Graham Crackers, Corn Flakes, and Other Grrrrreat American Heresies

“Dad,” the inquisitive youngster is bound to ask, “where do corn flakes come from?”  In today’s economy, where farms are something you drive by on your way to Disneyland, the most common answer might be “Kroger” or “the 7-Eleven” instead of “from the farm, son, from cornfields.”  The real answer, which you would most certainly refrain from giving to a wide-eyed toddler, is that the Seventh Day Adventists, an American cult, invented breakfast cereal in order that it might purify them for the Second Coming of Jesus by helping them to move their bowels regularly and to keep them from having marital intercourse and masturbating.  Further reflection is in order.

America, the great melting pot that has come to resemble more a wastewater treatment facility than a good gumbo, has had a particularly unique recipe for cultural change.  First, a real societal problem is identified, caused, in some manner, by the American experience on the frontier (say, public drunkenness and rabblerousing).  Next, some sort of dissenter’s heresy is confected, either in the British Isles or on American soil (say, temperance).  Then the two are added together by a wild-eyed inventor in the form of a product (say, Welch’s Grape Juice or Coca-Cola).  Next, the product is secularized, corporatized, bureaucratized, and traded on the New York Stock Exchange. ...

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