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LOST IN TRANSITION
There was a merry old time in my life when I was a mere sixteen or seventeen year old very sapient youth who already had absorbed very nourishing nibbles of Oswald Spengler’s’ Decline of the West, and also most likely by then a full dose of sardonic Rubashov in Arthur Koestlers’ most trenchant “”Darkness At Noon” as he moaned away his embittered hopes in awaiting trial that “his treacherous betrayal of the workers paradise” that was being established in the Stalinist years in the nascent Union of Democratic (!!)Soviet Soviet Socialistic Republics. The USSR, for short---the “D” they never had the temerity to literally foist off only on even most naïve of ardent believers. These were, I suppose,the original prototypical Tea Party types who become the tender, slender nascent ones who persisted and thus became the permanent cadre, right or wrong, of the new reality of the rising proletariat that would soon overthrow the decadent capitalist conspiracy that still ruled the deluded western European and American proletariat.
The first priority, then, of course, was the overthrow of the fascist forces of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito most recently, who attacked the literally sleeping giant of the United States of America at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th 1941. At that almost bucolic time we were a somewhat bemused neo isolationist country, with only those bellicose American Jews incensed because of Hitler’s overt and very active anti Semitism. Which ultimately and simply it became crucially clear was to make Europe, ganz Judenrein, compIetely free of Jews. Indeed, the greatest pro Nazi rally beyond Hitler’s Germany was said to have occurred outside the old Madison Square Garden near Times Square in Manhattan. Several thousand pro German American citizens rallied at an a American German Bund meeting outside the official inside Madison Square Garden, packed meeting. This group, led by Fritz Kuhn, was definitely not neutral or isolationist; listening happily to details of Hitler and his Nazi German cohorts capturing almost all of Europe. Most other ethnic groups in this country were still neutral or indifferent, perceiving yet another foreign war ---as World War One, which we were inveigled into “to make the world safe for democracy” and was won with only little more token freedom and much more territorial spoils of war that was under allied control. Much to the disgust of the idealistic American leader, Woodrow Wilson.
However, we were blessed with our finest hours historically with FDR---Franklin Delano Roosevelt---and his masterful leadership of the free western countries and Soviet Russia, in World War II. The Soviet casualties far exceeded those of all the more liberal western allies. Roosevelt served an unprecedented never to be repeated four terms as president. Dying in office near the beginning of his fourth term, he was succeeded by his almost unknown but constitutionally correct vice president Harry Truman, who was almost a complete neophyte in the tremendous sweep of epoch making events convulsing the entire civilized world, culminating in the two new American atomic bombings of the stubborn, recalcitrant Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before Emperor Hirohito signed off on both the enormous new physical and radiation damage that this most lethal of all weapons ever created by mankind represented.
Back in Washington, almost as a footnote back stage, Truman, very new on the job, is said to have muttered to his inner group of confidants, “boys, please, you pray for me, too…”. But millions of American families blessed Truman’s decision, to use the new weapon for the war, after Hitler’s defeat in the West, the battle was still far from over for a very determined Japanese foe, and some of our not too enthusiastic battle hardened western allied troops were already being redeployed to the far east war zone to continue against a very well entrenched, still determined Japanese foe prior to the unveiling of this vast new death threat. Indeed, stories of outlying Nipponese troops still fighting several years after the war’s official end did occur. And yet today, ---most paradoxically!---the Japanese are our firm and steadfast ally in all the vast Pacific Ocean, which we do control most peaceably. Happily we do compete economically, and a marvelous economic resurgence since Pearl Harbor has occurred, and Japan, with no natural resources as its economic base has become the third largest manufacturing entity in the world, behind only the United States and just recently, China. Also, most happily they have almost no cogent military establishment, or navy! And both Japan and Germany are strongly functioning democratic entities, and as is our country. And both substantial allies with democratic governments, and strong exemplars of human rights. And with very little military financial burden, with the mighty big fist of sole superpower status Uncle Sam shadowing behind with quiet but emphatic emphasis. Also a total triumph after the war was the Marshall Plan, , then a 17 billion expense which was brought to fruition by our “neophyte” Truman’s great backing of Secretary of State General Marshall’s plan to help the struggling post war liberated political governments chose governing paths encouraging a more free enterprise economic approach and not necessarily the heavy hand of state ownership that Soviet Russia represented. Our former staunch anti Nazi ally---the Soviet Union--- turned this comparable economic aid down , and four or five years later, when the funding ceased, all the western free market participants were well ahead of their pre world war economic status and very far ahead the meager growth records of the left behind remaining Russian satellites.
