“FDR and the Dawn of American Conspiracy Culture”
How does one begin to discuss so significant world figure as Franklin Delano Roosevelt? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were first two presidents of the United States I had ever heard anything about. They were, after all, on most of the money I have ever seen in my life. One day my father showed me a two dollar bill. When I did not recognize the face I was told that this was Thomas Jefferson. He was the fourth president I would know by name.
He came right behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Perhaps it is the Franklin of myth, going back to Benjamin before the revolution. Names had a magical presence for me. Everything was a story to be told, all these points of view crammed into a world far too small to hold them. FDR was related in some way to Theodore Roosevelt, I learned soon afterwards. I began studying these histories in the juvenile versions taught in white American suburban schools, always deemed tolerant because one of the four black families that lived in town was way more right wing than anyone else in town. Some of them could be cool, they told us. I mean, look at Derek. Look at Tony. Look at those hot bi-racial cupcakes over there in the city. It was all just another game of going too far and seeing what we get. This was the taboo injected into these children of covert racists. It set the stage for much wilder days.
Back when my parents were children Franklin Delano Roosevelt was already a memory. He had died before either of them were old enough to remember him. And so he was a legend, transformed by whatever bias was then in vogue in the increasingly isolated communities of middle America in the hopeful days after the war first ended, before prejudice and crime shattered the newfound peace, and screaming and arguing starts back up again until someone pulls out a gun. People were scared of each other, after all. Look at what the Nazis had done! Look at Stalin! Here comes Chairman Mao! Slaughterers. The Khmer Rouge. Half the Koreans. Look at the world coming at us now through various shades of news. . . .
There was a definite sourness to my parent’s society. They were the better-to-do and unhappy children of the survivors of The Great Depression and Second World War. They were the children of exhausted parents who had worked themselves into far-too-early graves, and who craved more for silence than the joy of mirthful laughter.
In most of these situations children had likely driven them to it, or their jobs, or women or men, or love of your country, or racism, or radicalism, or religion, or death. Taxes. But usually it was their kids—crying, demanding brats who we spoiled until nothing good can ever come from their loins. They will be giving birth to Armageddon. They are raised to represent a world where you should never really have to stand up for something you believe in, because mommy and daddy did it for you. All your troubles, once you grow up, will be about petty differences and disagreements, which might lead to war and wide scale devastation, but everything will always be your fault. You see they were spoiled. If they were a piece of fruit we would probably throw it away
This Generation, this Baby Boomer era, started with The Age of Roosevelt (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&kn=schlesinger+roosevelt&sts=t). Roosevelt was their first legend, much like Franklin’s Uncle-in-Law had been for him. My mother, it now seems perfectly clear, absolutely hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Whenever she heard his name she would rant some half-baked conspiracy theory she had incorrectly picked up from her father, and one of her gossipy next door neighbors. She definitely called him a Communist, and would scoff brutally in her snide sarcasm about just how truly worthless she found such a legacy.
When I was about seven years old I remember being in the car with my mother on the way to see the very first shrink I was ever taken to. In session I would play with clay, building monsters and puppets. In session I told my therapist lies, made up as we went along. He was malicious enough to play along with a child. This did not last for long. We all got tired of one another. It was time for another adventure.
Anyway, on the radio my mother was listening to some sort of public radio program, and they were playing old-timey folk music protest songs from the Great Depression (“Ain’t Gonna Work No More, No More” and other, wonderful tunes). The song playing on the radio at the time I remember was from 1936. It is by someone named Bill Cox. It was named “Got Franklin D Roosevelt is Back Again.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10DN4-K0NBw).
The song is an alcoholic’s relief over the re-election of FDR, who had ended prohibition a few short years before. This song is the story of a man who probably killed someone in his family while younger during prohibition, when they got drunk watching a failing moonshine tank. But the singer is now so excited that Roosevelt is going to stay another term in office! He will help keep us drinking until the dawn or the end of time. Legally.
This song literally says that the job of Roosevelt’s presidency is to give money to all the unemployed people during the depression. They would get paid by the government, spend all of it on legal alcohol, the kind made at industrial distilleries with government contracts. This singer is overjoyed–Woo-Hoo! If I can’t have a job durin’ this gray depression, then at least I can drink all day long!
Of course, a whole industry of pointless new government jobs added to the federal budget too. The world of business had finally hit the White House, and influence was allowed as readily as the toasts of scotch Roosevelt had with his partners in the Oval Office. And when the Second World War arrived business was booming!
That isn’t fair, some of the sinister far-right wing forces who were building in America grunted with frustration. Someday soon they would lead to a great Red Scare. This guy has all the luck, the greedy, empire-building titans of industry would mumble through seed-stained chin whiskers, pressing their monocles very hard to keep it from falling out of an eye.
