So, this morning, I tweeted the following quip:

Immediately thereafter, @GrimestTrigger tweeted this post that he'd written on his blog, Hints And Hunches.

I've read a lot of Ayn Rand debunkers in my time, many of them quite good, but many others grossly overwrought with tortured liberal prose trying to impress the reader with a smug condescension toward all those wayward 9th graders who are still in impressed by the objectivist queen of mean.

Grimest has avoided all of that, yet still nailed the essence of the fallacies in her world view, which has transcended its meager literary beginnings by poking a big stick in the eye of her linchpin character, John Galt, from her annoyingly popular novel, "Atlas Shrugged."  Over the past 50 years, with no small help from conservative book buying clubs and foundations trying to force her convenient beliefs on an intellectually sloppy planet, Shrugged, and her other greedy epistles, like The Fountainhead, have mushroomed into a religion of rancorous rhetoric that underpins that culture of selfishness that is subsuming America's politics, and perhaps the very future of our planet as well. 

Please show it every 9th grader you know, and everyone still thinking like one. It's another example of the kinds of primers I feel that liberals must make a conscious effort to share more of as widely as possible. It took conservatives half a century to teach Americans to think like they do, with no small help from false prophets like Ayn Rand.  It will take us at least that long to help teach a more just and sustainable world view for the human race to live by.

Note: I've been collecting these kinds of works,and plan to share them very soon in an interesting new way. If you have some Rand debunkers or interesting essays about her works or influence, please share them in the comments and I will consider them for possible inclusion in my compendium when it drops!
 

The Myth of John Galt

by Patrick Doyle (@GrimestTrigger)


“We never think entirely alone: we think in company, in a vast collaboration; we work with the workers of the past and of the present. [Across] the whole intellectual world, each one finds in those about him the initiation, help, verification, [and] encouragement that he needs”

Antoine Sertillanges, La vie intellectuelle, 1920
 
 
No one knows who it was that first discovered iron, but legend has it that a man named Magnes who lived in an area of Greece called Magnesia was the first to notice the phenomena of magnetism. His dog was probably named ‘Maggie’.
 
Less legendary are the writings of Lucretius and Pliny the Elder[i]. Later, it was Hans Oersted who showed that magnetism was related to electricity, and it was left to Maxwell to codify the phenomena and establish the basis for the electromagnetic theory.
 
From there, it was a whole cast of actors, over many years, each making their own contribution, that lead to the innovation of the electric motor[ii]. John Galt, hero of Ayn Rand’s second-rate work of fiction, Atlas Shrugged, ‘took’ these ideas and incorporated them into his ‘static motor’.
 
The same dynamic occurred with respect to machine bearings, without which any motor would be worthless.
 
Henry Timken is credited with the invention of the roller bearing, and was awarded patent number 606635 by the United States patent office[iii]. But roller bearings were actually invented thousands of years before Timken was even a twinkle in his mother’s eyes.
 
The first use of roller bearings was by the ancient Egyptians, to build the pyramids. And even they couldn't’t have made use of the idea without the invention of trees, and there’s no consensus who invented them.
 
One can now extrapolate this theme of continuity to the invention of Reardenite.
 
The point of all this is that no one stands alone in space and time, no solitary figure changes the course of history. And, when there is a need, someone will step in to fill that need.
 
Rand, who claims to espouse values that can only be derived through logic and observation, fails to notice the continuity of the innovative dynamic: one person improves upon another’s work; one person sees the possibilities that others overlook, or one person combines the work of several others and ends up with an entirely new product.
 
In each case, as it is in reality, one adds to what’s already there, made possible only because that previous person did the same thing. Collectively (that word!) this is called history, which is a function of reality, unlike Galt, which is not.
 
