Anastasia and the Cuban

Anastasia and the Cuban
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The History of the 12-step Brainwashing Movement - Part III

Dear  Homeland Security, Christian Fundamentalists, Tea Party Members and Right-wingers.  I have nursed ill feelings against you. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?


Whew!  Now that we got that over with and I know the crème de la crème of conservative thought will forgive me, I feel much better going on!




The 1940's



Charlie Chaplin performed a great role in his portrayal of 'The Liittle Tramp.'  It was  a character he was well known for -- the man with the bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny shuffle.  

The truth is that this character wasn't so far off from the vagrants and misfits of the 1940's.  Many of the tramps and hobos, driven by a hobo code, demonstrated humility and cunning. On one hand, they strived to come across as gentlemen when they begged people for work.  Like the 'Little Tramp' many bindlestiffs were ready to take what paying work that was available.  They also used their guile and cunning to get what they needed to survive.
If you want a feeling for hobos, tramps and vagrants of this era, think back to Steinbeck's treasured tramp story, Of Mice and Men.  It was published around 1937 and based on Steinbeck's own days as a bindlestiff.   It tells the story of two migrant ranch workers  -- George Milton and Lennie Small, during the Great Depression in California.  George Milton has an interesting blend of self deprecation and a dream of one day settling down on their own piece of land that demonstrates the story and dreams of the hobo. 

The public perception of the hobo or tramp back then was not one of compassion.  Hobos realized this as is evidenced by their term, back door bumming - seeking food at the back door to limit embarrassment.  Using beggars cards - cards and printed pieces of paper handed out by beggars asking form money. They were used so the beggar didn't have to actually come out in public and be overheard begging for money or favors. Many average citizens saw these men as a sinister vagrant, or drunken bum.  They had a reputation for public intoxication and trickery, so the tramp was often alienated and excluded from the rest of society. 



Life as a hobo was a dangerous one. In addition to the  problems of being itinerant, poor, far from home and support, and the hostile attitude of many train crews, the railroads employed their own security staff, often nicknamed bulls, who had a reputation for being rough with trespassers.  Also, riding on a freight train was a dangerous enterprise. One could easily get trapped between cars, or freeze to death in bad weather. When freezer cars were loaded at an ice factory, any hobo inside was likely to be killed.

Hobo code

An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri.  This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:
  1. Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.
  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
  16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!
(Source: Wikipedia - Hobo)


Enter Buchmann

This is how Frank Buchmann - the son of a wholesale liquor dealer and restaurant owner and a pious Lutheran mother came into the picture.  With his belief in the need for moral regeneration and his rigid views on sexual matters, Buchmann set out to convert the world, beginning with those who needed help the most -- the homeless.  

Following the hobo code, many vagrants felt a sense of shame when they became what they labeled 'stupid drunks.'  They felt it set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.  So some men sought help for their drinking problems through spirituality.   This is evidenced by part of their terminology, the words angel food, which meant a mission house sermon. A mission preaching about the Bread of Life.

 Buchmann was there to change their thinking, opening a hospice for homeless boys and young men.  But some felt Buchmann's repressed homosexuality stirred him into an interest to help men and not women.

When Frank Buchman was asked some questions about relations between men and women:
On the subject of relationships, Buchman's only comment was, 'Sometimes I am sad I never had guidance from God to get married — I might have been able to help more.
(Source:  Garth Lean, On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, page 309)

While collecting converts, Frank seems to have preferred young men. He would listen to their confessions, especially confessions of a sexual nature, tirelessly, while young women's sins do not seem to have particularly interested him. He had his inventory of standard scathing denunciations of any woman who had sex, but listening to their confessions and saving their souls didn't seem to have the same appeal as boys'. Frank's vicious homophobia was probably just a cover, to convince other people that he wasn't a homosexual, and also a way for him to deny his own feelings.
(Source:  The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps by A. Orange Chapter 21: Homophobia and Gay-Bashing)



Moral Re-Armament




Frank Buchmann decided the world needed a moral and spiritual awakening driving religion into a new realm of mixed political and spiritual thought.
Moral Re-Armament (MRA) was an international Christian moral and spiritual movement that, in 1938, developed from the American minister Frank Buchman's Oxford Group. Buchmann was convinced that moral recovery was essentially the forerunner of economic recovery.  The movement was based around what it called 'the Four Absolutes' (absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love) and encouraged its members to be actively involved in political and social issues. One of the movement's core ideas was that changing the world starts with seeking change in oneself.
 (Source:  Wikipedia - Moral Re-Armament)

The World in the 1940's

To understand the Fundamentalist–Modernist Movment, one first has to understand what was going on in the world in the 1940's, during and after World War II. 

Unemployment almost disappeared, as most men were drafted and sent off to war. Shopping downtown Houston in 1940's, Rice Hotel in background The government reclassified 55% of their jobs, allowing women and blacks to fill them.
First, single women were actively recruited to the workforce. In 1943, with virtually all the single women employed, married women were allowed to work. Japanese immigrants and their descendants, suspected of loyalty to their homelands, were sent to internment camps.
Sailor with cow - There were scrap drives for steel, tin, paper and rubber.  These were a source of supplies and gave people a means of supporting the war effort. Automobile production ceased in 1942, and rationing of food supplies began in 1943. Victory gardens were re-instituted and supplied 40% of the vegetables consumed on the home front.

