Ryszard Kapuscinski was born in 1932 and grew up in the Polesie region on Poland (today Belorussia). Pinsk was liberated by Soviet troops in 1939. From what wasn’t clear. He learned the Cyrillic Russian alphabet as school from a single copy of Stalin’s Studies in Leninism, watched arbitrary mass deportations to Siberia and starved with his family. He remained liberated for most of his adult life and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The unravelling of the Imperium: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn 1992.
The system that governs us is a combination of the old nomenclatura, the sharks of finance, false democrats, and the KGB. I cannot call this democracy—it is a repugnant historically unprecedented hybrid, and we do not know in which direction it will develop…[but] if the alliance will prevail they will be exploiting us not for seventy, but for one hundred and seventy years.
We do know the direction Russia took under Vladimir Putin. Kapuscinski marks out the direction of travel. He speaks of the old native Russia. His reading and understand of Bierdayev’s book as a student at university who tried to outline what the Imperium was and the paradox of what does a Russian think when he is somewhere such as the shore of the Yenisry.
He can walk along for days and months and always Russia will surround him. The plains have no end, nor the forests, nor the rivers. To rule over such boundless expanses, says Bierdayev, one had to create a boundless state.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace showed the hubris of Napoleon and the triumph of Mother Russia. The Great Patriotic War as the Second World War was called was when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic defeated the Nazis (that had an alliance with until 1942). There were two superpowers in the world when the war ended and America was the enemy. They fought proxy-wars, Korea at the beginning of the 1950s. Communist China, a pauper state, under Chairman Mao provided unlimited manpower and around one million troops. Soviet MIG fighters protected ground troops. General McArthur, holed up as proxy-Emperor of Japan wanted to fight on, go all the way to China, all the way to Russia. War weary, General, later President Eisenhower, divided Korea. Both superpowers had nuclear weapons. China acquired them from Russia.
The Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction. John F. Kennedy at the end of 1962 called the Russian’s bluff over Cuban missiles. I was too young to remember. Now we’re too old to care. Then Putin, 24th February 2022 threatens nuclear war for interference over his invasion plans of Ukraine.
Ukraine has been at war with Russia for eight years. It used to be the breadbasket of Russia and exported grain to Germany, now it exports its crops to China. Its soil was so fertile it was said that if you left a stick in the ground a tree would bloom. Yet, during Stalin’s purges millions starved. Putin’s military has annexed Crimea. The second day of their full-scale invasion and troops surround the capital Kyiv. But with amphibious landings on Mariupol and Donbas.
Kapuscinski reminds us of falling into the abyss. The massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in 1915, the greatest mass genocide until Hitler. Regarded as traitors and infiltrators. In Putin’s terms neo-Nazis and drug addicts.
‘Nationalism is the forbidden fruit.’
The Chechen Wars were good wars for Putin. The use of overwhelming military force, mass murder and torture quelled the North Caucasus. Puppet government.
‘A state that does not have a state seeks salvation in symbols. The protection of the symbol is important to it as protection of borders to other states. The cult of the symbol becomes a form of the cult of the country. Protection of the symbol becomes an act of patriotism.’
Look at the map, Kapuscinski says of Aremenia, but he could also be speaking of Ukraine. The Russian bear wants to swallow it up. But he offers another lesson.
Look at the history books, ‘A magnificent ascent, and then, a dispiriting fall’.
The West (by which we mean President Joe Biden) offers overwhelming sanctions against Russia, but not if it pushes up the price of petrol for the average American. I wonder when the backbiting will start about the four million refugees not coming into Europe, because they’re already here. Are we sliding down the same road, taking sides, picking allies? Imperium is an insider account of a refugee that’s not a refugee in the old Soviet Socialist Republics Putin thinks still exist. Keeping your mouth shut doesn’t guarantee you’ll be OK. Not taking sides is taken sides. I’m not taking sides. I hope Ukraine wins, whatever that means. But I doubt its people will. Putin will win—for now. I don’t know what that means either.
I’m not American, nor undocumented. I’m not a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. I’m a British citizen, born in Scotland who voted for independence in the recent referendum. I’d qualify for an Irish passport on my father’s side and probably my mother’s too. Neither of them was born in Ireland. A product of the great diaspora, when the population of Ireland halved from around 12 million citizens, and then almost halved again. President John F. Kennedy’s grandparents made it to the land of the free: America. He wrote a book about it, A Nation of Immigrants, which did not touch on the bootlegging, gunrunning and sharp business practices his father used to get rich. The moron’s moron, President Trump’s grandfather emigrated from Germany. His mother, I’m sad to admit, was born in the Scottish islands.