None of this would matter if not for the many acolytes of this fantasy. Too many of our current policy makers and influencer's read the silliness that is Atlas Shrugged (usually while at a young age, more susceptible flights of fancy) and decided that she’s right. And worse. Among many of Ayn’s acolytes are those who cherry-pick aspects of her worldview, discarding the very threads of logic that would otherwise make it whole. 
 
In the same way that the flu spreads from one person to another, so has Rand’s self-defeating philosophy spread, and the result is that today we have many people in our society who fancy themselves as clones of Galt, who espouse her philosophy.
 
Paul Ryan fits this bill. This man is in a position to affect every person in the country, yet demonstrates no abilities that would legitimately place him there. Sure, he’s graduated college, but he parasitically used his father’s Social Security benefits to so. And, true, he has managed to get himself elected to congress. So did Gopher, from The Love Boat. So, no bragging allowed.
 
The personal independence that the philosophy embraces would not be possible without the sacrifices and hard work of those who came before, in many cases the sacrifice of others was a product of altruism, a despised activity in her constructed universe.
 
Never mind that many of these same people have never accomplished anything on their own, at the time the book was read by them, and therefore had no real-life experience to compare the fiction to. For someone such as Ayn Rand, who repudiates the philosophy she’s invented through the sheer implausibility of the notion of the ‘independent man’, to inspire others to a pretended state of independence, the irony of it all is invisible and therefore unreal.
 
Just like John Galt.

The Original Text 

Related

 

I have just read for the fourth time, Sara Robinson's important 2012 essay entitled, "Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America"

It's not long, and one of those reads which I think every 10th grader should be forced to consume, and then be quizzed on again and again until the foundational concepts are ingrained and at least partially understood.  Until such understandings are embedded in each generation's mindshare, each will too easily fall victim to the same forces of plantation economy, aristocracy, and other rank manifestations of predatory capitalism that have soiled the one before.  Free markets have done much for civilization. But only by making them a little less free are we going to be able to constrain their raging excesses and the humanistic failures that have resulted from them.

Below are the last few paragraphs of Sara's post. They make for a tidy list of some of the greater threats posed by this centuries old culture war of inbred and nouveau-greed lording over historically disadvantaged populations of compliant serfs. It's a war threatening not just America, but the entire planetary ecosystem of our delicate species.

 

It's not an overstatement to say that we're now living in Plantation America. As Lind points out: to the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like Woodard's description of a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back.

We're now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.

Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.

The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy — without ever being held to account.

The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.

The military — always a Southern-dominated institution — sucks down 60% of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.

Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.

Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.

We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government's job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren't just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we're no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we've always understood them. Instead, we're being treated like serfs on Massa's plantation — and increasingly, we're being granted our liberties only at Massa's pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.

How do we even begin to unmask and redress these crises of a modernist empire spiraling out of control? Will it be fixed  by carping on the marginal excesses of it, as seen in the issues of drones, national detention controversies and bank bailouts? Or will it be by finding new leadership and policy precepts that replace the ones which are clearly failing to provide for the common good? Ones not motivated by wealth accumulation or careerist ambitions, but rather by a sincere desire to advance our species toward its collective survival and some kind of satisfying intellectual and cultural status quo that endures long enough to reward successive generations without falling victim to them.

I have my ideas for getting there. I am sure you have yours. It's time we started to share them together, and out loud, in hopes of finding a brighter future before we're denied access to one by a dark and aggressively resurgent past. 

Due to my recent cancer surgery, I have lost any natural chance of having my own biological children. But I hope I have at least a few good years left where I might be able to do something to help all the other children on this rotating sphere of cosmic debris we're all traveling on.  We all get only a very brief span of years to do whatever good it is that we're going to do with them. We should probably get started.

Read the entire post. Then tweet me your thoughts.

These are two of the more important essays I've read this year. I got tired of tweeting them separately, so this post will make it easier to distribute them as a pair. I urge you to read them both because they each offer a fresh perspective on the root causes of our growing global socio–political dysfunction. Flying cars may always have been a fantasy, or they may simply not be something our plutocracy run amok cares much about. 

