Ignored American History, Part 2
President Rosevelt’s New Deal Saves America
In 1933 Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected and offered a New Deal that gradually helped average people and the great majority, and prevented a violent uprising and revolution.
Roosevelt unified the vast majority of the American people, led them out of the horrible depression, initiated conservation and environmental programs that put millions of people to work and made tremendous improvements across the nation. He also led the U.S. to victory over the German Nazis and Japanese tyrants who threatened to conquer and rule the world by force of arms. And the greatest rewards of Roosevelt’s New Deal gradually raised the standard of living of the average American family significantly, and gradually and eventually created a huge and great Middle Class.
During Roosevelt's first term many reforms of the economic system were established, and some much needed regulations were put in place. Moreover, many New Deal programs such as Social Security and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were hugely helpful. For while President Roosevelt is now best known as the president who won the Second World War, it was the domestic programs he established before the war that were just as significant. They saved millions of Americans from poverty, and made great long-lasting improvements all across the nation.
The WPA and CCC, for instance, put more than three million people to work and produced many wonderful and immensely useful public works projects and state and national parks that are still used and enjoyed by the public today. Altogether it was a marvelous and worthy investment in people, in the infrastructure, in the country, in the environment, and in the land.
Of course, extreme right-wing Republicans accused Roosevelt of being a "Socialist," because they were as prone to deception and slander then as they are now. But, because his New Deal produced wonderful results and tremendous improvements, the vast majority of Americans loved him.
Now, another positive factor was that Roosevelt’s New Deal efforts were boosted by a grass roots political protest-liberation movement, led by great and courageous people like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joe Hill, Paul Robeson, Josh White, Dorothea Lange, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others who were instrumental in the progressive political liberation movement. Together with New Deal Democrats they exposed the corruption of the greediest, wealthiest, powerful few; revealed the plight of the poor and the working poor; and exposed the damage that had been done to the environment due to careless, short-sighted exploitation. And, together with the moral support of those in the spiritual movement, they produced a substantial amount of progress.
The "Religious Right" Puts Its Foot In the Door
In 1933, in reaction to the political victory of Roosevelt and the liberal progressives, there was a revival of right-wing political activism in the guise of religiosity, driven by right-wing conservative, theocratic, dogmatic Christian sects. They sought to establish more firm control in the United States, and they founded what they called a "Legion of Decency" to do that.
Like the modern-day "Christian Right," it consisted mainly of right-wing conservative Christians, mostly evangelicals and fundamentalists who sought not only to combat religious pluralism and reject equality of religions, but also to censor the movie industry. And they succeeded.
The right-wing conservative "Christian Revival" of the 1930s continued sporadically throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and it had a significant impact on the movie and television industry. Rigid censorship was imposed on the broadcast and entertainment industry by a very powerful conservative clergy, even though they were in the minority.
Of course, now Americans consider the 1950s as the "happy days," but that was mostly because employment was very high, wages and benefits were good for the middle class, and even the minimum wage was a living wage, so crime wasn’t a big problem and most people were prosperous.
The problem was that rigid censorship always proves to be counterproductive, because it produces repression. And that produces unnecessary guilt, rebellion, and other negative consequences. We are, after all, human, and, if we are conscientious, we learn from our mistakes. But, in spite of that, and because of what was politically and socially "correct" at the time, strict conformity was the general rule.
Consequently, there were many who rejected it and rebelled. In fact, that's when the first motorcycle gangs were formed. It’s also when the Bohemians and "Beatniks" (the forerunners of the "Hippies") became influential with their liberation poetry and songs, and it is when many young people simply ignored authority when no one was looking.
That was because whenever authorities are overly and unnecessarily prohibitive and restrictive, young people are especially rebellious. Distrustful and rigidly strict church and state authorities, just like distrustful and rigidly strict parents, tend to do things that are counterproductive, because most people, and especially young people, resent and resist being rigidly controlled. Even though society must have reasonable rules and laws, people like freedom and liberty, within reason.
