Monday, February 27, 2012

The Flag Salute

Doing some research into the recent fascism posts, I ran across the Flag Salute:

Image via Wikipedia

School children in 1942, saluting the flag as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  My first thought was Yikes!  However, it doesn't seem to be related to fascism, at least not directly.  The "Flag Salute" dates to 1892, a good 20 years before Mussolini's early work on fascism, and a good third of a century before Hitler's brown shirts.

It hearkens back to the salute from Roman times, which was a popular motif in the French Revolutionary era.  Here's Jacques-Louis David's Oath of the Horatii, from a century earlier:

Image via Wikipedia

That all said, Progressivism was in full flower in the 1890s, and Fascism is arguably a branch from that tree.  The Flag Salute was discontinued shortly after the top picture was taken, since the whole Nazi thing was pretty hard to spin once we were in a shooting war with them.


Sean D Sorrentino said...

I got to see "The Oath of the Horatii" an the Louvre in Paris. It's pretty cool. I was in the Navy and I was running around Paris alone. I was supposed to have a buddy, but I didn't figure anyone would catch me.

I ended up getting in line at the Louvre right in front of a guy from Philly. He had been there a couple of days waiting on his girlfriend to arrive. Since we both spoke English we wandered the Louvre together.

We saw the Mona Lisa, as you pretty much have to if you're there, but it's tiny and lame. Then we walked into a room with all the Jacques-Louis David paintings. David must have had a special supply of the world's largest canvas. They were all HUGE. I was prepared for large, cause my high school teacher told me that they were big, but I had no idea.

My Philly friend looked at this painting and asked "what the heck is that one about?" I don't think he expected me to know. Luckily my European Civ teacher had spent some time on the French Revolution and this painting, so I told him that dad was swearing the sons to fight for Rome, even if they died.

He looked blankly at me and said "but you just said that this was all French Revolution stuff." So I told him that it was intended to be a sort of allegory kind of thing. David was telling the French that they needed to be like the guys in the painting, and swear to fight for France, even if it killed them.

This guy in front of us, about 15-20 years older than us and just sort of stared at me. In heavily French accented English he says "That is correct." I could see in his eyes that he was trying to figure out how this outlander barbarian knew anything at all about David.

Goes to show you that paying attention in European Civ class in High School sometimes pays off. It helps that David paintings are really cool.

Bob said...

The US Mint kept the fasces on the back of the dime until 1946, when it was changed to commemorate the death of FDR.

Borepatch said...

Sean, that's a cool story.

Bob, I hadn't known that, but this American Fascism rabbit hole sure seems to go deep.

Isegoria said...

It's not just the salute that raises questions. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian Socialist who went on to found Boston's first Nationalist club.

And then there's the linguistic obfuscation.

Dave H said...

Mom was a kid in school during the period when that photo was taken. Originally they were taught to begin the Pledge with the right hand over the heart, then as they spoke the words "to the flag" they extended their arms toward it, palm down. When people recognized it was similar to the Nazi salute it was revised so the palm faced up. Eventually they dropped the extended arm altogether.

The Czar of Muscovy said...

For the record, the Romans didn't salute like that. In fact, there's no real written evidence they did anything of the kind.

But it became a convention in pop culture to think they did, which made it into the artwork of the Neoclassical period, which the Nazis lovingly stole from. And the Nazis just assumed that's how fascists should salute.

Guffaw in AZ said...


NotClauswitz said...

I wonder if the Romans tried Yoga? It must have been around..