation under God. Dissent didn’t undermine civic peace in the United States. The rhetoric of one nation under God did.

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