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

by David Graeber (co-founder of Occupy Wall Street)

Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?

And a response to it… 

Jetpacks versus Power Point Decks 

by @root_e  (armchair economic thinker and all-around smart dude.)

David Graeber wrote the first old school left wing essay I have seen in years and it makes the flabby, stale quality of much of what passes for left-wing analysis all the more apparent. Graeber asks what happened to the optimism, the technical ferment, the rapid changes and extensions of prosperity that people in the first world used to assume were inevitable:

From the keyboards of babes…

I often surf the web looking for well written essays by high school and college students. Why? Because in this digital era of Googled everything, and Buzzfed bullshit, their still evolving academic skills, supervised under the tutelage of our waning crop of talented teachers, consistently produces better researched, and often better written essays on important topics than most of what our cash- and time-strapped academics, and their feckless and lazy corporate journalist counterparts produce (or more correctly, don't produce) every day.

And they tend to focus on vital topics that never really go out of style to serious and thoughtful people. Topics that need ongoing discussion and attention every day if they are to fertilize the seeds of critcal thinking and vital discourse that we so desperately need if we are to attack the complex problelms that we, our nation, our species and our planet are facing on a daily basis.  Problems which our politicians,  corporate elites, and their media lapdogs are largely ignoring until they are salacious or sensational enough to sell some web traffic with.  

Those survival seeds of our humanity are being plowed asunder and then paved over with a dumbed down ethos of churlish and malignant ignorance; an apathetic asphalt that is a mixture of conservative bullying, media malpractice, and radical Republican dumbfuckery that has made anti-intellectualism as stylish as trucknuts on the back of a Birther's F-150 in the 1990s.

The essay below on Isolationism is a classic example.

It has some problems, factually, stylistically, and gramatically, as should be expected from a work by someone so young. But on the whole, it's an excellent paper, and a very good primer on a topic on isolationism with a level of detail you won't hear coming from David Brooks, Glenn Greenwald,  Bob Herbert, The Nation, Foreign Policy, The Economist,  the Christian Science Monitor of any other part of our professional punditocracy and overrated raconteurs. They no longer bother to factually document anything with any kind of concise historical framing. Nope. They blog or essay a few hundred words of opinon, and leave the facts and serious articulations of relevance  to the high school students. They need to focus on having sushi with Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown or Ben Smith.

Scholarship and serious treatments of complexity are just not marketable today. But we'd better find a way to make higher thinking and writing fashionable again, or our species will soon be heading for Trilobite status. In a few hundred million years, some future archelogogist (probably a robot from Alpha Centauri) will find a pair of truck nuts embedded in limestone on the shores of Lake Huron, right next to a Ron Paul 2016.

Note: I'm going to be writing a lot more posts like this in coming months, as I prepare to bring to market some new tools for making serious and vitally needed information more timely, accessible, and applicable to our real-world problems.

 

American Isolationism Before World War II

by Matthew Brown (Harwich High School, Harwich, MA 2005)

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europehas a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities. – George Washington (U-S-History – Isolationism, par. 5)                          

Since the creation of this great country, a debate has raged back and forth whether to remain in a bubble on our separate continent from the rest of the world and to remain neutral, or to become involved in world affairs, and thus gain prestige, or destruction.  Since World War II, the United States has increasingly “meddled” in the affairs of other nations, such as many Latin and South American countries, the Middle East, and Vietnam to name a few.  Now, there is little of this non-intervention sentiment in the United States.  Leading up to World War II, though, was the period of perhaps the greatest anti-war surge in the United States.