Despite the censorship and rigidity, though, in the 1950s America was, for the most part, united. That was mainly because the Second World War (1941-1945) helped to bring the American people together very noticeably. And, because of that unifying event, along with the efforts of New Deal Democrats and all those in the political liberation movement and the pluralistic spiritual movement, many things improved.
For example, the Labor Union movement had grown significantly and some good regulations and worker’s rights had been established, and the minimum wage was actually close to a living wage — not poverty wage as it had been and is again today. However, most of the improvements were made in spite of the efforts by some very unscrupulous and ruthless right-wing partisan conservative Republican politicians who rose up in the 1950s, led by Republican Senators Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon.
They labeled and condemned all the progressive people on the left and in the political liberation movement as "Communists" and "Socialists" for advocating for the majority and the working poor.
It was much like it is today. But in the 1950s it was called "red-baiting," and McCarthy, Nixon, Reagan and their right-wing cohorts did it with terrible malice. They demonized those in the liberation movement in an unfair, slanderous, deceptive, misleading way, but they were successful. They ruined the lives of many good people in the liberation movement, many of whom were in the entertainment industry and other influential professions, who were "black listed," ostracized and punished in many different ways. It was an American form of Fascism (much like has risen up in America again due to the "religious right").
By the time we entered the 1960s, those dishonest and deceptive right-wing conservative tactics had produced their desired affect. Laws and policies once again enabled and catered to the very wealthy few who enjoyed even more privilege and license.
Ironically, it was Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a four-star Army General during World War II, who recognized what was happening and spoke up. In his farewell address in 1961, he warned America about the dangers of allowing the "Military-Industrial Complex" to have too much power and get out of hand. It was very appropriate and needed advice, but, unfortunately, most Americans did not listen and the problem continued to increase.
The Peace and Freedom Movement Is Reborn
Some aware and conscientious people did understand why Eisenhower issued his warning. In response to all the political and corporate corruption, and in response to the prudish "religious" repression that had been caused by the right-wing conservative clergy in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, the peace and freedom movement was reborn in the early 1960s.
Indeed, the peace and freedom movement was not only reborn, it was greatly expanded by many different folk singers, rock bands, entertainers, political activists and spiritual leaders, including Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul and Mary; Gloria Steinham; Martin Luther King Jr.; Baba Ram Dass; Stephen Gaskin; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Richie Havens, and many others far too numerous to mention here. God bless 'em.
In fact, huge numbers of people joined the liberation movement. It was generally known as the love, peace and freedom movement, and they were and still are good, fair, compassionate, conscientious people. They tried, and most of them still try, to point out true spiritual values having to do with love, peace, freedom and equality, that are really at the core of all religions.
Of course, a part of that movement was known as the political New Left, which included the Free Speech Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Anti-War Movement, etc., and some of the people in the New Left were not humble, or meek.
However, the vast majority of those who wanted reform and greater freedom and opportunity were non-violent, peaceful, loving and reasonable "doves," despite being labeled otherwise by right-wing "hawks" who defended the status quo.
The peace and liberation movement also warned about the growing income disparity and gap between the rich and the poor, because once again the rich were getting much richer while the working poor and the poor were becoming much poorer.
In 1962, Michael Harrington’s book, The Other America, pointed out that at least 20 percent of the American population were living below the poverty line and had missed out on the prosperity of the 1950s. Such research and facts gave the movement knowledgeable authority in speaking out on the behalf of the working poor and the poor.
Another book published in 1962 that was very important and influential was Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. But, as Al Gore has noted, big businesses, corporations and chemical companies tried to contradict the facts in the book and made false claims to the contrary. Nevertheless,Silent Spring helped revive the conservation and environmental movement in the 1960s (which was really the beginning of the "Green" movement), and many environmental protections began to be established.
The best thing, though, was that in the 1960s the awareness that there is a unity at the core of all religions emerged once again. The basics of the esoteric spiritual teachings, along with an influx of Eastern religious teachings, created the "New Age" movement that blossomed in the United States in the 1960s. That's when "The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius" was widely announced in the great classic musical, Hair, which was great and wonderful (even though it was premature in announcing the beginning of the new age).