“He can be emperor forever!” some of the more paranoid, power-hungry shadows began whispering to themselves behind closed doors. Now we started planting false evidence, setting up people for the acts of espionage that we were presently undertaking. It was all about bad press. Bad press can destroy somebody. It can end their reputation. Hell, in extreme cases it can even end your life.
They started to scream, about FDR, “he’s a Communist!” into rooms filled with overworked, nervous people. Some of the real assholes would claim in the locker room that FDR loves Stalin, and that he probably sucks his cock too. This wit would almost unquestionably be staring at his friend’s withered, naked penis, nodding his head that he still found such a thing disgusting.
“You can just tell that his polio scarred corpse takes it up the ass!” one of the angrier conspirators would crudely claim, believing this as fact. “He’s a traitor, the enemy!” H. W. Brands has even written a masterful book on FDR called Traitor To His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=&an=brands&tn=traitor%20class%20privileged%20life%20radical&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ats-_-used) This book tells the private history on the formation of FDR’s beliefs. Sure, this book also deals with the war and the depression and all that other bullshit, but its primary focuses seems to be about what it was that Franklin really wanted to do with his life. With his own desire for a permanent legacy, for wrong or for right, how could this crippled man have caused so many people to feel as strongly as they did about him? Seems pretty easy to do, don’t it? Let me randomly throw out a few terms and see how you react”
Elite. Super-rich. Businessman. Liberal. Conservative. Homosexuality. Islam. Abortion. The Working Poor.
Add any of those to something derisive—“those Super-Rich assholes!” “Those liberal faggots!” “Those right-wing Nazis!–” ,triggering’ statements, as the defensive on-line political debaters might say in a moment of boredom or frustration. It can change your perspective. It can turn a person into a deity—a god, of something. Maybe the devil?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up Super-Rich. He was born in the elite town of Hyde Park, New York, home to some of the wealthiest people in the world. He was an isolated and intensely spoiled boy, who had magnetic charm and could usually get away with anything. He was home schooled until high school by some extremely expensive tutors (with the exception of one year when he was age nine and he went to a liberal public school in Germany). When he was finally released into the American world at the age of fourteen, it was behind the barricaded walls of the Groton school in Massachusetts, a once-Conservative bastion of closeted homosexuals and anti-Jewish fervor.
Franklin was a wonderful student before college, and everyone liked him. The philosophy now being taught at Groton went against the boy’s initial training as a carefree fop. The headmaster, Endicott Peabody, preached the gospel of helping the less fortunate. Franklin was then looking for any possible way to rebel against his parents’ core values, which was no longer to be reflected in the new charter at Groton.
Franklin’s father, James, was a sour man who only loved his son, and would give to him anything. Franklin was the one thing in the world who kept him human. James was a prominent ‘Bourbon’ Democrat,’ and was friendly with then president Grover Cleveland. Franklin got to meet the president, which went down as a powerful memory: a disappointment. Apparently over most of the visit the boy would wait and play with the White House interns, while James and Grover got drunk.
James Roosevelt had gotten certified at Harvard Law School to join the family practice, but shortly before starting work a very wealthy uncle died and left his entire fortune to James. After that, James never worked a day in his life. He could play with his buddies in politics, and play a quiet round of chess at the country club, then have four-star generals over for dinner. He could offer the president personal advice. It gave James the notion that he had an important voice in the world.
Franklin, meanwhile, was having the ordinary Delano/Rooseveltian gilded youth. All he had to do was finish college and marry well. He had taken up golf at his father’s exclusive country club and had developed into an impressive long hitter. His drives would continue to soar throughout those early years, marking him as someone who might go pro and earn championship cups. In yachting too! He wore sporting outfits and golf shirts to lunch at the club, and white gloves and tails out to dinner. He was a good son. Everyone thought he was a great guy.
Of course he attended Harvard. He did not do particularly well there (years later he would say “I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong.”) His privilege still leaked out of him. For all of his moralizing liberal beliefs, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also a helpless snob.
At college Franklin was the editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson, a job which took an enormous amount of energy and leadership ability. The campus newspaper, at the time, was getting stories that even the larger city newspapers could not get. Roosevelt was so charming, and he was usually so much smarter than those he was dealing with that he already knew the truth before they told it to him. He was a frat boy too, as well as a member of one of those creepy secret clubs that haunt the periphery of Ivy League. It is uncertain how much these initiations have had on our futures.
When his father died in 1900, Franklin was just starting college. He was crushed by this loss and wandered around aimlessly until his distant relative Theodore became President. Now he had a new father to latch onto, imitating much of TR’s bold style of governing. He met with his fifth cousin numerous times and the two seemed to have developed a great respect for one another, despite their increasingly divergent viewpoints.
