Passport & Propaganda: Part 1
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
With increased regularity, our meta-data is being stored and every facet of life coalescing into the internet of all things; American passports being no exception. After 2006, it became mandatory for citizens planning to travel internationally possess a Biometric passport, thereby introducing more avenues for hackers and data-hoarders. The pervasiveness of surveillance capitalism, seemingly unstoppable, continues without hinderance as there is now the apparent normalcy of forfeiting privacy.
However, this writing will not be focused with privacy concerns; which will be assessed at a later time. Here, I place the spotlight upon the passport itself, or, rather, in addressing the excerpts within. On most pages of the US passport, there are quotations cited from prominent Americans, which I found a bit surprising on my first read through. What was unsurprising, though, that of the 13 quotes, 12 were from men. America’s patriarchal roots remain, surely, but what I examine here, however, is the glaring hypocrisy and duality present within.
These 13 quotes will be scrutinized not merely from personal bias, but from the inconsistency and even absurdity of being uttered by certain individuals, or, at a particular time in history. This is not to say that each quote will be ridiculed with cynicism, as there are some which are indeed meritorious. This is part 1 of 2, with the first 6 (of 13) quotes listed in the order they appear. With each quote, there follows a short exploration regarding the speaker, the era, and/or the legacy. Feel free to comment with any agreements, disagreements, and/or questions below.
“…And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
Spoken in 1863 by a president who, by many accounts, did what he said and acted out his morals. Born in a log cabin in Kentucky and reading his way to presidency [i], his determination for keeping a unified nation ultimately led to his assassination. Maybe the choices presented to him were few, as he oversaw the deadliest war for America, by far. An estimated 620,000 men and women (mainly men) died from 1861-1865; or, put another way, every fourth soldier would never return home [ii]. Lincoln, with his uncompromising morals and religious fervor saw the Civil War to its bloody end.
Lincoln was America’s first Republican president, and as many groups and organizations change over time, the Grand Old Party (GOP) has become one of which, I believe, Lincoln would abhor. Originally founded on opposing the expansion of slavery and focusing on repairing social and economic divides between north and south [iii], today we see an exact flip of these foundations. What we are experiencing today is never-before-seen levels of wealth inequality [iv], ultimately leading to increased political disenfranchisement and social distrust [v].
The political party which originally sought to heal social and economic rifts in America has, today, not only worsened them, but is taking them to soaring new heights. Trump’s delusional 4 years in office continued to strengthen social inequalities, with the GOP not only hastening the outright privatization of services, but also in their irrationally sociopathic denial of climate change [vi]. Utterly smothered are the ethics and morals of Lincoln and his fellow party members, with human destiny being herded by the hand of corporate greed and governmental corruption.
“The principle of free governments adhere to the American soil. It is bedded in it, immovable as its mountains.”
Spoken on June 17, 1843 at the unveiling of the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, South Carolina, Webster’s speech touched the hearts of the newly free Americans [vii]. Although the people and the government indeed freed themselves from British rule, it also began, or renewed, hardships for many; many whose lives would be drastically changed due to the strong arms of expansionism and imperialistic control. The US government, an organization which holds responsibility for unending conflicts and wars, both domestic and international, had revised the definition of freedom so as to fit their needs and interests.
At this time, the southern half of the country fervently believed in freedom, only it was of the type that was of economic convenience to them, as slaves continued be regarded as lower than animals. This deep-seated belief led to an estimated 483,000 casualties for those who would maintain slavery [viii] (the Confederate Army and its casualties). Freedom for the natives, if it ever can be said to have occurred, was, at the time of this speech, being further encroached on by northwest expansion. Moreover, Britain and America were able to bury the hatchet in the endeavor to further drive natives off their lands [ix]. Put simply, since the Declaration of Independence was signed, and to this day, the American government has stopped at nothing to take possession of whatever it wants.
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”
In the words of Jonathan Pie, “Is it great again, yet?!”[x]
Citizens are in need of the wise and honest now more than ever. Naturally, the standard of a nation rises and falls, however, its current fall did not happen naturally. America’s decline was managed through selfish policies, brazenly leading to the highest levels of inequality not only in the US, but worldwide[xi]. Record levels of distrust in the government[xii] are not the result of wise and honest elected leaders; that is, if they can truly be said to be lawfully elected in the first place.
Wisdom and honesty are not behind the consistent drawing of funds from social welfare programs and organizations, ultimately eroding the democratic processes and institutions of the nation [xiii]… greed, however, is. Somehow a recession every decade has become the norm, with real policy-change non-existent. Millions are ensnared under (corporate) policy maker’s delusional assurance of trickle-down economics, as one academic elaborates:
“An overriding belief, verging on the theological, in the efficiency of free markets […] An associated belief in the unnecessary and malign impact of government interventions in the economy. […] A commitment to winding back government regulation and privatizing publicly provided goods and services and […] A parallel commitment to reducing taxes and transfers, resulting in a further shrinking of the public sector.”[xiv]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
-Declaration of Independence
Unless you’re black, a native, LGBT, an immigrant, or a woman.
…still getting there.