Indeed an abiding but probably tinged with modern mythic folk whimsy is the fact that while Hitler is supposed to have done a small mini dance of jubilation in the streets of occupied Paris under the Arc de Triomphe, when La Belle France fell to the invading German Wehrmacht, but Winston Churchill did a mini Irish Jig in front of Ten Downing Street, London’ when Hitler declared war on the United States about a year later, after our naval disaster at Pearl Harbor. Ostensibly, this appears to be the greatest military and political blunder in history. Perhaps Hitler completely misjudged American character and believed that the we would be intimidated and still indifferent. But the Pearl Harbor surprise attack was “a day that will live infamy” as Roosevelt declaimed to congress the very next day as we declared war on Japan. But then came another momentous surprise. Two days later Hitler’s Germany declared war on the United States! Thus allowing us to ease our way into this now burgeoning world wide conflict which FDR knew always transcended the narrow isolationist vision of the neutral, still reluctant majority of his fellow countryman. If Churchill, the great British leader, did no actual dance of jubilation, ageing arthritis was to blame. For Churchill knew well the strength of the dynamic American capitalist economy and the power latent in its productive capacity.
Perhaps Hitler was not aware of this immense latent power or of Roosevelt’s “ under the table” aid when still a supposedly “neutral” power, using American submarines as underwater protection from hostile German torpedoes sinking cargo ships carrying vital war supplies to the hard pressed British. Certainly most American legislators, and just plain citizens did not know, for this was happening when we were still “neutral” and thus officially illegal. Soon after our official entry under the protective cover of Pearl Harbor, FDR propelled the United States into the greatest military ---and civilian---mobilization in world history. Within a year we had over eleven million men and women working in military uniform or civilian factory. Indeed this latter aspect became a strong impetus for the augmenting of the feminist movement. I do not remember the lyrics, but the title of the song “Rosie the Riveter” still nourishes my psyche, as does the countless night time efforts of American women doing knitting in their “Bundles for Britain” escapades!
But, alas, History certainly does not necessarily repeat itself! Several other countries now have either the actual atom bomb or the means and ability to produce one. And Iran seems to have the ardent wish to annihilate Israel with it as soon as it acquires one successfully. And quite a few other nations may be on the verge of joining the still rather exclusive atomic club of mutual atomic destruction (MAD). What an absorbing day time TV sitcom or reality show to watch! But who will be around to watch beyond a dynamic, gripping first show?
But full disclosure compels me to add the puzzling facts that I, as well as many other most sentient, even if sympathetic and willing, did not realize his almost crippling paralysis from poliomyelitis. This was the era when only radio and film were the extant media for viewing. When we saw FDR upright it was only after the fact of being propped up as “standing”. He never should have chanced the fourth term and perhaps even less because of his declining health after a normal most important two term limit. I, like many others voted for him four times, automatically. And, thank God, FDR’s great legacy was only augmented by Truman during the most difficult post war era with a now intransigent Soviet state. And now into another culture clash with the Moslem and Oriental World!
Oh for those distant prior sainted days when Brooklyn was the urbis mundae---the center of the universe. When we were“still young in heart and not too old, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”!
Roosevelt At Yalta and not Truman?