The huge peace-freedom-liberation movement in the 1960s was extremely effective politically and socially. However, it cannot be overemphasized that many of those in the movement werenon-political. Many of the "hippies" and the "flower children," for instance, were more involved in spiritual pursuits, and many were involved in a "back to the earth" and "back to nature" movement, and in music and arts and crafts. That's when the interest in natural foods, ecology, environmental protection and conservation really began to flourish (even though it later suffered severe setbacks under the Reaganites).
What got more of the media's attention in the 1960s, though, was the political part of the liberation movement, the New Left. It was very motivated because its leaders and activists were seriously trying to save the world and establish peace, freedom, and social and economic justice and equity.
Granted, there was some foolishness demonstrated by relatively small radical elements of the New Left, because they responded in-kind to the violent right-wing suppression of dissent and protest. But, in spite of that, most of those in the political New Left were more rational and they succeeded significantly. Their influence ultimately produced many welcome reforms in environmental protection and criminal justice, and established more civil rights, more women's rights, and many other rights and protections for the majority of people and the environment.
Of course, part of the success of the New Left was due to the presidency of Democrat John F. Kennedy, a charismatic man whose inclinations were democratic. He had become president in 1961 following Eisenhower, and he helped to inspire the younger generation with great hope and courage. His Peace Corps was and still is great, and it has done and still does a lot of good in the world. He was also instrumental in getting the minimum wage increased, and he issued an executive order to provide surplus food to unemployed Americans.
At the same time, however, there were very strong right-wing conservative Republicans vying to regain power, and the dissenting protests and successes of the New Left brought a vehement and violent reaction from right-wing political leaders who still had power in certain states and cities.
The most significant and consequential examples of that were in 1965 in Selma in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement, in 1968 in Chicago in reaction to the Anti-War Movement, and in 1969 in Berkeley in reaction to the Free Speech Movement.
It’s notable that the violence in Berkeley was ordered by Ronald Reagan, who was at that time the Republican Governor of California. He falsely claimed that the Free Speech Movement was led by "outside agitators, communists, and dirty bums who simply want to tear down society." He also said that if it took a "bloodbath," he would stop them, and he did create a bloodbath because he used terribly brutal armed forces to try to suppress valid and needed dissent and protest. And in doing that, Reagan exacerbated the violent right-wing reactionary confrontations that swept across America in the 1960s, which deeply polarized and divided the American people.
However, the corrupt few did more than resort to violent suppression of dissent and protest. They resorted to deception, slander and false accusations of those who dared to dissent and protest. And a few even resorted to murder and assassination, most notably of President Kennedy, who was tragically assassinated in November 1963.
There are many opinions about why President Kennedy was assassinated, and officially it is still a question. However, we do know that in 1962 Kennedy had the courage to overrule his top military generals and refused to bomb Cuba and risk nuclear war. Instead, he faced down the Russians who had planted nuclear missiles in Cuba, and averted catastrophe.
Kennedy also overruled the military brass by refusing to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In fact, he had planned to start pulling his non-combatant military advisors out of Vietnam and have all of them out by 1965. Unfortunately, in November 1963 not long after he established that plan, he was assassinated, and soon after that the U.S. Military Industrial Complex was able to escalate U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam and plunge U.S. fighting troops and forces headlong into it for 12 years, making many industrialists richer.
Of course, in recent years Republicans have tried to discredit that story, because Kennedy never actually revealed his plan on record or in public. In fact, on the record, Kennedy had expressed support for Eisenhower’s policies and stated that it would be best to do whatever possible to help the South Vietnamese government ward off the Communists. And after all, that was the political rationale at the time, based on the old “Domino Theory.”
However, National Security Action Memorandums (NSAMs) reveal that as president, Johnson actually did reverse Kennedy's disengagement policy from Vietnam (which called for withdrawing military advisers), and Johnson instead expanded the war and committed combat troops. Furthermore, Kennedy’s withdrawal plan was revealed by Kennedy aides Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell who were close to him for 15 years, knew him well, and reported the story in 1971.