A generation ago, there was a mass shortage of housing in Britain (sound familiar?) private-let landlords had signs: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs. Scotland is a nation of dog lovers. And not many blacks lived here, and that’s not changed much. So it was a straightforward, No Irish, but that needed qualification. The Northern Irish Protestant varieties were warmly welcomed. It was the Catholic variety of Irish nationality that were called unpatriotic and a threat to the Protestant religion. Jose Antonio Vargas reiterates a maxim: We were over here because they were over there.
Terra nullius, Ireland was an empty land, apart from the indigenous tribes. Long periods of invasion across the Irish Sea, from Oliver Cromwell onwards, religious bigotry were combined with acts of genocide, the first country to feel the might of the British Empire before it had an Empire. The six counties of Brexit British Ireland are the last vestiges of colonialism in which Irish Catholics were moved from the land in much the same way they deposed American Indians and sent them to the unliveable rocky outlets. The grievances against King George III inherent in The American Declaration of Independence were much the same as those fighting for Irish independence. A country and its people should be able to define and defend its borders, but Irish insurrections were quickly put down, whereas in America, the common people won. Where people came from mattered less than the cause for which they were fighting. The Statue of Liberty enshrined this notion with the mantra: Give me your poor huddled masses. Varga notes the first documented case of a minor arriving unaccompanied was a little girl fleeing the famine, and arriving on Staten Island.
Vargas’s Dear America is a polemic written for the world’s migrant population. He tells us the statistics, 258 million in 2018 and counting. He’s one of them. Which is another way of saying he’s one of us.
He tells us on the flyleaf how this came about.
‘My name is Jose Antonio Vargas. I was born in the Philippines. When I was twelve, my mother sent me to the United States to live with her parents. While applying for a driver’s permit, I found out my papers were fake. More than two decades I am still here illegally, with no clear path to American citizenship. To some people, I am the ‘most famous illegal’ in in America. In my mind, I am only one of an estimated 11 million human beings whose uncertain fate is under threat in a country I call my home.’
In Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 pilots in the 256th US Army Air Squadron, such as Captain John Yossarian fear their commanding officers are out to get them more than they fear the Germans they are ostensibly fighting. But he had to admit the devilish beauty of Catch-22. He’d be crazy to fly more bombing missions, but if you applied for an exemption not to fly that proved you weren’t crazy enough.
Jose Antonio Vargas, aged 37, who has lived in America for 25 years as an undocumented immigrant falls into the category of those illegals that should be banished for at least three years if they’ve lived in the country without proper documentation for six months. If they’ve lived successfully in America longer than six months, for a year or more, the banishment lasts ten years. Vargas needs to return to the Philippines and apply for American citizenship in ten years, which will not be granted because he’s already being living here as an illegal, which is illegal. But he notes the American government still expects undocumented workers to pay federal taxes and there’s an official form ITIN which brings in billions of dollars every year. Ranging from $2.2 million in Montana to an estimated $3.1 billion in California.
Kurt Vonnegut, Wompters, Foma and Grandfalloons touches on this generalisation overstretch which applies to poor people in general and immigrants in particular. Rich men control the master narrative of The Little More Theory of Life:
‘It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can’t get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. And it strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture that we have an expectation that a man can always solve his problems. There is an implication that if you just have a little more energy, a little more fight, the problem can always be solved.’
Conservative Home Secretary, Priti Patel, whose parents Sushi and Anjana arrived from Uganda in the 1960s, admits that under the current system they wouldn’t be allowed into Britain, which is fair enough, but illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed into Britain because they haven’t went through the proper channels, but there is no other way of getting into Britain other than being, for example, a multimillionaire oligarch. The Windrush Scandal also showed the tip of the immigrant iceberg and what in America is called ‘expedited removal’. Deporting immigrants before they can come before a judge that will hear their case. Priti Patel’s attack on the judiciary has been well documented.
I was surprised that President Obama (‘Deporter in Chief’) outgunned Bush and all other American Presidents, or that Hilary Clinton—scion of children’s charities—didn’t include children of immigrants in her beneficence. She wanted to send them back so as not to create a legal precedent or, in other words, to create waves. This reminded me of the scandal sheets, both joking and serious, about Priti Patel’s apparent idea to employ wave machines to keep out immigrants like her parents. But they didn’t arrive in boats. They arrived by plane. Vargas notes that most illegal immigrants arrive in America the same way. Despite the hype and ‘build the wall’ right-wing propaganda, they continue to do so. And like him, they’re not Mexican, but Asian.