Isolationism, the term for this anti-war sentiment, was led by many congressmen and other influential people, such as the well-known Charles A. Lindbergh.  They did not want America drawn into another World War, and so created the Neutrality Acts to punish warring nations. Roosevelt struggled greatly against Isolationism, but vowed to the American people that he would never send their sons into war, a promise that was soon broken.  When England was under attack from the Germans, Roosevelt convinced the American people to push aside Isolationism and give the British greatly needed war materials under the Lend-Lease Act. When Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution fled to the United States on the S. S. St. Louis, they were rejected and sent back because of the United States’ 1924 immigration policy limiting immigration from Eastern andSouthern Europe.  The anti-war sentiments were nudged along by the Germans, who funded many congressmen to continue lobbying for Isolationist views.  Isolationism in American influenced American policy in the late 1930s and early 1940s and greatly delayed its entry into World War II.

            A great proponent of American Isolationism, and also a source of much criticism, was the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh.  One author even refers to part of the isolationism debate as “eleven moths of oratory between Franklin Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh” (Berg 413) when Lindbergh had first joined the America First Committee.  Lindbergh had his own views on America and the Germans.  “[…] It seemed to me essential to France and England, and even to America, that Germany be maintained as a bulwark against the Soviet Union” (Berg 376).  This prophetic view of American intervention fueled him to advocate an isolationist policy in America.

On September 11, 1941, Lindbergh spoke in Des Moines, Iowa, giving a lengthy speech urging the United States to not get involved in the War. He alluded to American debts from the First World War.  “As you all know, we were left with the debts of the last European war; and unless we are more cautious in the future than we have been in the past, we will be left with the debts of the present case” (Ranfranz, par. 20).  This is a reference back to the Nye Committee and its biased conclusions made about the U.S.’s involvement in World War I.  He then accused the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration of being “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war” (Jenkins 127).  If, he suggests, any one of these three groups ceases pushing for war, our country will be safe.  “If any one of these groups—the British, the Jewish, or the administration—stops agitating for war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement” (The History Channel, par. 1).  He also accused them of plotting a means of forcing the U. S. into the war.

When hostilities commenced in Europe, in 1939, it was realized by these groups that the American people had no intention of entering the war […] They planned: first, to prepare the United States for foreign war under the guise of American defense; second, to involve us in the war, step by step, without our realization; third, to create a series of incidents which would force us into the actual conflict. (Ranfranz, par. 34)

Lindbergh denounced war propaganda for influencing the American population.  “Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war.  Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity.  Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles” (Ranfranz, par. 36).  He lamented the bigotry towards “individuals who opposed intervention”.  Lindbergh then moved on to criticizing the Lend-Lease Act and the supposed “verge of war” it led the U. S. to.  “First, we agreed to sell arms to Europe; next, we agreed to loan arms to Europe; then we agreed to patrol the ocean for Europe; then we occupied a European island in the war zone” (Ranfranz, par. 43).  He then commented that it would be very difficult for America to be victorious in a war with Germany, stating that the German forces were “stronger than our own” (Ranfranz, par. 47).  This controversial comment was met by many boos in the middle of a speech full of relatively nothing but cheers.  This speech led to accusations of Lindbergh as an anti-Semite.  Also, his name was removed from his hometown watertower in Little Falls, Minnesota (The History Channel, par. 2).  This shows the great movement against isolationism and towards war among the American population nearing Pearl Harbor. Earlier, though, there was much less resistance against the isolationists in America.