Even so, Republicans have had some success in denying the story, for several reasons. In November 1963 when the Vietnam War became Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s war with ground combat troops committed, many Kennedy friends and confidants, including his brothers, put aside their distaste for Johnson to support the Vietnam War in public, perhaps because they didn’t think it would be politically expedient or helpful to the country to reveal what they knew. But Republicans claim that it was because Kennedy did not want to withdraw from Vietnam, and they claim that the O'Donnell/Powers story is false because it came out at a time when all the Democrats who had originally supported the war (on record in 1963) became against the war when it became Republican Richard Nixon's war. However, the actual facts of the matter have been made clear. It was the U.S. Military Industrial Complex that wanted a ground war in Vietnam, and Kennedy defied the brass while Johnson mistakenly went along.
Anyway, Kennedy’s assassination caused horrified disappointment and frustration in those who were trying to reform the U.S. political-economic system, but it soon made them stronger and more determined. But that created an even stronger right-wing reaction against them. Conflict and violence increased, and it caused a tremendous amount of grief, despair and suffering. When it peaked in Chicago in1968 and in Berkeley in 1969, it left the country deeply divided.
That was a very crucial time, because when the nation was deeply split and polarized, the balance of political power began to swing to the right again.
That happened for several reasons. When two more heroes of the democratic New Left (Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy) were also assassinated, Democrats had become split. Liberal Progressives were led by Eugene McCarthy, who went into the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as the clear frontrunner. But the democratic party bosses favored and nominated the relatively conservative and traditional Hubert Humphrey, even though he had not campaigned in the primary elections. That was why so many progressive and liberal anti-war democrats demonstrated in the streets of Chicago, and that was why the Mayor of Chicago at the time ordered his police forces to crack down and crack heads, which caused the bloody police riots at the time.
Consequently, with Democrats divided and with their candidate not really representing the majority of them, right-wing conservative Republican Richard Nixon was able to become president in 1969. And he was able to do so not only because democrats were divided, but also because he sold the misleading notion that the whole New Left was just a radical misguided minority and that he represented the "Silent Majority."
The truth, however, was that Nixon won not only by misleading propaganda, but by some very dirty tricks and collaboration with the Vietnamese (which has only been revealed recently by Robert Parry in two articles, one titled LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason,’ and the other titled The Almost Scoop On Nixon’s ‘Treason’). If that story had broken in 1968 things would probably have been very different, in America and in Vietnam.
But, that story was hushed up, and even though by that time the actual majority of Americans were against the war and certainly not for Nixon, many Americans were so disgusted with partisan political conflict by that time that they did not even vote, and Nixon swayed just enough people who did vote to get elected. Consequently, certain aspects of the civil conflict in the U.S. got worse and the Vietnam War lasted for seven more years.
With Republican President Nixon in power, the Military-Industrial Complex became even stronger and more out of hand. He escalated and expanded U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and began bombing Laos and Cambodia, which was very profitable for certain U.S. corporations and military contractors who supported Nixon (since there were a whole lot of helicopters, bombs, agent orange and other hardware needed to wage that 12 year long war.)
During Nixon’s presidency a crucial event occurred when Daniel Ellsberg revealed secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, exposing the U.S. Government’s lies about the Vietnam War. Nixon was enraged. In public he claimed Ellsberg "put himself above the President and the U.S. Government," and in private he told his team: "Let’s get the son of a bitch." That is when Nixon took the even more corrupt path which led to his inevitable downfall and disgrace in 1974.
But even knowledge of the Pentagon Papers did not stop the U.S. war machine in Vietnam. It had not stopped when Americans had learned of such atrocities as the My Lai Massacre, the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia, and the horrendous effects of napalm and agent orange either. The war was continued by the U.S. Government in spite of how the majority of Americans and other people in the world felt about it, until Congress finally stopped the bombing in 1973 and Americans were driven out of Vietnam in 1975. (And the consequence of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam was the death of 58,220 Americans, about two million Vietnamese, about 250,000 Cambodians, and about 100,000 Laotians.
