"The Cold War Belongs to Us All"
Patriotizing the American Calendar
While willing to employ dramatic scenarios to advance their aims, patriotic and civic activists spent most of their energies inventing traditions that were more than one-shot episodes. Like religious devotion, loyalty was to be inculcated through repeated observance--in some cases daily (as in Pledging Allegiance in schools), in others occasionally (playing the National Anthem at athletic events), in still others annually. The "high" Cold War encouraged efforts to patriotize the American calendar and occasions at which such usages had previously been exceptional. Many patriotic practices which may seem to have grown up with the country are of surprisingly recent vintage.
Although Americans, it is argued, have long reverenced the state in what sociologist Robert N. Bellah labeled a "civil religion," they entered the Cold War lightly equipped with occasions for so doing. July 4, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving were old enough to be time-honored, but the patina of age brought with it a degree of secularization. National days became occasions for leisure more than patriotic reflection.
Other patriotic observances had a tentative quality. Flag Day won national status in 1914 but languished after World War I until interest revived in the late 1930s. Not until 1949 did Congress act to raise its status.