During the spring of 1934, Fortune magazine published an article connecting European politics with the armaments industry.  Then it discussed the activity of the American steel companies and the political ties in America.  This article prompted a Senate investigation headed by Senators Pittman and Nye, a very isolationist Republican of North Dakota.  The (incorrect) results of this investigation were that “American entry into the war was the work of wicked Wall Street bankers” (Perkins 96).  In response to this thesis, Congress quickly began work on “neutrality legislation” (96) to prevent the U.S. from being drawn into another war. These laws became known as the Neutrality Acts.  They “forbade American ships to sail into war zones or ports of belligerent nations, citizens to travel on merchant vessels belonging to belligerents, banks to lend money to nations at war, manufacturers to sell any armaments or other specified war-related products to warring countries” (Cooper 6).  The most amazing part of these acts, though, was the proposed “Ludlow Amendment”.  This amendment would allow the United States to go to war only after a national referendum.  “The American people, faced perhaps by some instant danger, were supposed to debate the issue in every part of the land, expose their divisions to the possible enemy, and fracture their national unity in time of peril by sharp and perhaps bitter discussion” (Perkins 101). This obviously opinionated idea of the Ludlow Amendment gives a worst-case scenario showing how very flawed such an idea would be.  Although this extreme measure could put the country in grave danger, seventy-five percent of the public was in favor of such an idea in 1935, and still sixty-eight percent in 1938 (102).  “When the issue was brought to the floor of the House in [1938], it was clear that a great parliamentary battle impended.  The President spoke out against the proposal; so, too did the Secretary of State” (102).  In the House there were 209 votes for the amendment, and 188 votes against, not enough for the two-thirds vote required (102).  It is very serious, though, how very divided the House was on this outrageous matter.  It reflects how extremely distrustful the American people were of the President and how intense the anti-war sentiment was during that time period.  Dexter Perkins describes this:

The Ludlow amendment represents the isolationist sentiment in its most extreme form.  It was based on distrust of the executive on a conception of foreign policy which would have accentuated internal division and made effective action impossible, on that kind of fear of war which encourages others to war.  It was the high-water mark of the movement of American withdrawal. (102)

The Neutrality Acts greatly hindered both the aggressor and the victim nations in war.  Roosevelt made this connection and attempted to get Congress to allow loopholes in the act.  “[Roosevelt] recommended the stepping-up of defense appropriations and expressed the opinion that the neutrality legislation of 1937 might operate unevenly, might ‘actually give aid to an aggressor and deny it to the victim’” (106).  Basically, by cutting off support to both the aggressor and the victim, the victim would only grow weaker, while the aggressor would grow more powerful.  Once World War II began, this proved to be the case for Nazi Germany and Britain.  Britain was suffering much more greatly from the Neutrality Acts thanGermany was.  Roosevelt’s beliefs about these acts greatly reflect his general motives during his last two terms in the Whitehouse.  He wanted to keep the isolationist American population happy while keeping the U. S. safe from foreign threats.  He believed that “the country would be more likely to keep out of the war if the arms embargo were repealed. […] If the democratic nations could win, there was less chance of the United States being involved than if Germany were victorious” (108).  He therefore “pursued a settled policy of weakening the Neutrality Acts” (Cooper 7) and helped out the Allied nations against the German aggressors.

This policy led to the creation of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, a great achievement of Roosevelt against the flow of isolationism, but first came a prelude in the summer of 1940 – the bases-destroyers deal.  In this negotiation with Britain, America received many British bases “extending from Trinidad on the south to Newfoundland on the north” (Perkins 114).  This ingenious idea was accepted by the isolationists because the bases would strengthen the U.S., but also greatly aided the British navy.  “Almost half their destroyers had been damaged or demolished” (113).  A year later, the situation was much worse and Britain was in serious need of armaments, but this time the isolationists were harder to persuade.  Roosevelt, to sway the American people, made a comparison between Britain and a house burning down.  “He made a parable about a man whose house was on fire and a neighbor who lent his garden hose – without demanding payment for it – in order to put out the fire” (Daniels 320).  This comparison went over very well with the American people, and led him to continue this idea of aiding England.  The American people now understood that the British “wanted materials, not men” (321).  Isolationists, though, saw this idea as one step closer to war.  According to theChicago Tribune, the Lend-Lease bill would “destroy the Republic” (321).  One Senator called it a “triple-A foreign policy: it will plough under every fourth American boy” (321).  Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana claimed the bill was “a bill to enable the President to fight an undeclared war with Germany” (Grapes 37).  The America First Committee was immediately against it, and Lindbergh drew great crowds to the Congressional Hearing for the bill (Daniels 321). 

