United We Stand: Working Towards Unity

By Peter Kreitler
Special to the Palisades News

July 4, the day set aside to remember the nation’s birthday, will perhaps take on a greater significance for all of us if we take time to reflect on the unity of a disparate group of people long ago that led to a United States of America.

Perhaps the efforts of the revolutionaries of 1776 should be talked about this Independence Day because at no time in my 7-plus decades on this earth has there been division in our nation like there is today.

Political polarization is at an all-time high and the name calling among and between America’s finest men and woman seeking the highest office in the land has been noth- ing short of despicable. As the words of Lincoln (“A house divided cannot stand”) or from a 1927 issue of Treat ‘Em Square (“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”) ring in our ears, they seem to be falling on the deaf ears of millions of Americans.

July 1942
August 1942

Is it not time to raise our flag that speaks to the unity that fostered a nation unique in its diversity? The stars and stripes ask all of us to stand united.

Since the Founding Fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence, there have been two publishing events that used our nation’s most iconic symbol to promote the concept that all Americans are rowing the same boat.

The first and most comprehensive was the United We Stand Campaign, which featured the American Flag on the cover of close to 1,000 magazines, trade journals and periodicals in July-August 1942. A comprehensive collection of these magazines has been donated to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History by Mr. Pete Claussen of Tennessee, and Katy and Peter Kreitler.

The second campaign came after the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Many magazines featured the Flag and the words “United We Stand” on their covers.

July 1942
July 1942

In both situations, the over-arching theme of unity broke down the political differences, ethnic or religious variations among our populace, and fostered a sense of cooperation.

Perhaps the magazine covers from the Kreitler Collection (examples are shown here) and the large body of work at the Smithsonian could be utilized to bring our nation together in these challenging times. The Flag waves over all of us regardless of where we came from, our religious persuasion, and our ethnic heritage. This above all is what the United States Flag represents.

History has taught us that once in a great while the voice of someone we least expect offers words that resonate across all levels of society.

“Why can’t we all just get along?” are words that still ring loud and true at a time in our national story when division rather than unity seems to mark the times.

Under the guise of facing the threat from terrorists, and within the framework of fear raised by increasing global violence, we have seen a new form of jingoistic nationalism destined to increasingly divide rather than bring together these united states of America. Rather than fostering consensus, or molding a unified strategy within our own borders for the common good, caustic vitriol has dominated the airwaves as the hope of unity fades daily. Civility in public discourse has taken a back seat to unpatriotic name-calling and mean-spirited behavior.

Unity is what brought states from Massachusetts to Virginia together to address the heavy-handed repressive government ruling from abroad. Our American Revolution succeeded because of unity of purpose. Just a few decades later, “a house divided against itself” created our nation’s darkest hours from 1861-65. From within grew the seeds of discontent so that the home-grown terror on our soils disrupted the united states of America and the scars 150 years later still remain.

Now we are 50 states, not 13, yet the possibility of a repeat of when brother fought brother has become of great concern to many. In essence, the flag that flies over all in this great nation, the one with the stars and stripes, represents unity above all else. Perhaps, we need our flag to come to our rescue once again. Odd perhaps that a simple piece of cloth attached to a stick can have the power to evoke strong emotions, but a simple viewing of the statue replicating the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945 can stir the hearts of millions.

Our American Flag and the history attached to it affords all of us the option this Fourth of July to look back on our story, reflect and re-awaken to a time when it was calling to us to stand united.

In The Kreitler 1777 Magazine Collection featuring the United States Flag, one single publishing event stands out above all others. Under the auspices of the Treasury Department, the Publishing Association, and the United States Flag Association, the country in summer 1942 was awash in magazine covers flying “Old Glory” in some fashion.

Trade journals highlighting the diverse professions and avocations as diverse as Taxes, Silver Screen, Sport Story, Electrical Manufacturing, Milk Plant Monthly, Banking, Specialty Salesman, Manufacturers Rec­ord, Feed Bag (Farming), Financial World (Wall Street), Motor Transportation, Skyscraper Management (Real Estate), Our Navy, Flower Grower and Musical Cour­ier—to name just a few—all shared two things in common: the Flag was on the cover of the issue nearest to July 4 and each one printed the phrase “United We Stand” on the cover as well.

Perhaps we could prevail upon the three entities from the 1942 campaign to reinstate a similar campaign. “United We Stand” is not anachronistic, nor should it ever be, because from our diversity, unity emerges as the greatest attribute of our proud nation.

(The Rev. Canon Peter Kreitler, an author and environmental educator, has lived in Pacific Palisades since 1974.)


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