I am fascinated by how Eisenhower—the all-American, general, Cold War president—ended a September 24, 1957 speech from the Oval Office, concerning the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis:
Thus will be restored the image of America and of all its parts as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Good night, and thank you very much.
Now it is impossible for a president to end a speech—any speech—without saying “God bless America.” And yet Eisenhower, the president whom we usually credit with inserting “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance (in 1954, three years before this speech), and with generally using Christianity as a way to shore up American values in contrast to those of the godless communists, isn’t going there in this speech. I think it’s a reminder, dare I say it, of how much the new post-Reagan Republican party has done to make us think that the new normal has always been the normal. Even in my life time it has become increasingly easier to be un-American—maybe not as easy as it was at the height of the McCarthy witchhunts, but pretty damn easy.