Even the former isolationist Republican candidate for president, Wendell Willkie supported the bill.  In the Senate Caucus Room onFebruary 11th, 1941, Willkie spoke in support of the Lend-Lease Act.  “He proposed sending Britain all American bombers except those needed for training.  He advocated a steady flow of more and more destroyers” (Daniels 322).  In retaliation, Senator Nye quoted Willkie’s earlier statement towards Roosevelt, “on the basis of his post performance with pledges to the people, you may expect war by April, 1941, if he is elected” (323). After a long pause, Willkie shrugged and admitted, “It was a bit of campaign oratory” ruefully.  A roar of laughter went up among the room, and “Nye and his like seemed swept aside in the applause. […] Isolationist righteousness was routed” (323).  Soon after, the bill was signed into law.

Many opponents of the Lend-Lease Act, including Senator Wheeler of Montana realized that in order to send materials to the British across the Atlantic, armed convoys would be needed.  “[…] American warships would have to be assigned convoy duty.  That meant putting American ships and American lives in the line of fire and it increased the possibility of an armed exchange between German and U. S. naval forces” (Grapes 37). This point, did, in fact, become reality on September 4th, 1941.  During this incident, the U. S. destroyer Greer exchanged fire with a German submarine (37-8).  “A week later, on September 11, Roosevelt reacted to this attack in a speech in which he announced that he had given orders to the Navy to ‘shoot on sight’ and warned that Axis warships entering the American defense zone did so ‘at their peril’” (Shirer 882).  More incidents like this occurred in coming months including two in October of 1941.  On the 17th, the USS Kearny was torpedoed by the Germans, and eleven American sailors were killed when the U. S. destroyer Reuban James was torpedoed on the 31st.  Following these attacks, “Roosevelt declared an unlimited national emergency” (Grapes 38) which many realized brought the U. S. very much closer to the joining the war than before.

The crowning “achievement” of isolationism was the incident of the S. S. St. Louis.  On May 13, 1939, the S. S. St. Louis left Hamburg,Germany with 937 passengers (one account, by Bryan Grapes, claims the number to be 936 passengers, but 937 is more likely), 930 of whom were Jewish refugees (Wiaik 6).  The ship’s destination was Havana, Cuba.  Fourteen days later, though, when they arrived at Havana, the Cuban government had revoked their landing permits and they were unable to land.  Instead, they sailed north to Florida where they waited off the coast ofMiami, close enough to see the lights from the city at night.  The U. S. government, with full knowledge of the persecution that had come to these people, and the plight they faced if forced to return, sent them away.

This incident reflects the United States’ unwillingness to become entangled in European affairs.  The government could not admit the Jews into the country because of harsh immigration laws imposed in 1924 under the Coolidge administration.  Although by some accounts, this harsh act was completely unnecessary and was a terrible example of American indifference to the plight of the Jews, others speak of it differently.  According the Bryan Grapes, the American government greatly assisted the Jews in finding safe places to live, although not in the U. S.  “None […] of the passengers of the St. Louis were returned to Nazi Germany.  They were all resettled in democratic countries – 288 in the United Kingdom, and the rest in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark” (Grapes 211).  What he fails to state is that four out of five of these countries mentioned were taken over by the Nazis within a few years.  This incident is truly an error in judgement of the American government.  An exception should have been made to keep hundreds of people from suffering at the hands of the Nazis.