To protect us from who? asks Vargas. He exposes the hypocrisy that the most rabid and right-wing Republican states rely more on immigrants to pick their crops and take care of their children and old folk and process their food than others that require more skilled workers. At the bottom of any food chain, real or metaphorical, the immigrant can be found—as we’ve also found with our NHS, with the alleged Boris’s Brexit bonus of £350 million a week going back to pay for services was just another piece of propaganda swallowed by the tabloids and sold for mass consumption.
While at the top of the food chain, the winners, not surprisingly, are the already wealthy. The cost Vargas suggests is ‘astronomically absurd,’ and getting more so. He quotes from a 2014 article published in Politico (remember this is prior the moron’s moron, Trump)
‘the US government spends more money each year on border and immigration enforcement than the combined budget of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and US Marshals…more than $100 billion since 9/11 going to private, for-profit companies.’
Dear America, I know you well, from films and televison. From Casey Jones to Champion the Wonder Horse. From Mork and Mindy to the Fonz, in Happy Days. From Shirley Temple to Laura Ingalls to Farah Fawcett and Charlie’s Angels the only part of you that wasn’t white was the Wonder Horse. Dear America, you won World Wars. You were the richest nation on earth, but China has galloped alongside and is overtaking you. Your reaction to Make America Great Again is an old trick from the old country. Blame the other. Blame the immigrant. Blame the poor for being poor. Jose Antonio Vargas still lives in America. He didn’t keep his head down. He called you out and got away with it—for now.
Described as comedy-drama, a biographical film about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the most powerful vice-president in modern history. There is a contemporary joke that nobody is ever called Dick, but that’s about it.
There is nothing funny about Vice. At a push, I could probably name most of the President since the first wold war since it mostly involves saying Roosevelt over and over.
Vice President can become Presidents. General Eisenhower and Harry Truman spring to mind. And if you take a circular route, Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon finally got his feet under the desk at the Oval Office. Most were in agreement Vice was no more than a token job. A bit like being the President’s wife. Good for photoshoots and opening fetes.
Kamala Harris’s power, in contrast, lies her ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in a split Senate. But really, she’s waiting for Joe Biden to die so she can step into a real job.
Robert A. Caro shows how Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) spiralled into depression when his attempts to control the Senate were rebuffed and his attempt to manipulate the new American President, and darling of the media, John F. Kennedy were swatted aside with a smile. The man that had once controlled Congress and Senate reduced to a comic figure that was left out of briefings in the new Camelot.
Vice follows the path of an American boy made good. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) telling him after a couple of drink driving convictions and barroom fights he was on the road to nowhere. He better ship up or ship out. He did both, while staying out of Vietnam and the armed forces on deferments.
Like LBJ, Cheney had a talent for politics. In one scene, he asks another intern what party guest-speaker Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) belongs to. When told he’s a Republican, he says he’s a Republican too.
When working for Rumsfeld as an intern he asks him Cheney what he believes in. Here’s the joke part of the film. Rumsfeld slaps him on the back and laughs so long and hard, the viewer knows it’s a joke. The purpose of power is power.
Realpolitik. Rumsfeld points to a closed door. He tells Cheney behind it is Nixon and Defense Secretary Henry Kissinger are having an unofficial meeting. When the meeting was finished tens of thousands of Vietnamese would die. Subtext. They are plotting mass murderer.
Drawing a line in the sand, Cheney gave his support to gay marriages since one of his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) came out as gay.
There were other shifting lines in the sand. He was a hawkish Secretary of Defense (1989–1993) following the precepts of the Eisenhower Doctrine—any (oil rich) Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. 1st August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait.
President George W Bush (senior) unleashed coalition (mainly US) forces in Desert Storm under the command of General Norman Schwarzkopf. February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been expelled from Kuwait in the ground war. With aerial dominance, they were sitting ducks.
[Not in the film, but worth quoting Cheney’s perceptive response to the invasion of Baghdad, in the first Gulf War: how many American dead is Saddam worth?]
‘Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.’
Vice Presidency (2001–2009).
We all know about what’s now called 9/11.
But if you asked me who the Vice President was at the time, I couldn’t have answered. The tone of the film is set early. George W. Bush (junior) (Sam Rockwell) is in the air metaphorically and literally when the planes hit The Twin Towers. Dick Cheney takes charge of the 9/11 fallout.