Even so, the peace and freedom movement of the 1960s and ‘70s succeeded in being the conscience of America, because it was essentially the same spiritual-philosophical movement that had become popular in both Europe and America in the 1700s and 1800s. It had flourished again advocating the ideals of universal love, peace, freedom, equality, fairness, compassion, tolerance, and religious pluralism. It recognized that all spiritual teachings and all religions have, at their foundation and core, the same eternal, universal values and principles. And the popularity of the movement continued and grew in the 1960s through the 1970s, and it was very influential socially even though it didn't receive the media attention that the political protest movement did.
Unfortunately, the Peace and Freedom Movement and Woodstock Generation then rested on our laurels, because in the 1970s we felt we had won. But, we were naive. We didn’t see what was coming.
You see, because good people remained silent, the Reaganites, touting themselves as "religious and patriotic," were able to regain presidential power in 1981, and full congressional power in 1983.
The Right-Wing Takes Over Everything
The right-wing conservative backlash rose to power under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and "Christian conservatives" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. It was very similar to what had occurred in the late 1930s, and history repeated itself.
Reagan was just what right-wing conservatives, the wealthiest few and the U.S. Military-Industrial Establishment needed, because he had become a proficient pitchman for corporate interests on commercial television. Moreover, he actually believed in much of what he said, and he made hegemonic flag waving, bible thumping and militant sword rattling seem "right" to many Americans who felt Reagan "restored American pride and religious values."
Reagan was supported by other like-minded right-wing conservative political leaders and ideologues, and especially by very wealthy corporate executives and attorneys. Together they created the Reaganite New Right and the early "Neo-Conservative" movement, which has, for the most part, operated ever since then under the guise of patriotism and religious values (even though its values are not really Christian, and it has proven to be not good for the country or the world).
It should also be noted that in 1980, as Ronald Reagan was campaigning for the presidency backed by the Christian Right, John Lennon was killed. John had been singing his greatest song, Imagine, which reflected the universal spiritual thinking and feelings of his generation, the generation in which many of us took advantage of the ample opportunity we had to learn the universal truths at the core of all religions. But, while most people loved John's song, some people hated it then, as some hate it now. Some even condemn it as "heretical and blasphemous." And that is why Mark David Chapman, a right-wing, self-professed "born-again Christian" zealot, shot John Lennon in the back three times, and killed him.
Of course, it wasn’t polite for the media to mention that fact. So the flag wavers and bible thumpers (that John spurned) succeeded, and Reagan rode his bandwagon to the White House.
The New Right Reaganite Republicans then steadily and increasingly chipped away at Roosevelt's democratic New Deal programs, and claimed they were doing so in the name of God and Country.
Even though Roosevelt’s programs are actually based on Christian values because they are compassionate and charitable and care about and for the poor and the least of our brethren, the Reaganites, like the later Bushites, tried to do away with and reverse all the rights and protections that had improved the lives of the American people and the environment during the 1930s, ‘‘40s, '50s, and '60s.
Here is a video illustrating how the the Reaganite war on labor unions, for instance, impacted America:
That is why during the last 30 years the rich have steadily gotten so much richer, at the expense of the majority, the working poor, the poor, the infrastructure, and the environment.
The problem is that evil loves to masquerade as good. It even thinks it is good, which is what egocentric delusion is all about. That’s why demagogues appear to be good, patriotic and religious, and appeal to the pride, emotions and prejudices of gullible people. That’s how Ronald Reagan gained power, because he seemed like a nice guy and he could be very charming when he wanted to be. He had a lot of practice on television before he got into politics.
When Reagan became president in 1981, he appointed people to the Civil Rights Commission, the Justice Department, the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency who reversed much of the progress that had been made. They started huge setbacks and terrible trends. They simply ignored facts put forth by scientists, environmentalists and advocates of the poor. They pushed for "deregulation" to benefit big business and corporations, claiming it was to "get big government off our backs," all of which was very misleading and deceptive.