After graduating from college Franklin attended Columbia Law School, where he burned through his classes, seeming to know everything about the law as it is written. He passed his bar exam after three years of classes, then promptly dropped out without receiving his degree. Within weeks this brilliant young man was snatched up by the corporate Wall Street law firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, where he specialized in admiralty law, concerning world shipping agreements, trade law and international maritime disputes.
Franklin Roosevelt’s family line is a strange and rather impressive history of the white man conquering everything in his path. This is of course not to say that these views were shared by Franklin (only some of them). Like many of our ancestors we are ashamed of most family history, peopled by rogues and stooges who are now despised for the historical wrongs they committed in a time that we today cannot even begin to comprehend. The laundry list of every bad thing that has ever happened can produce only flat narrative or pure, random speculation. We invent our legends to allow us to understand what came before we were born. And other than the technology, all of these incidents are finally meaningless. We make the same mistakes time after time after time and the pattern of existence becomes stuck—stalled in time as we lose interest and lose patience and lose our children to the darkness of the future It is far more critical, even, than the South fighting to keep their slaves or the church slaughtering the infidels.
As an example of we choose to look at the US Civil war (See Above, #1,-6; 11 to the present), this is an example of a historical event that will continue to provoke human outrage. It continues to terrify people while creating a consensus, from fear-mongering tyrants of every available political direction, to the confused citizen who only understands looking out for their family. The Civil War was organized and on each end was a crusade. Today we are only in it for ourselves. There will be no more war for a noble cause with the intention of improving humanity. All that really is left is the sullen and occasionally desperate struggle for survival.
We are each of us rebelling in some way or another, rejecting something from the past and, God-like, we recreate the world in our own image. This is why we all believe in conspiracies. We need answers from this is what makes this such a ruptured world. There must be something hidden. If we don’t know then it must be something magical and imbued with a power that no one we know will ever own. And it is a secret. And we want to know. We will peek behind the curtain. We will show you all of our Gods.
We are terrified of being afraid.
On Franklin’s father’s side, the first Roosevelt’s to step on American soil was in the early 17th century. They arrived in New Amsterdam (which was at the very Southern tip of Massachusetts Island). The Roosevelt’s thrived in their new Dutch community, gobbling up property and businesses, developing a monopoly on both wealth and how people in their colony lived.
The Delano’s, FDR’s mother’s kin, had literally arrived on the Mayflower, straight into Plymouth Rock. This family descendant was the Pilgrim who had actually chartered the boat, The Mayflower, and took his whole family to the New World.
The family line had fostered quite a bit of discreet incest. It seems that the Roosevelts and the Delanos had some ancestry in common. All of them were something like fifth or six cousins–including Eleanor, FDR’s famous wife, who was Franklin’s fifth cousin. Teddy Roosevelt was more closely related to Eleanor than Franklin . This was a powerful family. Anything conspiratorial could have easily started with them. Am I right?
Franklin Roosevelt’s early career in politics displays rapid ascendancy, an even greater fall, and then the story of a come-back that is an amazing tale of overcoming the struggles of life. It is one of the reasons we still admire Franklin Delano Roosevelt to this day. He was a courageous man. He actually wanted to work for the world.
At the age of 28 the Democratic party recruited FDR, and he was elected New York State Senator. He served for two years. He was then named the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, all the way through World War I. He was brilliant at this job. He had buttered up Woodrow Wilson in order to get some post in the cabinet (at the age of 31). He knew an enormous amount about naval affairs, his drudging job of corporate attorney giving him, if nothing else, a lot of time to research the laws of both international, domestic and economic warfare. Franklin loved the navy. It was the great love of his life.
At the age of 38, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated as the Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential candidate. He was running alongside James M. Cox. There is a reason you have likely never heard of James M. Cox. The big money machine of Warren G. Harding plowed through them like battleships in a calm blue ocean. The Cox-Roosevelt ticket was crushed. There had been some nervous titters about a second member of the Roosevelt family getting near the White House, and this evoked more whispers, those believing in a hidden goal, something devious and crusted with the notion of America the First.
After he lost the election, FDR got sick. Having returned to practice law for a brief time, Franklin was shortly elevated to the Vice-Presidency of the Fidelity and Deposit Company, which had the lone mission of eliminating rate cutting on government bonds. He was half-interested in this job, figuring out how to mount his political comeback in the halls of fortune. He planned to run for senator from New York or Maryland (the Fidelity and Deposit Company had its headquarters in Baltimore). He planned on winning. And then something didn’t feel right with his body. He stumbled down. He had developed an extremely high fever. He suffered from bouts of paralysis in his legs and his shoulders and his face. He could no longer control his bladder or bowels and this cheering, dignified man was struck helpless and broken by the dreaded Polio virus. Or that’s what has gone down to history. As a matter of fact FDR’s diagnosis of polio may have been wrong. Most of the symptoms the poor man suffered were more in line with something much rarer, Guillain Barre Syndrome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillain%E2%80%93Barr%C3%A9_syndrome), an auto-immune disease that cannot fight off infections all over the body. It can sometimes cause a terrible autonomic nervous system disorder, which impacts the heart rate and blood pressure, spiking both very high and very low. In about 15% of the cases the victim suffers from difficulty breathing, which usually meant an iron lung. Today I assume it would be an oxygen tank with wheels that you drag around.