“We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and God grant that America will be true to her dream.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the truly noble historical figures. A man who sacrificed everything to promote equality. A man who lived three lifetimes worth of stress in just 39 years [xv]. A man who should have been president rather than martyr. The noble dream remains out of reach, but it is closer than when he was alive.
At present, the trial of Derek Chauvin, murderer of George Floyd, is underway. The Black Lives Matter campaign is continuing King’s seemingly unrealizable dream of racial equality. In the country whose affluence was built on slavery of the harshest degree, one would think many states are still yet fighting the Civil War. Recent history has plenty of civil unrest, well after King’s death. There were the Detroit riots in 1967, the LA riots in 1992, the Baltimore riots in 2015 in, and, more recently, Charlottesville’s disgusting “Unite the Right” white-supremacy rally riots in 2017… how many more state of emergencies will there be for racial acceptance to transpire?
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
-John F. Kennedy
Kennedy, echoing many US presidents, spoke often on the pretense of promoting freedom, as he proclaimed upon his inauguration “…rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.” [xvi] Ironically, he mercilessly multiplied each of these issues. By authorizing Agent Orange, Kennedy’s tyranny inflicted poverty, disease, and war upon millions of innocent South Vietnamese; as 3 million suffered health problems due to exposure to the herbicide, with an estimated 1 million birth defects and long-lasting effects continuing to this day [xvii].
What about Cuba? The disaster that was the Bay of Pigs invasion eventually led to the hiring of mafia hit-men to assassinate then-President Fidel Castro [xviii]. Similar as with Vietnam and Afghanistan, Cuba had the extreme misfortune as functioning as a proxy to both the US and Soviets, ultimately precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis. Never before had humanity teetered so precariously upon the balance of total destruction [xix]. Though some policies were enacted for improved civil rights, it is my opinion that these egalitarian acts cannot atone for the ongoing nightmares instituted, as well as continued, by the Kennedy administration.
[i] Arnold, I.N. (1881). Abraham Lincoln. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, [online] 10, pp.312–343. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3678027 [Accessed 7 Apr. 2020]. [ii] American Battlefield Trust. (2018). Civil War Casualties. [online] Available at: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties. [iii] Brownstein, R. (2017). Where the Republican Party Began. [online] The American Prospect. Available at: https://prospect.org/power/republican-party-began/ [Accessed 30 Mar. 2021]. [iv] Inequality.org. 2020. Wealth Inequality - Inequality.Org. [online] Available at: <https://inequality.org/facts/wealth-inequality/> [Accessed 30 March, 2021]. [v] Singh, S.V.P. and Singh, S. (2020). Exploring the Linkage between Income Inequality, GDP and Human Well-Being. Business and Economics Research Journal, 11(3), pp.621–634. [vi] Drennen, A. and Hardin, S. (2021). Climate Deniers in the 117th Congress. [online] Center for American Progress. Available at: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2021/03/30/497685/climate-deniers-117th-congress/ [Accessed 30 Mar. 2021]. [vii] American Battlefield Trust. (2020). Dedication Speech for the Unveiling of the Bunker Hill Monument. [online] Available at: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/dedication-speech-unveiling-bunker-hill-monument [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021]. [viii] Nps.gov. (2015). Facts - The Civil War (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at: https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/facts.htm. [ix] Northwest Expansion & Settlement in the Early United States. (2016, January 30). Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/northwest-expansion-settlement-in-the-early-united-states.html. [x] www.youtube.com. (2021). Trump’s Last Day! [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/tvcwMcGWf-w [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021]. [xi] Inequality.org. 2020. Global Inequality - Inequality.Org. [online] Available at: <https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/> [Accessed 1 April 2021]. [xii] Rainie, L. and Perrin, A. (2019). Key findings about Americans’ declining trust in government and each other. [online] Pew Research Center. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/22/key-findings-about-americans-declining-trust-in-government-and-each-other/. [xiii]Baca, G., 2017. Neoliberal narratives of crisis: the feeble cries of a vanishing “class”. Dialectical Anthropology, 41(4), pp.377-385. [xiv] Berry, M. (2013). Neoliberalism and the City: Or the Failure of Market Fundamentalism. Housing, Theory and Society, 31(1), pp.1–18. [xv] Transcript (1968). American Experience | Citizen King | Transcript | PBS. [online] web.archive.org. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20130125144003/http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mlk/filmmore/pt.html. [xvi] (1961). Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy Washington, D.C. January 20, 1961. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20120111193541/http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations/Inaugural-Address.aspx [Accessed 1 Apr. 2021]. [xvii] Andrew Glass (2019). U.S. launches spraying of Agent Orange, Jan. 18, 1962. [online] POLITICO. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/18/us-launches-operation-ranch-hand-jan-18-1962-1102346 [Accessed 1 Apr. 2021]. [xviii] Pbs.org. (2019). Operation Mongoose | American Experience | PBS. [online] Available at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/rfk-operation-mongoose/. [xix] maryferrell.org. (n.d.). Cuban Missile Crisis. [online] Available at: https://maryferrell.org/pages/Cuban_Missile_Crisis.html [Accessed 1 Apr. 2021].