This post is primarily quotes from Huffpost and others. Because “America First” has a rather long and ugly history … and it started long before Donald Trump.
Trump Was Not First To Use The “America First” Slogan The phrase has a long history.
01/25/2017 11:11 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2017
In his Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump repeated a theme from his Presidential Campaign, telling the world: “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.” Many Trump critics point to the fact that this was a watchword for those who opposed U.S. intervention in WWll before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Actually, the phrase has a longer history.
President Woodrow Wilson, a hardened internationalist, ironically coined the term today associated with Nationalism. In 1916, Wilson was running for re-election by promising to remain neutral in WWl. His campaign slogan was: “He kept us out of War, America First.” Once Wilson was safely re-elected, he ordered troops into what was, at the time, called “The Great War.”
Once the U.S. was enveloped in the war, newspaper Publisher William Randolph Hearst, a vociferous critic of Wilson, used the slogan against the President. Hearst was sympathetic to Germany, and warned the U.S. not to aid the allies in the fight against Germany. Hearst exclaimed: “Keep every dollar and every man and every weapon and all our supplies and stores at home, for the defense of our own land, our own people, our own freedom, until that defense has been made absolutely secure. After that, we can think of other nations’ troubles. But until then, America first!”
This slogan soon became an imprimatur for non-interventionists in both major political parties. Once WWl ended, the Americans became weary of foreign intervention. Wilson had failed in his effort to garner the requisite two-thirds majority needed in the U.S. Senator to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which included allowing the U.S. to join a collective security alliance called “The League of Nations.” Some Senators would have supported the agreement if the President agreed to certain reservations. However, the bi-partisan group that steadfastly opposed the treaty came to be known as “the irreconcilables.”
If anyone thinks what Trump is doing is new, it isn’t. This is classic Fascism on the rise. So far, he’s still working at it, but it isn’t hard to slip over that line and suddenly discover that “free” means “people who agree with The Leader.” We are damned close to that already.
Democracy is a slippery slope. Our slope is covered in ice.
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt
Available in paperback, hardcover and as an audiobook
Reading PostWar was a project, an immersion experience during which I first unlearned, then relearned everything I knew of modern European history. It was worth the effort. This is a long book — 960 pages — crammed with so much information I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material.
Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretence of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is really neutral. Every historian has an agenda. Whether or not he or she puts it out there for all to see is a matter of style, but there is no such thing as historical neutrality. If an historian is writing about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history is slanted, changed by the historians who write it.
Dr. Tony Judt believed the role of an historian is to set the record straight. He undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch — exposing an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ethnocentricity.
Although Judt follows a more or less chronological path from World War II to the present, he doesn’t do it as a strict “timeline.” Instead of a linear progression, he follows threads of ideas and philosophy. Tracing cultural and social development, he takes you from news events through their political ramifications. You follow parallel developments in cinema, literature, theater, television and arts, not just the typical political and economic occurrences on which most history focuses.
After two consecutive readings, I finally felt I’d gotten it. Postwar changed my view of the world, not just what happened, but what is happening.
Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during same years, but his Old World roots gave him an entirely different perspective. He forced me to question fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was any of the stuff I believed true? Maybe not or at least, maybe only partially. It was hard to swallow, but he convinced me. I believe it.
If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful issues. The depth and breadth of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach churning. Pretty lies are easier to deal with than ugly reality. It’s easy to understand why so much of what we know is wrong.
Even though I knew history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened.
I was wrong. What is reported by American media barely scratches the surface. The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of war to a modern European union is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I had grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally. My understanding of current events is far better because of this book.
I read Postwaron paper, then listened to the audio version. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational writing style.
Postwaris analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, totally worth your time and effort, an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you will never see Europe or World War II the same way.
So I’m looking through my news feeds again — there are so many these days — and I come upon Daily KOS. I like them. They are pretty accurate and mostly, they write well. Of course they are always out for donations, but everyone is. And there’s the headline:
Marilyn, on Thursday the House voted to reauthorize section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is a “backdoor” to allow the U.S. government to spy on citizens. This section is the basis for the NSA’s largest domestic surveillance programs, which serve as an end run around the Fourth amendments prohibitions on unreasonable search and seizure of citizens.