Upon somewhat recovering, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down. There would be no more cheating on his bisexual wife. There would be no more running. No more golf. The man was confined to a wheelchair and yet he still finally decided to make the best of his life.
He was a strong and willful man, was FDR. Within a year of his recovery, Franklin had decided he would continue his political career. His mind had not been infected. Now if only he could get his body out of danger he could run for President of the United States!
He exhaustively worked day after day getting himself to stand, and then walk, with iron braces strapped to his feet. When he would ascend back into the public spotlight, he made it a point to never be seen in his wheelchair. He accomplished this through intense training swiveling his torso, the practice of leaning forward and the assistance, sometimes, of one of his sons. The only times FDR was really seen in the chair (and everyone knew he was crippled. Everyone also respected his bravery) was when some paparazzi took a secret snap and sold it for the fortune of his life, or maybe some private detective hired by a paranoid political opposition party got to the man first, instantly leaking to the public.
Franklin moved off shore into his houseboat, a huge yacht that served very nicely as a house. In 1926 he was convinced that hydrotherapy would help him get his muscles back, so he checked himself in to a rehabilitation clinic in Warm Springs, Georgia and spent days at a time in the water. The effects of this were negligible on his body, but went a long way towards helping his mind, learning to accept the limitations imposed upon him.
Now I realize that I’m playing FDR up like some kind of saint, or a deity, of American history on par with the founders. It is always proper to respect the elder statesmen, who founded the United States of America, at least until we discover some of their uncomfortable truths. Glory, glory hallelujah and kneel for the anthem and worship the same God or we will exclude you from the land of the free. We are the home of cowardice in whichever era of the future you may be reading this. America is a nation that has always been terrified of the world outside its borders. Back then, here during World War II, with Roosevelt and Churchill and Hitler and Stalin. There were Nazis, fascists, right-wing nationalists, and radical Communists in every nation all over the world. This was also, as previously stated, the dawn of hard-line right-wing conspiracy theories. By ‘hard-line’ mean the really nutty ones, those counterpoints to the crazy anarchists and radical anythings of the left. On the right you started seeing demons lurking in the shadows.
Oh, there is a long history of right-wing paranoia in America’s past. It really starts with John Robison, who published a book in 1798 called Proof of a Conspiracy (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780882791210&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used), or if we choose to go back somewhat farther, with witch trials or declarations that Native people were the spawn of Satan. But Robinson’s book is a perfect example of what I am talking about.
These are the ravings of a madman. He covers most of the big themes, some of which are still swirling to this very day. He blames the Freemasons. He incorporates the Illuminati into some devious, sinister plot that goes back thousands of years.
The world event that started began this modern chaos of the imagination was the French Revolution. The French Revolution is nothing like the American Revolution in either theme or consequence. It has had a great deal more influence on history than the American Revolution.
Of course it is true that America inspired all the others–if they can defeat Great Britain, then we can overthrow our rivals too! America’s was the first truly successful revolution in history (the previous ones simply led to new dictatorships), and it did not take long for other revolutions to scatter everywhere and take over the world.
Shortly after the French Revolution began there was an uprising in one of their colonies. The Haitian Revolution set a far more piercing tone for the future of revolution. It was one of the great justified revolutions–the slaves literally overthrowing French might in the eventual days of Napoleon Bonaparte. Toussaint Lavoisier was a brilliant general and former slave horse handler. On the same day that slavery was abolished on the island, numerous factions split up and started slaughtering one another. Everything was burning hatred–race, beliefs, just for the thrill of adventure–people were getting massacred everywhere and often for no reason other than being in the way.
The French Revolution was possibly even worse, in those later years–The Terrors! People were actually getting hacked apart in the streets of Paris and there were riots and looting everywhere. Leaders had gotten fed up with the people and no longer had the patience to be fair. Wild orgies of the most powerful took place inside duchesses’ chambers. Revolutionaries sometimes interrupted these events and raped everyone to death.
The French Revolution was about ending the reign of monarchy throughout Europe. What came next was the establishment of independant governments and learning how to live without the protection of a Fatherland. In most cases they failed, outright race or holy wars wiping the earth of any excess population. If absolutist revolutions keep breaking out and hurling swords at the heart of what it means to alive, and can we ever count on freedom’s reign?
So the world was a wreck and world events were bound to come home to the powerful new nation of The United States of America. People like John Robison saw plots undermining everything. He was a coward. He was a crybaby. He whined and fretted and danced around in his spooky nest while shouting out pamphlets and screaming on a street corner like a well-dressed and apparently prosperous doomsayer.