But Dick Cheney had always been—more of less—in charge. The coup that LBJ had attempted had failed, but Cheney was the real power in American politics. The dithering George W Bush President, but the Vice President pulling the strings. Ironically, the power grab going in the other direction. The American President grabbing more executive power as the Twin Towers fell. Extra-ordinary rendition. Repealing the Geneva Convension. Spying on American citizens.
The invasion of Afghanistan was payback for 9/11.
Payback for his old bosses at Halliburton Corporation by adding billions of dollars to shareholder value. The invasion of Iraq’s oil-rich fields with evidence from a list drawn up before Saddam Hussein was found to have mass weapons of destruction—he didn’t have and links to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida hidden network in the paperwork with the weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney, a hawk abroad, and conservative at home. No surprise with his fortune coming from a fossil fuel, Times 500 Company, he helped in the pushback for the ideas of global warming. He helped reframe the debate, through think-tanks sponsored by Times 500 companies as simply climate change, which sound much more palatable and less threatening. The kind of idea picked up the moron’s moron.
Cheney endorsed Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, but didn’t shut his eyes to how he got elected. Russian interference, or what he moron’s moron would call Russian help from their cyber networks, Cheney classified as ‘an act of war’. But he’d also have to have declared war on that American institution Facebook that cashed the cyber cheques made in Russia and created the images of hate that polluted politics (from a very low base which Cheney’s think-tanks helped fuel) and still does.
The film ends with the viewer finding out the narrator of the film is the man that provided Cheney with a new heart after his failed. I guess they should have saved it and given it to someone more deserving. But money talks loudest. Worth a look, but don’t expect to giggle.
Hagiography (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject
Around 3000 United States citizens were killed in what has become known as 9/11. This is A Day in the Life of President George W. Bush.
A ticking clock. The rest is a history of good guys and bad guys, when 9/11 became shorthand for President George W. Bush can-do and holding a poster of Osman Bin Laden with a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. it. BBC and Apple take us back to that day with archive footage and all the Republican big hitters that were talking heads paying lip service to their former boss: Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Ironically, Inside the President’s War Room was bookmarked by BBC 1, News at 10 and the chaotic scenes of US troops evacuating Afghanistan citizens ringing Kabul airport. In the twenty year war over $2 trillion had been spent, around 16 500 members of the US armed forces had been killed (and around 500 members of the British armed forces) with approximately ten times that numbered severally injured. With the average cost of one soldier stationed in Afghanistan estimated at around $1 million a year. Taliban spokesmen on New at 10 said they’d made more territorial gains than twenty years ago.
Civilian casualties are more difficult to estimate. Women and children figuring highly in any estimates of 171 000 to 360 000 dead. Multiply by ten for those injured. Multiply by whatever figure you like to take into account the casualty rate in Iraq.
11th September 2001. 9.03am, President George W. Bush, is in Florida, (he was once Governor). If you’d asked him what 9/11 was, he’d have looked bemused. He has that innate ability. But he was smiling as he listened to a teacher going through a presentation in front of seven-year-old schoolchildren. An aide whispers in the President’s ear.
Anyone that has read Robert A. Caro’s account of the ascent of Lyndon B. Johnston to the Presidency knows what happens after 9/11 was predictable. An algorithmic version of George W. Bush—even with the wonky technology of 2001, with Air Force One, for example frequently losing contact with ground signals and having to swoop over cities to pick up satellite signals and news footage—would have saved time. It would have been difficult for even a charismatic genius of John F. Kennedy standing to do any different, not go to war, even though in the Cuban Missile Crisis with nuclear Armageddon at stake, he cut a deal. But that was with bigger fry. This was just men in robes with boxcutters. Caro argued, ‘power corrupts, but it also reveals.’ In the case of the moron’s moron, Trump, for example, it reveals a malignant evil that has diminished, but not gone away. Trump would have loved a war. Caro’s advice stands good then as it does now. ‘Turn every page and do the maths.’ Going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was the easy part. No US President could afford not to. We’re still counting the cost.
‘I’m comfortable with the decision I made,’ former President George W. Bush tells the camera.
(Greg Palast documents how Democrat Presidential candidate, Al Gore, won the 2000-1 election, but another unfamiliar word, like ‘9/11’, entered the lexicon – ‘chad’. Let’s not confuse this with the scare tactics of the moron’s moron Trump. An appeal to the Supreme Court called for a recount of the votes in Florida.
