POSTWAR: A HISTORY OF EUROPE SINCE 1945 – TONY JUDT – Marilyn Armstrong

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt

Available in paperback, hardcover and as an audiobook

FOWC with Fandango — Previous

I have run this review a few times before because I think of all the reviews I’ve written, this one in its current and previous version, is probably the most important review I’ve written and I cannot street sufficiently how important a book I believe it is.

Every time I write about history, this book comes up. I know it’s long and I know it’s a serious read (or listen), but it changed the entire way I looked at World War 2 and to a degree, World War 1. I mostly read “light and fluffy” these days, life being stressful enough anyway, but this one, I cannot possibly encourage you enough to read it. Even if you read it in pieces, bit by bit over a long period, I guarantee you will understand everything about today’s world a lot better than you do.

Lying national leaders are not new to our world. They weren’t new in 1945 and they will never be new. National politicians lie to protect themselves, to protect their country, to protect their belief systems, to hide the shame of what they or their countrymen did.

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.

Dr. Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretense 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.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

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 the 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’snot hard to understand why so much of what we know is wrong but I think it’s important to recognize that it is wrong. Sometimes completely wrong.

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

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 was reported by American media barely scratches the surface of “truth.” The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of the war to modern Europe is more extensive, complex and far-reaching than I had grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally.

I read Postwar on 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 (and controversial) writing style.

Postwar is 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.

Moreover, what is happening now will make a lot more sense, in an awful kind of way.

I’LL FLY AWAY … By Marilyn Armstrong

When I was a lot younger — in my teens — America didn’t look all that wonderful to me. It was before abortion became legal. Vietnam was in high gear and my first husband and I were close to bankrupt from having my spine repaired.

When I went into the hospital, we had $20,000 in the bank which in the U.S. in 1965, was enough to buy a house and maybe a car, too. In fact, our first house cost $19,200 and our car cost under $1000.

The first house

When I staggered out of the hospital (I was there for five months), we had $10 in the bank and owed the hospital a couple of thousand dollars more. I asked my husband if we didn’t pay them back, would they find me and break my back again?

Our first house in Boston

We cashed in everything we had, sold anything that had any value. Mind you, we had insurance. Just not enough insurance. Two years later, Owen was born with two club feet. It cost us about $500 every week to treat his feet. By the time he was walking almost normally, we were thousands of dollars in debt and never recovered.

There we were, deep in the Vietnam war. We had a lot of friends over there, too. We were lucky. Most of our friends came home.

We were young. Passionate. Sure we could fix it, whatever “it” was. We also wondered if we could move to Australia, Canada or somewhere we could earn a living, but in the end, we stayed in the U.S. It was home. We never imagined it would be as bad as it is now, but it wasn’t all that great back then, either.

When Jeff and I split up late in 1979, I moved to Israel with Owen and it became my “other: home. I became a citizen but in the end, I came back to the U.S. Because I knew where “home” was and it wasn’t there.

House in summer

I have been back since the end of the 1980s. Things got better, worse, then better, worse, better — and now, simply awful. Until Netanyahu was re-elected in Israel yesterday, I had this underlying belief that at least I had another home to which I could flee — if fleeing was what we had to do.

It turns out that any place we might go to has its own issues, most of which are as bad (and surprisingly similar) as ours. They may lack our disgusting, lying president, but they are battling over immigration, health care, taxes, the climate. Their politicians are also liars. More polite than ours. Not less sleazy but they have better manners.

Meanwhile, climate change will affect the entire world. All the pointless arguments in the world are not going to change that reality.

Is there anywhere for us to go? Is there a safe place with sane leaders who would want us? I think not.

First of all, we are old and not rich. Most countries, if they are looking for immigrants, are looking for young, well-educated people who will contribute to their economy or older people who have money. Israel would take us because I’m a citizen, but their problems are serious; I don’t see them improving soon.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

Effectively, there is nowhere for us to go.

I think in years to come there will be only two kinds of people in this world: those who hate immigrants and immigrants.

Everyone else will be hiding in a cave.

SPEAKING SENSIBLY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Sensible

Speaking sensibly, I should be up and about doing things that need doing. I probably should be organizing the house so I can sell it and maybe move someplace sane … if there is any such place remaining in the world.

My front gate and the Duke

I’m not doing any of that. I’m writing blogs, reading blogs, reading the news and The New Yorker … and taking pictures of birds. Discovering that the gray-blue bird is actually a real Bluebird and the reason I didn’t recognize it is that it doesn’t look like the English Bluebird who decorated all my children’s books … and the blue tends to look gray in bright light.