As conspiracy theories prospered on the right, and as the publishing industry suddenly had a new genre on its hands, American literacy began a steep increase. In some of the newly established grade schools, Robison’s paranoid rant became the standard text, successfully indoctrinating a future generation of paranoid cranks. These classes would sprinkle in some really dicey theories through the ages, some of which were probably true. There would also be some fine writers and real journalists contributing to the conspiracy field and give certain underground book shops a specialized market, sort of like the Spirituality section, or an Anarchist’s bookstore to help radicals attack the unjust world. These purveyors could charge more than for a regular book and pretend that what they were selling was rare. And the authors would all be under contract to keep cheaply putting them out, sometimes with new chapters added.
The suspected conspiracies of Roosevelt’s days are especially malicious. There had been some horrible, tragic mistakes made in preparing the United States for the war potentially reaching home. Congress was busy arguing with the Senate and the President was pissed off at the Supreme Court for not bending the law they way he wanted it. The public was getting nervous and plenty of people started stirring up some very contrary belief. There were the Nazi sympathizers, or the just plain Jew-hating Catholics, shouting about hands off Germany in the rabble of an angry crowd.
Jews, on the other side, along with their good friends, the liberals and assorted fellow travelers, were every bit as angry at the direction the world had taken so out in the open. And who can blame any of these people for being mad? Everything in the world had started turning against them. Here inside the soul of the Democratic Movement, freedom being used as a sword not of justice, but only from righteousness.
Take every side, there just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor: Everyone is understandably scared. Certain people are beginning to see the end of the line, their eventual decline in the botany of evolution. Angry white folks. Uprising black and brown and yellow and shit-stained green people fighting to take back what had been taken from them so they can inflict the same punishment on their enemies and tormentors, like in the days before even the brute iceman from the North was busying warring amongst himself.
The American-Japanese people are about to be wholly fucked over. Some of these citizens were among the most patriotic people in the nation. They had chosen to come here, to get away from the barbarousness that was overtaking their birth nation. They had run away. To America. To be free. Then the glaring sight of resentment is directed at those seen believing in anything just a little bit more. And it overtakes the community. These are the concentrically shrinking wars, these family battles and neighborhood fights. The wars of race, and of religion, all the wars of different languages, and man versus woman–and all the other violent turmoil that has sprung from our complicated Tower of Babel, all of it is consumed. This misunderstanding seeps back out into the world and overwhelms us.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked the sense of betrayal and rage that coursed through the nation took many different paths. Some became patriotic, hands on hearts and hope to die defending the great Experiment of America. To fight for the honor of Lady Liberty.
Many are made very angry. They become harsh–kill them all! All our enemies! All of them! Still others are filled with shame: how could this happen to us? What did we ever do to deserve this?
Then, finally, we come to those looking to blame someone else for their complicity in allowing the world to slip away so rapidly. Everything can’t be my fault, can it? you tell yourself, spending the rest of your time making the mistake of trying to figure out whose fault everything really is. This is called ‘politicizing’ an issue. It is a grand old scheme. Is presents a tear in the greatness of Democracy. It allows totalitarian viewpoints to muscle their way in to those who have enough money to buy an entire nation.
Big Business was the enemy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were angry that he forced their profits to shrink in order to save the nation from The Great Depression. They saw something–something evil unearthed in a new far right-wing theology. It wasn’t just Roosevelt. He was a stooge, someone being controlled by an uncertain King, someone who has all the power and who is the reason I always feel so down on myself and why nothing ever seems to go right no matter how hard I try! Some controlling entity that makes everyone its slave—even the President, who we need to call weak-minded to keep with the illusion that still we are the ones that will survive!
The business evangelists started calling FDR ‘a commie spy’ in several of their bigger newspapers. A whole campaigned was waged against him, sponsored by many of the people who still had money after the rest of the world went broke. “He is one of us!” they would bray. How could they turn him? How can wealth not be all there is to life?
They called him ‘a Great Pawn of the Russians,’ and started preaching the apocalypse of what will happen if Communism ever hits home. “After Pearl Harbor,” now we could worry about and complain, “what is going to stop evil and pernicious ideas from crossing our borders?
One of the stranger conspiracy theories that began cropping up around thirty years after the end of the war is best articulated in Robert B Stinnett’s very interesting Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30065170444&searchurl=kn%3Da%2Bday%2Bof%2Bdeceit%2Brobert%2Bs%26sortby%3D17&cm_sp=snippet-_-srp1-_-title1) from 1999. I suspect, although I could certainly never prove it’s true, that author Stinnett lived in the homes of an intense FDR hater. He would mumble out contradictory rants about why Roosevelt was so bad, and why good people had to stop him, and what is wrong with these foolish sheep allowing themselves to be lead around by Socialists (“The Nazis are Socialists too,” he would also say, “So they’re also scum!”)?