Fast forward, just as the US Supreme Court trashed women’s right to abortion in Texas and by extension, Jane Doe is dead. But that’s an aside for women’s rights not in Afghanistan were the bad guys are pictured with bulky robes and marked out as Muslim and, therefore, other, likely to take women’s rights back to the seventh-century.)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises: ‘How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’
At over a thousand pages Robert A.Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson is a hefty wedge of American history. We know power corrupts, but Caro also argues ‘power reveals’. We’re aware of that iconic picture of Jackie Kennedy standing with the former Vice President of the United States and now President, Lyndon Johnson. Power reveals.
(But that was later, volume 4, the new Senator John F. Kennedy only makes a brief appearance, in volume 3, his father Joe Kennedy makes the offer to finance a campaign to elect his son, with Johnson, running as Vice President, much like Richard Nixon had run as Vice President for Dwight D. Eisenhower. The thirty-third and thirty-fourth Presidencies of Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower that followed the Second World War and the Korean War and post-war boom. These were giants of men, especially in relation to the moron’s moron, the 45th and current President of the United States.)
Lady Bird Johnson described her husband’s twelve years in Senate office as the happiest days of their life and that includes his stint as President. A Senator hired by oil and gas interests in the South who bought a ticket with his name on it. The Brown brothers, whose company name was Brown & Root, for example, were willing to spend as much as it took to make Johnson a Congressman, a Senator and a President. Quid pro quo. They expected government contracts in return.
And Johnson got them for the Brown brothers. Their story follows the familiar pattern of the American dream, work hard and prosper. George Brown, for example, road building with a mule and a gang of men. Go soft on the mule and hard on the men was his motif. Then they sunk all their capital, all their savings, into a construction of a dam in Johnson’s county, the Hill Country. But would have went bust, the purchase of the land illegal, the machinery they bought for the job, a giant crane, useless junk, until Johnson sorted it with government officials (volume 2). Quid pro quo.
The Brown brothers kept financing Johnson’s political ambitions and in return became a multinational company. They were given, for example, government contracts to build ships, even although they hadn’t worked in the field of shipbuilding before. They became big not only in the Southern States but in the United States and as American influence grew, also abroad. The Brown brothers never forgot their roots. They hated organised labour and they hated niggas, who they thought were lazy. George Brown (of the spare the mule era) labelled any state help as ‘Gimmes’. The hundreds of millions (billions by today’s standards) weren’t, of course, classified as ‘Gimmes’.
Brown & Root were one of several oil and gas monopolies that set out to destroy Leland Olds. Their attack dog was Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, quid pro quo. Olds was chairman of the Federal Power Commission (FPC). If I were to describe Olds as a saintly man it would sound clichéd. Caro doesn’t do that, his history of Johnson goes sideways to explain the future President’s world in more detail. Olds was part of that world, so there is a chapter devoted to his rise and destruction. And the way in which Johnson cobbles together a Senate witch hunt, taking instruction from his business partners in Texas about strategy, because Old was a good man, Old was a mathematical genius, Old was a willing worker and servant of the public good. His Federal Power Commission stood in the way of even larger gas and monopoly profits—the oil depletion allowance, for example, government tax write-offs of tens of millions of dollars—because Olds worked out in advance what they were doing, how they were doing it and how much it cost. How much cheaper projects that harnessed the power of water and damns could be if it was done publicly, with federal aid and government stipulations. Electrical power generated sold to consumers at the lowest possible cost. Old created transparency were oil and gas monopolies needed lies and deception in reaping monopoly profits from America’s natural resources. They wanted increased government ‘gimmes’, but they wrapped their request in the language of lassez-faire politics and private enterprise being held back by federal meddling. The trillions of tax dollars given the richest cohort in American history by the moron’s moron is the equivalent strategy.
Johnson claimed that Old was a chameleon-like character who had inveigled himself into a position of power for his own ends. Johnson was describing himself. The oil and gas interests and the Southern Caucasus of Senators they had helped elect and keep in power had two obsessions: keeping ‘uppity’ ‘Negras’ down’ and hating Communists that subverted the American way of life. Senator Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts had no greater supporters than those from the South, including Johnson.
It isn’t much an exaggeration to suggest Senator ‘Jim Eastland could be standing right in the worst Mississippi flood ever known, and he’d say the niggers caused it, helped by the Communists’.
Old saw first-hand how lassez-faire policies, big money and monopoly capital in the 1920s and 1930s sucked in and spat out men, women and children. A deeply religious man he despaired at those that called themselves Christian yet supported stock-market profits over Christian values and common humanity.
