A couple of my closest friends live in the town of Berlin, CT. That’s Ber-LIN. Not BER-lin.
I got wondering about why the town’s name is pronounced differently than the German capital, and I learned that in response to war against Germany during World War I, the citizens of Berlin changed the pronunciation of their town in deference to the American cause.
What a bunch of pansies.
Had I been a German soldier fighting at the time and heard about this decision, I would’ve considered this a symbolic victory for my country. Not only did my presence in the trenches change the course of events half a world away, but 80 years later, that symbolic victory remains. The pronunciation of the town remains altered, causing confusion to many.
Can you imagine what would have happened if these Berlin pansies had run the country during the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812? Half the towns in New England (and maybe more) are named after English cities and hamlets. What if each of those names was changed in response to war with England? No one would be able to pronounce the name of a single town in New England without instruction.
This is not the only instance of a time when America has chosen to change tradition and ritual and bend to the power of perception in response to an enemy. The Hitler salute, the heil, was a variant of an early Roman salute that was adopted by the Nazi Party in 1933. But similar salutes were used worldwide at the time, including the United States. Francis Bellamy, author of the original Pledge of Allegiance (the version that does not violate the First Amendment by including God) instructed Americans to salute the flag during the pledge with their “right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it.”
Very much like the Nazi Party’s salute.
But this salute was abandoned in 1942 when it was perceived to be too similar to the Nazi salute.
What the hell? America changed the way that it salutes the flag because a bunch of fascists across the pond copied us? I thought that this is why we fight wars… to preserve our way of life (at least this is why we used to fight wars). Not to change our way of life when lunatics start adopting customs too closely resembling our own.
Why not sail across the ocean, kick those fascists’ asses, and take the salute back for ourselves? Reclaim it as our own, damn it. Don’t allow a bunch of fanatics to change our way of life.
I get a little emotional over this subject.
And even though American soldiers kicked those fascist’s asses and won the war in a decisive manner, the change in our salute remained. Today, we place our hands over our hearts if we choose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and every time I do so, I think of it as the echo of a Nazi victory.
I would resume the Bellamy salute in protest of this terrible decision if I weren’t afraid of a brutal death at the hands of an angry mob of patriotic fanatics, spurred on by the same kind of fanaticism that propelled the Nazi Party to power in the first place.