Other theories held the conviction that FDR and Company knew all about the Pearl Harbor bombing in advance, and then did nothing to stop it. Roosevelt was even in coordination with Churchill–also with Stalin in several of the more brutal variations on this theme–and they all actually planned it with the Chinese, who were willing to do anything to avenge themselves against Japan.
The idea was that since the US was probably going to get into the war anyway, under whatever pretense, and FDR didn’t want to piss the Nazis in case they were to take over Europe. It was a backdoor plan to enter the war for profit (which ended The Great Depression). Japan we would sacrifice. There still are, after all, too many complications of race that interfere before we can get to the notion of peace. There were too many people in the government who sided with Hitler and so a deal—some Great American Business Deal—would save the economy, and save America and then help the people pick themselves back up. Who needs to live to make this truce a reality?
This theory is generally dismissed as the stupid and ultimately pointless belief that it really is, the ranting of narcissistic sociopaths. Even if the plot were to sneak its way into the war, would it have made a difference on why we finally went all in on the war against tyranny?
World War II was a great clash of ideologies. The only people believing the turgid sort of nonsense most conspiracy theories are the actual Nazis. “We were supposed to stay out of the war. We had a deal with Hitler! FDR betrayed both America and the Aryan race on the same day and that is the real reason why Pearl Harbor will be “the date that . . . lives in infamy.”
Yes, people believed this. War, terrorism, a failing marriage, these are the stressful moments of a person’s life, and they are often desperate for any excuse that will make some sense of things. Most turn to religion, a salving balm that has been protecting people from death since long before America ever came into being. Still others get up the willpower to be actual patriots, people willing to stand up for truth in our terminal age of lying and disillusion. These are the heroic Senators. These are the brave congressional leaders and governors of a populous state, and the soldiers, the ordinary soldiers who stand up for truth–whatever that may mean to a diverse culture that hardly agrees on anything. These are the heroes who truly protect your freedom while you are kneeling down, no matter how hard a majority of people try to denounce you. The soldiers, who are after all just people too, together with their own human biases and political partisanship, are still fighting for a larger idea than the one they themselves might believe in. Being a soldier does not, in itself, make you any sort of a better person. It means you are braver than the rest of us, or you had no other options for keeping out of jail. or being homeless or a hooker or sucking on some pipe. Having lived one way, the answer is usually both.
All the rest of the people fall into a hole. I feel the need here quote Fyodor Dostoevsky from one of my favorite books. This is Andrew R. MacAndrew’s English translation of Notes From Underground (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451529558&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used):
“In addition to being disgraced in the first place, the poor mouse manages to mire itself in more mud as a result of its questions and doubts. And each question brings up so many more unanswered questions that a fatal pool of sticky muck is formed, consisting of the mouse’s doubts and torments as well as of gobs of spit aimed at it by the practical men of action, who stand around like judges and dictators and laugh lustily at it till their throats are sore. Of course, the only thing left for it to do is to shrug its puny shoulders and, affecting a scornful smile, scurry off ignominiously to its mousehole. And there, in its repulsive, evil-smelling nest, the downtrodden, ridiculed mouse plunges immediately into a cold, poisonous, and–most important–never-ending hatred.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was worried about the war in Europe well before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among Franklin’s favorite people in the world there was certainly Winston Churchill. And Winnie was getting clobbered by the Nazis just like the rest of Europe. (For Roosevelt’s relationship with Churchill see Jon Meacham’s Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of An Epic Friendship (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780812972825&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used).
I believe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Now this is an honor that has undergone quite a bit of changing tides (see #35-37, #39-40, #44 and #45) since the time when FDR should have won it. There were no Peace Prizes awarded from 1939-1944 because of the war. There was no peace at all in the world. And in 1944, the last year Roosevelt was nominated for bringing together such divergent polar opposites as Churchill and Stalin to defeat the threat of the Nazis, in that year no one would argue about awarding that honor to The International Committee of the Red Cross. (Churchill later won a Nobel prize, for literature. Winston Churchill was a devastatingly wonderful writer. (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF-_-home-_-Results&an=winston+churchill&tn=the+second+world+war&kn=&isbn=).
Anyway, with the war on the horizon, and America’s economy making a very big comeback (it was the right-wing who were the primary beneficiaries of furnishing arms to the soldiers throughout the world, regardless of which side they were on), Roosevelt unveiled something he called “The New Deal.”