Johnson labelled him a red, his career was over. Johnson was lauded for his courageous attack on Old. Oil men cheered at the windfall profits put in their pocket. Old was against them, Johnson was for them. Big money has won. The FPC did as it was told by oil companies. It was no longer fit for purpose.
Another small group of men held the United States to ransom and these were the senators from the South. When Johnson entered the senate in 1948, he found out who was the most powerful Senator in the Senate—Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. Russell knew the intricate dance of Senate law and procedure and had a say-so in which committees Senators were allocated. He was a patriot. He believed although the South had been defeated by the North’s force of overwhelming numbers in the Civil War, the new Confederacy of Southern interests would never been defeated in the Senate. He would keep fighting. Civil Rights were his speciality. Calling together Southern Senators into a Caucasus they would filibuster any attempt to give the black man rights in, for example, employment, housing, or most damming of all schools. The mixing of the races, miscegenation, would Russell believed lead to the dilution of the white race and the fall of the American nation. Arguments of a kind still used in relation to immigrants today (great dilution of European values by…fill in your own fall guy here).
Russell went along with the doctrine of his more dim-witted colleagues, for example, ‘I like mules but I don’t bring one into my living room.’ ‘Negras’ skulls were, one of his senatorial colleagues asserted, a quarter of an inch thicker which made their thinking slower. Russell despite being the conduit through which the President and armed services had to come for finance to be released—for wars and aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons— did not believe a black man could be courageous. He also firmly believed with their loose moral way, they could be conduits of venereal disease. His policy of separate but equal a convenient lie, the flag the new Confederacy aligned themselves and Texas under. The flag which Johnson pledged his allegiance to those other eleven states. On his ranch he made sure a white man oversaw the work of Mexican ranch hands, who Johnson also regarded as naturally lazy.
Karen Campbell’s novel The Sound of the Hours highlights in fictional form the paradox of a regiment of black men, Buffalo soldiers, fighting against fascism in Tuscany (The Gothic Line) in Italy. Frank Chapel, a young black American soldier is turned away from a field tent serving food, and made to eat outside. Inside the tent are captured white, Nazi soldiers, they had been fighting against, being served their food, their rations.
Black soldiers coming home from the war, in reality, faced the same problems they’d left behind. Jim Crow laws. Twelve million African-Americans, around five million Negroes of voting age, only a handful could register to vote. No law and no lawyer could help them. In many Southern states they were classified as ‘a lower order of being’. Black self-determination brought white reprisals. For example, a veteran of the war, Issac Woodward’s eyes were gouged out by a Sheriff when he was taken into custody. Two young black couples in Senator Russell’s state of Georgia were blocked in their cars by other cars and riddled with so many bullets their bodies were unrecognisable. Lynchings followed by public picnics.
The death of Emmet Till, August 1955, in Mississippi Delta might just have been another murder of black man by white man, but for his age, he was fourteen-year-old, and the resultant national and international publicity. His mother took his body back to Chicago, where they lived, he’d been visiting relatives when he dared to go into a white grocery store and buy bubble gum and sass the white shop assistant, allegedly saying, ‘Bye Baby’.
Roy Bryant and his half-brother ‘Big’ J.W.Miliam, took him away.
Emmet Till’s mum didn’t allow a closed coffin. One eye was grouched out. They’d smashed the bones in his face with the pistols of their Colt.45 pistols, until one side of his forehead caved in. They ordered him to strip naked, and took him to the Tallahatchie River, weighed him down, beat him again and, before they rolled him into the water, shot him in the temple. An all-white jury found them not guilty of the crime, even though they’d signed a statement saying they did it. Later, since they’d been found not guilty of the crime, they were paid $5000 for telling their side of the story. They freely admitted it was a lesson in keeping uppity negras down.
Lyndon Johnson, if he wanted to realise his dream of becoming Democratic candidate for the Presidential nomination had to find a way of placating senators rallying around the old Confederacy of Russell, who made the tail wag the dog of the United States government, but also position himself as a liberal that supported equal rights for all. He had to square the circle, while claiming not to be a nigger lover. He was able to do so, because it was he, not Old, that was a political chameleon. He was a consummate politician who knew himself and what other man wanted. A shooting in Dallas, Texas, handed him the position he most wanted in life. But unlike the dumbest President in history, Lyndon Johnson was ready. He’d been planning for that day his whole life. He was whip smart. A poor boy, but now a millionaire, he’d realised the American dream and was sworn in as President.