The Germans put great effort into keeping America out of the war.  They funded isolationist sentiments throughout the United States for a long period of time before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Germans not only saw the United States as a threat to join the war, but they also thought that if there was no chance whatsoever of U. S. entry, then England would finally give in to the Germans.  Therefore, the Germans went to great lengths to keep the U. S. neutral.  “In the United States the German Embassy, under the direction of Hans Thomsen, the chargé d’affaires, was spending every dollar it could lay its hands on to support the isolationists in keeping America out of the war and thus discourage Britain from continuing it” (Shirer 747).  Thomsen put particular effort into the party conventions occurring in 1940.  He tried influencing both parties to include anti-war planks, especially the Republicans (748).  According to German papers captured after their defeat, a Republican Congressman was paid $3,000 “to invite fifty isolationist Republican Congressmen to the Republican convention ‘So that they may work on the delegates in favor of an isolationist foreign policy’” (748).  This same individual also wanted $30,000 for full-page ads in American newspapers including one in the June 25th, 1940 New York Times (748).  In this ad, many Democratic Senators spoke against Roosevelt and a recent change of cabinet officials.  The advertisement begins, “The Democratic Party, we believe, is the interventionist and war party and is rushing us headlong into war in efforts to quarantine and police the world with American blood and treasure” (New York Times 19).  This is a reference to Roosevelt’s 1937 “Quarantine” speech, in the Midwest, where he “urged peaceful countries to unite and ‘quarantine’ international lawlessness” (U-S-History - Roosevelt, par. 8). Senator Johnson of Colorado goes on to give his opinion that “[…] If the democratic Party fails to do its duty and makes the mistake of nominating an interventionist for the office of President, so far as I am concerned, my country will come before my Party” (New York Times 19).  This quote insinuates that the Democratic party, by renominating Roosevelt, is unpatriotic and will be ruining the United States, a very harsh jab at the Democrats, by a Democrat isolationist.  Another Senator quoted in this German-funded isolationist advertisement is Senator Walsh ofMassachusetts, another Democrat isolationist.  He accuses the Roosevelt administration of not thinking of the poor or the majority of the American public, and of charging into war. 

[…] Oh, the tragedy of it, that a powerful group of men of property should be challenging the peace desires of the millions of poor people who toil and labor and sacrifice to whom war brings more poverty, whose children are made for generations to eat the bread of poverty of war (19).

Senator Walsh of Massachusetts, and Senator Joe Kennedy, also of Massachusetts, although being Democrats, were very influential isolationists. This lack of sympathy towards Great Britain probably stems from their Irish backgrounds.

            These Senators were bribed into making statements betraying their parties, their countries, and themselves.  The German attempts to push the Presidency to Willkie failed, thankfully, and Roosevelt was able to bring about his ideas of Lend-Lease, to which Willkie joined in.  There was still a large group of the United States population that was isolationist, though, right up until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

            After World War I, the people of the victor nations were exhausted by the war.  This tiredness of war led to a great aversion for the war by the people of Britain, France, and the United States.  Among these countries “sentiments among politicians and the public turned rapidly and decisively in an anti-interventionist direction” (Cooper 5).  In Britain and France, this attitude became known as appeasement.  In America, it was called Isolationism.  This shift in attitudes led to many new laws proclaiming the United States’ neutrality in the world.  “Starting with the Senate’s surprise rejection of membership in the World Court in 1934 – which had previously been pushed by Republican presidents as well as now by the Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt – both houses of Congress swung overwhelmingly isolationist” (6).  From 1934 on, isolationism grew steadily stronger with the creation of the Neutrality Acts, one after another, in 1935, ’36, and ’37.  Some historians believe isolationism was extreme throughout the late 30s because “The American people did not as yet feel insecure.  It was when fear was added to moral condemnation that their temper began to change and that in increasing measure they began to feel that they might be compelled in their own interest, to combat the advance of totalitarianism” (Perkins 105).  This opinion of isolationism as an idea that only thrives during times of safety is completely true.  Even today, the American people feel safe, so a great percent of the population feels no need to be at war with Iraq.  That is how the human mind works, and how it will continue to work in times of peace.