The New Deal has been earth-shatteringly influential to America ever since. One of Roosevelt’s first acts, on his second day in office, was to mysteriously call a bank holiday. Then he called for a “special session” of the United States Congress, Congressmen and Senators together. And it was here that The Emergency Banking Act was voted on and passed in a matter of hours. What this act ensured was that the President now had the power to call for bank holidays whenever he saw fit, opening and closing all the nation’s financial institutions at his will. He could snap his fingers and order some Republican consortium bankrupt (something he was hysterically accused of, and certainly considered, but never actually went through with). What it also did was authorize all of the Federal Banks to issue new notes, printed up in some back room at one of the many new mints, decreasing the value of the dollar worldwide, making everything more expensive, and giving birth to what is nowadays called ‘runaway inflation.’ Yet it gave Americans the illusion that they could afford things they hadn’t been able to for years, increasing consumer confidence and getting America right back where it needed to be at such a crucial time.
Before the New Deal there was something called ‘store credit,’ where you got familiar with the owners of the local shops, and sometimes, when you’re a little short, you put it on a tab and pay all of it later, with interest. It was like a bar tab, really, “gimme another round and let’s put the four of us on my tab!” Now, under The New Deal, what was established would soon become the industry of banking and loans, putting permanent debt onto most American families and allowing this to continue through the subsequent generations, continuing to this very day.
Obviously big business hated this plan, which devalued their share of the international market, and made them look weak next to their industrial rivals. Roosevelt was literally taking their money and giving it to the poor! How dare he! Social Darwinism! Survival of the fittest! “The Nazis were only half wrong,” some of these titans would say. “They were wrong about the Jews. It is the poor who need to be eliminated. If there is a wider open market and everyone can get rich, then no one will ever have to worry about anything again and we can arm and feed ourselves for the coming Armageddon.
The newest religion became this worship of money for its own sake. It merges somewhat with the later Objectivist theories of Ayn Rand (a mediocre novelist (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Ayn+Rand&cm_sp=det-_-bdp-_-author) who also wrote philosophical treaties and selfish rants praising greed and all of your own vile pleasures. One of these is even titled The Virtue of Selfishness (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451129314&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used). These theories also later inspired the ideas of Capitalism in an increasingly corporate nation as articulated by Milton Friedman (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=&an=milton%20friedman%20rose&tn=capitalism%20freedom&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ats-_-used).
Everything is mine!, shouted corporate America. Mine! All mine! like Daffy Duck in a sea of gold coins. Roosevelt was just like a schoolyard bully, these schoolyard bullies said. We are going take it all back and charge the nation for having the privilege of watching us do it!
It was the conspiracy theories that did the trick.
Let’s take another brief pause in this history to make an additional side note: Many conspiracies are true. There is no doubt. So many evil things have happened throughout the long history of humanity that one cannot doubt that paranoid people have come up with paranoid plots that made the whole world paranoid. People make deals and destroy whoever disagrees with them. Rage can only flare fully if the people are blinded by fear and terror. Conspiracy theories become just another genre of fiction instead of the serious journalistic intention many of them started out as. Conspiracy theories are a secular religion that has been around since the beginning of civilization.
Myths are added–strange coincidences. Some vague document is uncovered that may or may not support the theory. Some people suddenly die, or kill their whole families first. This is instantly an execution, regardless of the fact that the failing paranoid writer is seriously delusional and thinks that the whole world is out to get him. Thinking in conspiracies, of course, can have a person setting up a crime like this–a conspiracy of one—and they have finally succeeded with something: imposing doubt onto the circumstances of their own murder-suicides.
It is this sort of doubt that fueled the right wing of FDR’s era. Everyone was beginning to get some money back, but they still remembered those starving years. What if there was a threat that returns the economy to shambles? It is our allies the Communists who are challenging our economic policies, not the Nazis. Those savages like money just as much as we do, so American statesmen guessed that we could do business with them. After winning the war those Germans are going to have a great deal more money to spend on American goods!
The war could also be used as duel-sided economics propaganda, supporting any side that would vote it into office and therefore claim the banks back from the New Deal. This developed into a vendetta from the business community and the far right wing.
Now the far right wing, in this day and age, was a much more intellectualized version of what passes for it today. Back then there was none of this Jesus Rah-rah and screams for the rapture to save America from the broiling world. And it’s not that they had no religion–no! God could be invoked with the threat of the gravest terror–plagues, the water turning into blood, the random murder of children by pagans. It could rain frogs. All the insects might latch onto your food and starve the whole world. They saw a time of Death. Murder. Race riots. Social revolution–!
At the time most of the evangelicals still had hope for a better future. Israel had not yet been born and so one of the most important prophecies had yet to come to pass–
(–here’s quick conspiracy theory just off the top of my head. I doubt this is true. In fact, I am insisting it is untrue. But what difference will my avows make without any control over what might happen in the future? Okay, so the bible, it says “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Now I know those main-stream born-again folks simply look at this ‘Jerusalem will be restored and given back to the Jews.’ Is that really the only way to interpret those translated words?