The United States emerged from World War II as a world superpower, challenged only by the USSR. Disputes over ideology and control led to the Cold War. Communism was treated as a contagious disease, and anyone who had contact with it was under suspicion. 
(Source: Lone Star College - Kingwood American Cultural History 1940 - 1949)


Christianity and Politics

In the 1940s and 50s fundamentalists were mostly centered around southern cities and rural regions.  While Christianity and politics had collided, there was not yet a co-mingling of Republican party politics with religion in any type of declared way.  That is, until the John Birch Society took hold in California around 1958.


The John Birch Society declared their mission as - "Less Government, More Responsibility, and – With God's Help – a Better World," with reason.  The John Birch Society had a roster of wealthy members, including many prominent residents of California. They shared a common ideology  with Fred Schwarz and his California-based Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. 
All fundamentalists were anti-Communists, but the leading crusaders against godless Communism operated in the West, close to a Tulsa-Dallas-Los Angeles axis. The senior crusader, J. Frank Norris,was pastor of Fort Worth's largest Baptist church from 1909 to 1952, founded Fort Worth's Baptist Bible Seminary, founded and edited The Fundamentalist periodical, and owned a powerful radio station.
Norris had been an outspoken anti-Communistsince 1930. He and like-minded fundamentalists linked Communism with modernism (including evolution and integration), social programs, and the ecumenical Federal Council of Churches, which conservatives frequently labeled "soft on Communism."
Norris and other fundamentalists took itvery hard when China "fell" to the Communists in 1949, since many Americans had long supported missionaries there and believed Nationalistruler Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife to be devoted Christians. 
 (Source:  The Jewish-CommunismConnection)

As yet there was no infiltration into the Republican Party. As Paul Krugman writes, “By the 1950s the Republican Party was in some ways a shadow of its former self.”
“The Republican survived…by moving toward a new political center” making it “for several decades, a true big tent” and rendering them far less ideological.
For example, in South Carolina “The nascent GOP of the 1950s and 1960s was dominated religiously by traditional upper- and middle-status mainline Protestants such as Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists, with a leavening of better off Southern Baptists.” Not at all the South Carolina GOP demographic of today.
That doesn’t mean the forces of fundamentalism were quiescent. Toy writes of the “Cold War Effect.”  The Cold War produced those who were willing to capitalize “on the affinity of religious fundamentalists and political conservatives for organized anti-Communism.”
As Billy Graham said, “If you would be a true patriot, then become a loyal Christian” (a cry we are still hearing).
As Toy says, “This appeal to the flag and to the cross made justification by faith alone a virtual national necessity as well as a Protestant tenet, and political conservatives of many religious beliefs cautioned Americans to avoid mixing religion with social welfare programs, which they condemned as socialistic.”
(Source:  The Rising Tide of Fundementalism in the 40's and 50's)

Changing America

Cerainly, in 1940 America witnessed “Youth for Christ” rallies throughout the nation and this influenced the first wave of Christians who had left the church to come back and become born again.

It’s perhaps not surprising therefore that in the 1950s (the age of McCarthyism) we saw a wave of conservative Christian legislation:
In 1952, the National Day of Prayer (36 U.S.C. § 119)was made into law as an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”
Then on June 14, 1954 the words “under God” added to pledge of allegiance and in 1956 In God We Trust adopted as national motto and signed into law by President Eisenhower.
(Source:  The Rising Tide of Fundementalism in the 40's and 50's)

Born again Christians, or those within the Born Again Movement, became an increasing force within Christianity after the 1960s when people began coming back to the churches they had left in their youth.  With post-war republicanism, social reform, the family, feminism, and Southern racism, Fundamentalists were desperate to implement their Christian and now political views on the world.


The 1970's and 80's

Fundamentalism took up the mantle of family values and took on the issue of sexual moray during America's second-wave of feminism.   Abortion and reproductive rights became unifying issues among various women's issues.  

A key issue that brought back throngs of Fundamentalists to the forefront of politics was the Roe vs. Wade - a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion.  The Court ruled that under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution a woman had a right to privacy that gave her the right to make the decision to have an abortion.
 
This mobilized Fundamentalists politically under the Republican theme by creating the National Right to Life Committee.  And Republican Christian Fundamentalism was finally off to a run.  

From there, the Christian Fundamentalist movement gained strength, taking up an array of causes from pornography to public displays of crosses and prayer in schools.  It has grown into the party politics of today's Tea Party Movement and the candidacy of people like Rick Santorum.  

And the corporate elite have grasped this Fundamentalist mantle with both hands, using conservative Christian issues to hide behind as they off shored American jobs and destroyed the American economy to enhance their own profits.

End note

Chaplin's social commentary, while critical of the faults and excesses created by the capitalist system, also demonstrated support and belief in the “American Dream”.  Chaplin created a character consistent with popular leftist stereotypes of wealthy capitalists and oppressed workers in the 1930s.  
While the Tramp and his fellow workers sweat on the assembly line, the president of the Electro Steel Company works on a puzzle and reads the funnies in the newspaper. The obsession of working with efficiency and assembly line productivity ultimately drives the Tramp mad. This could be seen as “an attack on the capitalist rationalization of production.” 
However, “the film also guardedly affirms American middle-class, particularly its optimism.”  An example of this is sequence depicting a dream that the Tramp has, in which he and the gamine live a traditional middle-class lifestyle.
(Source: Wikipedia - The Tramp)


What is rarely noted is the phenomenon of progression that moves back to the past.  In the case of Fundamentalism an the tramp, we have come full circle.  Today's neo hobos are reliving the very thing that Christian Fundamentalism was supposed to have saved them from....homelessness.

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