Wednesday, March 11, 2015

50,000 Planes & Four Freedoms : FDR's "Double V" victory over Hitler

The little known "Four Freedoms Park" at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York harbour (roughly directly across from the UN buildings) reveals a very unexpected - and highly emotional - visual motif, when viewed from  above.

"Double V" victory motif in double lines of trees

The four acre park narrows at its southernmost end - forming a natural "V for Victory".

But what only an aerial shot reveals, is that the two low key and dignified paths, each through a double line of trees, leading up from the tip to the monument itself, together form a visual "Double V".

The Double V Campaign was formally begun in 1942 by some black Americans to see that the sought-after military victory over Nazi ideas abroad was matched by a political and moral victory over the same kind of ideas at home.

In the short term it was a failure, but in the longer term it proved decisive ----- just as soon as FDR and the other Allied leaders belated realized that old fashioned morale was at least as important as new fangled high technology in winning wars.

For in mid May 1940, FDR had opened his campaign against Hitler abroad and American isolationists at home (still a majority of American voters) by talking exclusively about the urgent need for a high tech solution (his famous claim that America would produce 50,000 planes a year !) to protect the Americas from a sneak invasion by European or Pacific Ocean aggressors.

America would produce 50,000 airplanes annually - an all by itself aeroplane autarky - a go-it-alone effort to remain both safe from aggression and yet remain free from entangling coalitions with other human beings.

But now in early January 1941, less than six months later, FDR promised the world a victory goal all (I will repeat that : "all") people on Earth should be assured of : his even more famous Four Freedoms Campaign.

For now FDR was actually seeking those entangling coalitions with other beings !

Three of the freedoms FDR sought were pretty conventional in all such speeches ---- freedom of religious belief, freedom of speech and freedom from fear.

The fourth was an eye-opening, particularly coming from private-enterprise dominated American culture : freedom from want.

So under the leadership of FDR and a very reluctant Anglo-American coalition, all the people in the world (black, red, yellow as well as white, poor as well as rich) would enjoy a minimum amount of food, heat, health and housing, without fear of lynchings or pogroms.

In FDR's defence (tongue firmly in cheek), it was Hitler who had first upped the ante.

For the past century, the civilized world had said (and largely believed) that all people were entitled to the vote and to equality before the courts ------provided .

Provided they were educated enough, middle class enough, white enough, male enough --- etc, etc.

This then allowed them to tell themselves that yes indeed, a few blacks were highly intelligent and honest.

But a good deal more were intelligent but sneaky, while the vast majority of them were doomed - by genetics - to be forever simple, slow and childlike.

They had similar arguments designed to dismiss the few women, Asians and Jews that slipped past the guards and made a name for themselves.

Hitler - ever a lover of simple absolutes - said, among many more similar absolutes, that all blacks - without fail - were genetically stupid.

Now FDR could only effectively refute Hitler's absolute by producing one of his own : that all, regardless of their current educational attainment or genetic endowment , were entitled to the basic dignities of life.

For FDR could hardly claim that it was very wrong to lynch mixed race black children in the Rhine region of Germany but not wrong to lynch them in the American state of Georgia.

50,000 Planes & Four Freedoms' Double V victory

Progress inside America with regards to human rights for all kinds of minorities and majorities (women !) has, since that January 1941 speech, been forever tied to America's determination to lead the world .

That leadership hasn't been assured by the modern day equivalent of those famous 50,0000 planes : America's unique control over first, atomic bombs, and then over the best in nuclear bomb delivery technology.

Americans can't really spend their days pretending to threaten to kill all the citizens of various small nations with an all-out nuclear attack, unless they permit a few more American TV series to appear on those nations' TV screens.

They need to win their 'hearts and minds' instead.

But just as soon as the American diplomatic corps point to America's fairly good record of human rights treatment - in relative terms to the rest of us -- critics abroad seize upon the abundant American human rights shortfalls.

In any other country, such foreign criticism of internal domestic conditions would be worth a dish of warm spit - but not so for a nation ever yearning to lead the free world.

So against the Nazis, the Communists and now against ISIS, for 75 years, the USA has fought a very public battle to win world opinion, with one hand tied behind its back by domestic reactionaries --- a public embarrassment that American human activists have exploited time and gain to eke out small victories.

The other Manhattan Project : share-with-all penicillin

But in the Fall of 1940, before FDR's second speech, one American (Martin Henry Dawson), had already begun to ensure that preparing for Total War Medicine won't be the excuse to end the ongoing Social Medicine effort to see that all - regardless of health, race or class - received as much life-saving health care as could be provided.

His historic first injections of penicillin into the arms of two "4Fs of the 4Fs" , black Aaron Leroy Alston and jew Charles Aronson, both suffering from invariably fatal Rheumatic Heart Disease (the Polio of the Poor), deliberately happened on October 16th 1940 -  Draft Registration Day - a day dedicated to America's 1As.

Unlike FDR, Dawson didn't give a speech -- but his finger pointing upwards along the barrel of the hypodermic needle as he pushed out all the air just before the injection was a symbolic 'up yours' to reactionaries at home as well as abroad ...

No comments:

Post a Comment