We don’t have much time. The House has already passed this bill. The Senate vote is scheduled for January 16, right before the current FISA authorization sunsets on January 19. If you care about protecting your rights to privacy–free from government interception– please use the link below to contact your Senators immediately.
I’m walking around laughing. This is just the most recent invasion of our privacy. This month, the government. Next month? Cable news? Google? Windows? I don’t know who it will be, but it will be someone. They are all spying on us.
But our government spies on us more than anyone else and they are never going to stop. You knew that, right?
Last night, when we were tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry, “Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”
He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering (or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control). “Nope.”
And I said “I think the way it works like this. We invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Then they invent a special police force to keep an eye on us. The only thing that changes is technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”
“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those emails and phone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under data. Lots of jabbering kids yakking with friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all. Our email is pretty dull too.
Americans have an ongoing need to be outraged. It’s our thing. We require a constant level of civic hysteria. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to joke about. It gives liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will.
Spying never gets old.
Nothing will change. Governments spy on citizens. Citizens are outraged. The outrage is ignored. Everyone moves on, until it comes up again.
I remember Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. I know there are traffic cameras tracking me everywhere, even out here in the country. If anyone is looking for me — or you — I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding us. My government spies on me. Corporations spy on me. Everyone collects my personal data and uses it without my permission.
It’s the price I pay for being connected and computerized. I suppose I could go live in a cave where no one would find me (is there such a place?), but what fun would that be?
Spying on citizens is as old as government. It will never end. You knew that too, right?
Last night, I rented (from Amazon) “Dunkirk” and we watched in the comfort of our living room. I must say, it was a far better experience (and a lot less money!) than going to the movies, finding a parking space and dashing through the icy cold to finally warm up in the theater.
And at home, when someone needed the bathroom … there was a “pause” on the television. Ah the joy of the “pause” feature.
Sometimes, when we are watching something serious, it is hard to call it entertainment, yet surely it was. This movie took a rather different approach to Dunkirk, looking at the event from the aspect of the soldiers stuck on that beach. It was a movie of few words. Extremely visual.
So close to home they could just about smell Dover in the wind, yet with their back to the sea and every expectation of being destroyed to the last soldier.
When all those little ships from England appeared on the horizon, my eyes welled up. What more amazing sight than all of a nations boats crossing over to bring home a stranded army?
If it wasn’t entertainment, then what was it? Well, it was educational. Not that we didn’t know about Dunkirk, of course. If you know anything about World War II and Great Britain’s role in if, you have to know about Dunkirk. In many ways, this giant defeat-turned-miracle was the turnaround for England’s war. This was when — for the first time — the entire country said “We will never surrender” and they meant it.
They never surrendered and eventually, we New Worlders came and saved the Old World from destruction. Would we do it again?
I would hope so. Great deeds by millions of small and regular people give me hope.
Woodrow Wilson was an ambivalent man who harbored great hopes for humankind along with deeply ingrained personal racism. This is a fine piece of historical writing. I enjoyed it and I hope so will you.
One hundred years ago yesterday, on January 8, 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to Congress, setting out the main aims of American policy in the First World War and the basis on which he thought peace could and should be concluded. Fourteen statements, which have echoed in classrooms ever since, first made their way into the newspapers and on the lips of the world. As foreign policy aims, the Fourteen Points were fair, even-handed and progressive. Countries shouldn’t have secret treaties with each other and should arrive at their covenants openly. The seas should be free for navigation. There should be free economic trade and no barriers. Arms and weapons should be reduced. Former colonial societies should be transitioned to just independence. Wilson’s Fourteen Points were thought of as a breath of fresh air, of hopeful idealism in a world that had, by the beginning of 1918…
The snow began before sunrise this morning. Expressions like “Snow Bomb” were coined by meteorologists to describe its impact. It was quite a storm. I know because I was out there shoveling, then taking pictures.