Reaganites claimed that none of their industrial technology harms the environment. They claimed that "we cannot afford a welfare state," that government was "too big," and that tax cuts for the rich are absolutely necessary and good for the country (just as Bush did again when he gained power in 2000).
With the rise of Reagan to the U.S. presidency in 1981, the Military-Industrial Complex grew even more, and it took on a new aspect. With the influence of the so-called "Christian Right," it then gradually became the Religious-Military-Industrial Complex, and it established an out of control culture that the son of man calls Reaganism.
Reaganism claims to serve all the people in the name of God and Country, but it actually serves the wealthiest few and what Jesus called "Mammon" (material wealth and power). It is designed very cunningly to create the appearance that it is beneficent and good, even though it has actually enabled the very wealthy to get much more wealthy, while worsening conditions for most people in the country and world.
To make matters worse, in 1982 a large group of right-wing politicians, attorneys and judges established a so-called "Federalist Society" designed to impose right-wing partisan political ideology into the U.S. legal system. And, on the "religious" front, a secret right-wing "Super Christian" group called "The Family" began to ensure that the U.S. Religious Military Industrial Complex served the interests of what they call "The Army of God." And both the Federalist Society and The Family have grown in power ever since.
To the detriment of most of us, the Reaganite Neo-Conservative and "Christian Right" movement, which flies the banners of religiosity and patriotism, succeeded politically. But, while they think they’re doing the right thing, they serve Mammon and the wealthiest few. They can't be honest about that, of course, which is why they have been so adamant in claiming that their political action is simply an effort to "restore God to America" and "fulfill the intent and desire of the Founding Fathers." But, in fact, they have done the opposite.
They’ve caused a lot of Americans to think that you are a "True American" only if you proudly proclaim yourself to be a Christian, agree with Neo-Conservative Republican ideas, and look down on immigrants and people of other faiths.
They do not realize they are extremely bigoted, hypocritical, and un-American. They ignore the fact that all white Americans are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and the only truly native Americans are Native American "Indians." Furthermore, representative democratic government can work properly only if and when ALL people are fully free, fully educated, and have fully equal rights and opportunities.
The "Christian Right" and their right-wing Republican cohorts are NOT doing what America's Founding Fathers intended, or what is good. Instead, in 1999 a Republican dominated Congress passed legislation repealing crucial regulations on banking institutions that had been put in place in 1933 during Roosevelt’s first term, further opening the door to greed and corruption.
Under the reign of President George W. Bush, who gained the presidency by hook and by crook, the Religious-Military-Industrial Complex grew totally out of control. Huge corporations (especially military contractors, oil companies, banks, predatory lenders, credit card companies, health insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, and monopolistic food production companies) have been raking in record profits and indulging in terribly unfair price gouging, "ripping off" the public and rewarding their top corporate executives absurdly excessive and inequitable financial incomes.
Reaganites and Bushites, as well as certain "sold out" Democrats, have enabled the CEOs of very large American corporations to cause much harm and loss, and exploit people. They have even used slander and all the shady influence that money can buy, not only to silence "whistle blowers" who feel the public should know the truth, but also to use the power of television in paid commercial advertisements to spread misleading and even deceptive propaganda to make their corporations seem good and beneficial to us all, and even good for the environment.
Rather than abide by real and true spiritual values, Reaganites and Neo-Conservatives focused instead on the erroneous man-made, patriarchal, "Christian" doctrine of preeminence and superiority that has been used over the last sixteen centuries to serve the wealthy few and justify military-industrial imperialism, colonialism and even genocide, all in the name of "civilizing the heathen" and "saving souls."
Remember, the American Revolution of 1776 was won by liberal progressives on the left, in a great attempt to serve the people. That’s why right-wing ideologues ignore that and have no choice but to be dishonest and deceptive, pretending that they serve all the people and appealing to the "conservative" group ego and to emotions, prejudices, nationalism and religious bigotry, which is why they "get tough," wave their flag, thump their bible, and rattle their sword to stir up support.
In the last 30 years they had a lot of political success doing that. And we have paid the price.