(Maybe since the Gentiles are trampling on Jerusalem, the time of fulfillment for the Gentiles will be when Jerusalem is no more. I know, I know, this does ultimately fall back in line with modern-day, right-wing Christianity–the Jews gotta die for The Christ to be reborn! But I am looking at it differently. I am seeing things through the lens of the Holocaust. Someone tried to kill all the Jews. Some Gentiles conspired on a plan to eliminate every last one of them from the earth. This is genocide–
[–that is the thinking of everyone participating in a genocidal campaign: we have to kill every last one of them in order to be saved–]
(And so the killing of all those Jews could guilt the world into offering a long-yearned for treat, the restoration of a shitty piece of land in the middle of a desert that may have been an important city thousands of years ago. Yeah. History’s fascinating. Religious history is especially fascinating, as much of the social and ideological progress of world history can be attributed to the idea of God. God: the mother of Imagination.
(After trying to kill all the Jews the rest of the world fulfills a biblical prophecy, not realizing just how insane they were about to drive the world. The religious ones were fascists–things will be as they are meant to be and this decision is final! I have heard the great voices! You shall know the truth!
(The non-religious people were the new Jews. They were the one’s renouncing the most popular piety. It’s was like saying that you hate Star Wars or that you’re not a fan of music. It offends people. I renounce your God! It’s like how the Jews treated each other when they split apart over Jesus. You old people are denying our newfound faith. This is a crime against humanity. You are sentenced to death in order to bring the future on–)
–This prophecy, the return of Israel to its rightful dwellers, is a pretty ominous sign to the true believer, don’t you think? The far right-wing always believes that it knows exactly what is going to happen and why. They refuse to listen to any other answers. Shut up, stupid! I’ll make you realize just how wrong you are!
Of course the far left-wing is every bit as intolerant, a full circle wrap around of the violent bigotry and demands of their polar opposites. The far left is filled with crazy ideas for social engineering and the next Reformation of society (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780060929879&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used).
On the left you have dictatorial control over thinking (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451524935&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used) masquerading as a search for equality. It is the reason far right wing philosophies form in the first place. Since the French Revolution, really, there has been left-wing tyranny that is every bit as prejudiced against those who are different, and that will commit genocide in order to fulfill a ‘Final Solution.’
But we were discussing the right, because that’s who truly organized under the reign of FDR. Once Truman and Eisenhower got into office, that was the time to strike and make the world over in its own image. This was the beginning of gerrymandering. This was the cause of the whole Red Scare. It was Vietnam. It was the assassination of JFK and Vince Foster. 9/11. The invention of Isis. Modern Slavery. The blanketed terror of darkness that makes everyone feel less safe than they actually are.
We point to something significant that has happened in the world and say this is where rational thinking ends. It is not that there isn’t a conspiracy–of course there is. Things like this couldn’t happen without the input and influence of other people. What it means is that because it was all a conspiracy, who can believe in anything?
That social engineering prophecy above is what some of the far right wing influence peddlers accused FDR of, whether they believed it or not. This is a memo from one Senator to another in 1938: “This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty! The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The President has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom.” This was a popular document passed around the Senate and House. Nearly half of the Senators, pretty much exclusive to party, believed at least some form of this conspiracy theory. There were calls for a Special Counsel. Some people even dared to speak the word ‘Impeach.’ Succession was whispered.
Following the slow economic recovery after Roosevelt’s first election, the economy started to tumble again in 1937. By 1938 one of the most severe recessions ever to hit America crushed all economic progress and nearly put the nation back on the road to Depression. The big money concerns of America all blamed Roosevelt. “That crippled motherfucker!” some multi-millionaire would shout at his preacher, who had brought the topic up. “He is going to ruin everything!”
“You need to copyright that product before the Jews come in and steal it,” the pastor would respond, pitying the world and having no idea which side to take.
Within months Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War officially began. It saved America. By war’s end the United States of America would be the most powerful nation in the world.
I do not wish to discuss World War II other than peripherally in this assessment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That has been written on superbly by numerous great contributors to the art of Presidential biography (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780684804484&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used
I will leave this alone. It is for Roosevelt’s leadership and determination during this horrifying period of human history that he has been sainted. It is why he served as president for thirteen years. It was why his name is sometimes discussed in the hallowed halls of historical reminiscence, alongside Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for all objections that could be made to his economic and industry-related policies, cannot be considered anything other than a heroic wartime leader. And while Lincoln’s war certainly hits closer to home, and broke out over a dispute of how we should exist, and Washington can really only be respected as the first guy to take a really shitty job that he may have been the only one ever since to admit that he didn’t actually want it.
When Roosevelt died, near the end of the war, he already knew about the great big atom bomb. There was not a chance, as some have claimed in hindsight, that he wouldn’t have used it in order to end the war with Japan. He would have done it. He would have done it twice. Roosevelt is only forgiven for paying to have the technology developed, because he wasn’t alive to regret its deployment. It’s time to blame Harry S. Truman for the inconsistencies following our victory in the war.