Originally, we thought we’d get off with under a foot of snow, with most of the storm hugging the Atlantic coast. Storms don’t watch television and rarely listen to the weather reports. To no one’s surprise — at least to no one’s surprise who has lived in this region for any length of time — the storm didn’t stay on the coast. More accurately, it did serious damage to the coast and significant damage inland, too.
This was a big storm. Not as big as the Blizzard of 1978, but very few storms will ever match the power of that one. This was big enough to take down power lines and cause the worst flooding in Boston anyone can remember. This, on top of the longest period of deep cold in the almost 150 years of recorded weather history. And the cold is coming back without giving us a break to clean up the mess from the storm.
There’s about a foot and a half out there on the ground. It’s hard to tell exactly how much. The wind has been powerful — strong enough to knock down a grown man and bitterly cold. The good part? We don’t have the massive amount of snow on the roof we sometimes have because the wind blew it around. At least we don’t have to worry about the roof collapsing.
I shoveled the front walk because we have small dogs and they can’t maneuver in deep snow. Even Duke who is comparatively long-legged found himself bogged down. Bonnie and Gibbs have to stick to shoveled areas. I’ll have to go back and shovel again after dinner.
It’s dark now. The storm is almost over, or at least that’s what they are saying on television. The winds will die off and we’ll be cleaning up for the next few days. We have a full tank of oil and plenty of food, so until we get plowed, we’re home with the dogs.
You know how great retirement really is when you realize … you don’t have to go anywhere. The world is snowed in and so are you, but it’s okay. We aren’t on a schedule. We don’t have appointments to make. We are retired. And aren’t we glad we are!
THE BLIZZARD OF 1978 – THE BIG ONE! – GARRY ARMSTRONG
This is the time of year when big snowstorms hit this region. It was one month short of forty years ago when a massive winter storm moved into eastern Massachusetts. It had already done significant damage all over the Midwest, but its dangerous journey was far from over.
On the afternoon of February 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early so they could get home before the storm hit. Too little and too late for many people, the storm hit harder and faster and more intensely than anyone imagined possible.
Traffic was heavy and the snow began falling at more than an inch per hour. It continued to fall for more than 24 hours. More than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (also Route 95). Jack-knifed trucks and drifting snow soon brought traffic to a complete standstill across the state. Fourteen people died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they huddled in trapped cars.
Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.
There are so many incredible scenes that remain clear in my memory from the great Blizzard of 1978. I was in the middle of it from the beginning, one of the few reporters who was able to get to the TV station without a car. I lived down the street and was able to plod through the snow to the newsroom. I found myself doing live shots all across Massachusetts and in other parts of New England.
I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, kept getting signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots.
There was no traffic. There were no people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am (or was) 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.
Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people — just snow, as high and as far as the eye could see.
Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of generosity and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep. Drank lots of coffee, ate lots of pizza, and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.
The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. We have since had deeper snowstorms, but none which packed the punishing winds and extensive damage as that monumental storm.
The question was: “Would you, if your day-to-day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”
The answer is … I wouldn’t. In the immortal words of Phil Ochs, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore.”
I marched against war and for peace.
I marched for civil rights.
I campaigned for universal health care and free care for anyone who needs it.
I marched against evil and for justice for my entire adult life and though the world has fallen into a terrible place, I’ve served my time and done my job. I’m tired. It’s time for the younger generations — those with stronger backs — to do the marching.
The worst part of this time is I’m not sure, after all the marching, if I accomplished anything other than making denim a fashion fabric. I think I’ve probably accomplished more blogging than I did by marching. There’s an irony in there and maybe I’ll find it. Eventually.
I have discovered that the world spins on its axis and night follows day, whether or not I march. I do the best I can with the means at my disposal … which means I have a platform and I write. Every now and then, I dig a little money out of the emptiness of our “family wealth” and give $5 or $10 to someone who is fighting for a better world.
If you are going out there to do battle, fight the good fight. Know my best wishes and hopes go with you. Also, take sandwiches, something to drink, and wear your most comfortable shoes.