            Although it seemed to make sense at the time that the U. S. would be safe as long as it stayed out of the war, there is a moral dilemma that must be confronted.  This dilemma, whether to help those in need, was brought to the spotlight during the S. S. St. Louis incident, America made the wrong choice and turned away 937 people in need of shelter and protection.  The question is, when is it more important to protect the people of your fellow nations at your own nation’s expense?  This debate has continued ever since George Washington’s famous farewell address denouncing foreign “entanglements”.  These “entanglements” are what keep a nation alive and thriving in the world, and must be maintained to some degree. Franklin Roosevelt realized that one day we must go to Germany, whether the American people are in favor of it or not.  He, therefore, tried to getAmerica involved as quickly as possible, against the will of his apathetic nation.  Roosevelt said, wisely, “We must be the arsenal of democracy” (Daniels 321).  This was true only until Japan attacked our men at Pearl Harbor and killed isolationism in America.  This attack destroyedAmerica’s false sense of security and turned us into much more than the arsenal of democracy.  We became the juggernaut of the free people of the world; ready to help all the people we turned away for years.  We repented for our American Isolationism.

Source: http://harwich.edu/depts/history/HHJ/iso.htm

 

Related

 

 

 

If you weren't aware, David Graeber was one of the intellectual instigators of Occupy Wall street. He wasn't directly responsible for all, nor even most of their strategies, tactics, and ultimately their failures (thus far).

Once you put aside criticisms of him as anarchist (a poorly understood term these days), or any number of real or pseudo-Marxist end-games that seem to flow from his words at times, the value of his observations, insights and analysis are prescient, clear, and damned interesting to ponder. He has a talent for explaining the underpinnings of our predicament called capitalism and its risks to a human species which now seems so dependent on its teetering efficiencies (or inefficiencies, depending on one's outlook).

Graeber has written an important essay, which I really hope will give rise to more like it. While the foundational thinkers like Graeber matter a lot, we need to also hear ideas from others who might be a little bit better at extracting solutions (or at least exposing productive directions) from an expanding morass of rapidly evolving economic, social and spiritual crises which are now threatening the present and future generations of a highly vulnerable human race.

It's a long read, but well worth the time.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

by David Graeber

 

This morning, I awoke to the always insightful Krista Tippet—whose "On Being" is one of the only shows on faith and religion that I can listen to routinely—having a remarkable discussion with anthropologist Scott Atran, discussing how in the decade since 9/11, the Muslim world, and its youth, have changed dramatically… but our world view of them has not. 

With anthropologist Scott Atran, we make deeper sense of the human dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa. Atran offers bracing context on the promise of this moment and the response it asks from the watching world.

Being old enough to have worked with Margaret Mead, the bulk of Atran's career has been spent studying the root causes of religious and social conflict, and has followed the track of evolution behind globalism, Islam, and terrorism all over the world.  Among the many fascinating threads of insight that he unravels, intentionally, or not,  are how our perceptions and understanding of these things are completely distorted by our culture biases in general, but especially by the political and economic propaganda that are designed to block any hope of understanding them. 

"And now they are foisting this view of the Muslim Brotherhood on everyone…. these guys are keystone cops…"

In this interview, you will hear things about Islam you have never heard before. Not just that Al-Qaeda barely exists anymore (it's about 100 people, now), but also that Jihadists come from a youth culture that never studied religion as children (in Madrasahs or anywhere else), and that Barack Obama (had been) a bigger hero to much of Islam than Bin Laden ever was (but not because he was purportedly a Muslim).

But those are just a few teasers I picked at random. I have more notes on this interview than any I have heard in many years.

Anyone, but especially those rare thinking conservatives who have been fed such a steady diet of utter bullshit about Islam for years, must listen to this interview end-to-end. The final points are some of the most important. It may be one of the most important educations that any global citizen can hear.

Note:  It is programs like this that make me tremble with rage at the thought of the right wing ever actually being able to shut down NPR. As flawed and corporatist as it can be so often, it remains one of our few mass media links to the kinds of operational scholarly intelligence that built the world that so many of us now take for granted (at great peril to our future).

On Being: The show promo page (listen at upper right)