House Finch

I’m looking at the naked trees and wondering how many weeks before they have leaves and the doors that need replacing. The toilet that needs replacing. The dusting that needs doing. Wondering if I should call the doctor who is supposed to be setting up tests, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything and maybe I don’t care whether the tests are set up or not.

What is that blue bird is in the front? Can’t find anything with a beak that blue!

I’m not worried about the future because why bother? Will worrying about it improve it? I’ll vote. I’ll write. I’ll do the best I can. And if that’s not enough, I don’t have more to give. I’ve been doing the best I can for my whole life and while I was doing it, everything I did was getting ready to crumble into junk. And I wasn’t all that sensible then, either.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been particularly sensible. I do what I need to do to survive and then, I write something, read a book, take some pictures. Life will stagger on regardless.

So I’m through with sensible, whatever it is. I’m too old to be sensible if I knew what that meant. I think I’ll just be crazy to whatever degree I can manage it.

Maybe that is sensible. You think?

DIVIDED WE FALL – Rich Paschall

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all, 
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall; 
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed, 
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

-John Dickinson, The Liberty Song, 1768

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Throughout the history of this country, the concept that we stand together has been expressed in song, in writing, and at the podium in speech.  It was the rallying cry of the Revolution and the days following 9/11.  It was spoken during the Civil War and the armed conflicts since.  It was the thought of trade unions fighting for better working conditions.  We may never have all stood together, but we were never divided at critical times in history.  Until now, that is.

From the opening of his campaign until the present day, the leader of our country has worked hard to divide Americans with an “Us versus them” attitude.  He speaks it, he tweets it, he lies about it.

In the opening salvo, he started by trying to assert that many of our neighbors who came from other countries were the enemy.  Of Mexico he stated: “They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”  You likely know the most egregious things he said about Mexico.  Let’s consider another statement.

Dividing us from other friends, 45 went on to say: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.”  This was stated despite a strict immigration policy under President Obama.  Ask anyone who entered (or was deported) at that time.

Also at the time of his announcement, China and Japan were particularly criticised, along with the leaders of our own country.  It is not unusual to criticize the other party during a campaign, but consider carefully the deals the country made during the Obama presidency and the comments made by Trump, the candidate.  There is campaign rhetoric, and then there are falsehoods and divisions.  The announcement of candidacy is filled with quotes that are not attributed to specific people and many statistics that raise questions of accuracy.  Did he portray us correctly?

After a campaign of insults and hateful comments, 45 has spent a great deal of time on his twitter account blasting out hateful and divisive comments among people here and abroad.  How do we feel about this?  Early in the year the Quinnipiac University National Poll found that the Tweeter in Chief is dividing the nation.  While polls results show that the majority of Republicans do not feel this way, Americans by 64 to 31 per cent feel that 45 is actually doing more to divide the country.

Worse yet, many are unsure if the man is actually stable. “President Donald Trump can’t seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.  But apparently, some of those voters are willing to stand by him anyway.

He tried to change the narrative on the NFL anthem controversy, perhaps because he could not get an NFL franchise years ago.  The NFL commissioner and the NFL Players Association fired back. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” commissioner, Roger Goodell, said.  NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith, indicated that they would not back down.

NFL QB Tom Brady, believed to be a Republican, responded “I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. I just want to support my teammates.”

Last year in September, the New York Times’ Peter Baker provided this news analysis, “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together.”  Isn’t it troubling that our leader has so many negative things to say?

Baker also noted, “In his brief career as president and a candidate for president, Mr. Trump has attacked virtually every major institution in American life: Congress, the courts, Democrats, Republicans, the news media, the Justice Department, Hollywood, the military, NATO, the intelligence agencies, the cast of “Hamilton,” the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” the pope and now professional sports. ”  Is this presidential?

While the tweeter is in a rage, outside forces are also trying to undermine American life.  Fake social media accounts have reportedly planted fake stories and memes meant to drive a wedge between parts of our society.  Apparently it has been working.  If you have been a regular user of facebook or twitter you know exactly what the problem is.  As these fake stories pop up, unwitting supporters retweet, reblog and share these items on their news feed.  Do you think foreign influences are behind this?

isys6621.com

Social media believes we are under cyber attack. Google, the parent of YouTube and other media platforms, deleted Iranian accounts.  Facebook and others have removed Russian accounts.  These accounts were there to influence opinion and perhaps even divide Americans through fake stories.  Was there collusion by 45 and/or his minions to help spread lies posted by Russians?  Time will reveal the answer.

With full-blown propaganda wars in play, some started by and perpetuated by our leader, our enemies must be rejoicing.  They see the unraveling of the American fabric, aided by our own leader, allowing them to advance to a stronger position in the world.  If they can divide us and turn American against American, with Trump’s help, then our foes will watch as we stumble and fall in the eyes of the world.

Sources: “The Liberty Song,”  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Liberty_Song
“History of the Motto,” Smithsonian Museum of American History 
Here’s Donald Trump’s Presidential Announcement Speech,” Time, June 16, 2015
Quinnipiac University National Poll, January 17, 2018
“Roger Goodell, NFLPA angrily denounce Trump’s ‘divisive comments’,” NBCSPORTS.COM, September, 23, 2017
“Tom Brady: I Disagree With Trump’s ‘Divisive’ Comments,” thedailybeast.com
“A Divider, Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017
“Not just Russians: Google follows Facebook to remove
Iranian accounts,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com
“President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2018

Click on the source links above for further information on the above statements.

LOST IN SPACE COMES TO THE PENTAGON – THE SHINBONE STAR

I want a uniform too! I deserve one. It is, as they say, the least they can do for me.

THE SHINBONE STAR

With an announcement that sent asteroids off predicted trajectories, space cadet and great interstellar explorer Donald “Captain Bone Spurs” Trump added another dimension to the largest and most powerful military force on the planet. As of today the United States of America has a nascent sixth branch of the military – the U.S. Space Force.

Several sources confirmed to the Shinbone Star that Trump conceived his stellar idea while reading the back of a box of Lucky Stars cereal. He told them he had reached his brilliant decision after seeing clear evidence that the Russkies and pesky Chinese want to monopolize outer space in his cereal bowl. To prove it he laid out two soggy bits of cereal that looked like dreaded Communist red stars. He reportedly changed his story after hearing chief of staff John Kelly snickering in the next room.

Secret Tralfamadorian outer space envoy and special counselor…

View original post 802 more words

TWILIGHT OF THE POPULIST IDOLS by TRANSMUTATION – A REBLOG

It is both comforting and terrifying that the U.S. is not alone in its mad veer to the right and our sudden — or so it seems — readiness to accept something so far outside our democratic traditions.


TWILIGHT OF THE POPULIST IDOLS

Posted on A malicious ghost is creeping again over the streets of Europe, it is the spirit of simplified truths and self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole. The nationalist ideologies of the 19th and 20th century are on the verge of a disgusting revival in many countries.

Those responsible politicians – harmlessly named as populists – have initiated a postmodern witch-hunt, the victims of this unproclaimed war today comprise refugees, foreigners or people of different belief and way to live. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields where peace should be.

These ruthless ideologists want to put the clock back, what implies the risk of warming up old already forgotten conflicts. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic, the radical nationalists have lighted blazing fires and stakes everywhere in Europe and elsewhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.


A reblog. Please, see the original at:

https://transmutation.me/2018/06/08/twilight-of-the-populist-idols/

SKEWED LIBERTY (THIS COUNTRY FOR SALE) – Judy Dykstra-Brown

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 SKEWED – Judy Dykstra-Brown

Everything is tilted. Slightly unaligned.
The constitution set askew. Liberty maligned.
Some of the well-heeled citizens think that this is fine.
They cannot see that everything is slightly out of line.
All the pretty Philistines queue up at their tees
while their flunky lawyers determine what to seize.
Contracts with the Russians. Schemes to sell off national land.
Cronies helping cronies. Off-shore drilling by demand.

Rivers being sullied and oceans compromised
while insuring rights to bear arms are exercised.
Certain pious preachers line up behind the svelte,
proclaiming to the masses that they know what Jesus felt.
Indeed, the smallest sparrow  no longer matters much
so long as all the mighty increase their greedy clutch––
all the money-changers, corrupt to the core,
filling all their pockets with the money of the poor.

Surely it is clear that at ruling they’re inept,
and if he was watching, surely Jesus wept
as all the pearls of liberty were cast before the swine
with each self-serving libertine declaring  what is “mine.”
What is true no longer matters. What “they” say is now what now counts.
They say it’s holy scripture as they settle their accounts.
People, take off your blinders. Consider what is real.
One nation, under God, was not set up for them to steal!