Friday, June 26, 2009

Let us take each in turn.

Peter, Paul, and Mary – Come And Go With Me

1. Discussion. Expanding the circle of brotherhood is certainly a noble ideal. Though it owes something to both Judaism and ideas of unity under empire, it gets its strongest push from Christianity. It is almost a Christian idea – perhaps we should see it as an heretical Christianity. As a practical matter, we are not well-designed for expanding such circles. When we embrace a new set of people, we drop some off the back without noticing. We are not designed for unlimited fellow-feeling.

Those progressives who caution us most vehemently about nationalism and jingoism, insisting that America has much to learn from other cultures (especially Western European elites), have dropped a lot of their fellow Americans into the bad pile. They speak of other subcultures with contempt and accusation, saying things about them that they would never say about oh, Belgians or Hindus. This is not a broadening of brotherhood, but a mere transfer. I don’t know why this is. I do not know that it is inevitable. The American experiment itself seems to be evidence that we can expand our boundaries of affection beyond the merely tribal. Perhaps under Christ we can all learn to see all humankind as our brothers and sisters.

But right now the people doing the most insisting that we need to dare to believe in this theory are the same ones who are most vicious to the rest of us. They have divided along the lines of “those who will go with us” versus “those who hinder us,” yet they do not see it. They don’t notice who was pushed off the back of the iceberg when they welcomed new penguins in the front.

In its extreme, we get the concluding lines of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, in which the protagonist insist that if “you” great persons ever send us little guys to war against other little guys again, we will turn our guns on you.
He was the future he was a perfect picture of the future and they were afraid to let anyone see what the future was like. Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war they would need men and if men saw the future they wouldn't fight. So they were masking the future they were keeping the future a soft quiet deadly secret. They knew that if all the little people all the little guys saw the future they would begin to ask questions. They would ask questions and they would find answers and they would say to the guys who wanted them to fight they would say you lying thieving sons-of-bitches we won't fight we won't be dead we will live we are the world we are the future and we will not let you butcher us no matter what you say no matter what speeches you make no matter what slogans you write. Remember it well we we we are the world we are what makes it go round we make bread and cloth and guns we are the hub of the wheel and the spokes and the wheel itself without us you would be hungry naked worms and we will not die. We are immortal we are the sources of life we are the lowly despicable ugly people we are the great wonderful beautiful people of the world and we are sick of it we are utterly weary we are done with it forever and ever because we are the living and we will not be destroyed.
If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. They will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles the guys who build dams and power plants and string the long moaning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light globes and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and airplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.
It will be you-you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.
We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.
Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquillity in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.

Or you could attend closely to the lyrics of just about anything by
Jefferson Airplane, or the smug Us/Them mentality of CSNY.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Teach Your Children


Gringo said...

I was a Conscientious Objector (1-O) during the Vietnam War. Had the draft board not granted me 1-O status, I would have gone to jail. A neighbor who knew of my convictions lent me a copy of Johnny Got His Gun. I did not bother to investigate Dalton Trumbo, the book’s author. I took the book at face value: a profound anti-war statement.

Decades later I found out that Dalton Trumbo’s work was not something to take at face value.

From Wikipedia:
Trumbo aligned himself with the Communist Party USA before the 1940s, although he did not join the party until later. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, American communists argued that the United States should not get involved in the war on the side of Great Britain, since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of nonaggression meant that the Soviet Union was at peace with Germany. In 1941, Trumbo wrote a novel The Remarkable Andrew, in which, in one scene, the ghost of Andrew Jackson appears in order to caution the United States not to get involved in the war. In a review of the book, Time Magazine sarcastically wrote, "General Jackson's opinions need surprise no one who has observed George Washington and Abraham Lincoln zealously following the Communist Party Line in recent years."[2]

Shortly after the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, Trumbo and his publishers decided to suspend reprinting of Johnny Got His Gun until the end of the war. After receiving letters from individuals, including pacifists, isolationists, as well as those with apparent ties to Nazis requesting copies of the book, Trumbo contacted the FBI and turned these letters over to them.[3] Thus did Trumbo, in effect, "name names", something that would come back to haunt him years later when others would name him before the House Un-American Committee. Trumbo regretted this decision, which he called "foolish", after two FBI agents showed up at his home and it became clear that "their interest lay not in the letters but in me."[4]

Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party USA from 1943 until 1948.[5] He bragged in The Daily Worker that among the films that communist influence in Hollywood had quashed were adaptations of Arthur Koestler's anti-communist works Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar.[6]

IOW, Trumbo was anti-war as long as Fearless Leader deemed it proper. Made me feel like a damned fool to find that out.

In any event, my conscientious objection convictions were decided upon long before I read the book. The genocide in Cambodia later put paid to my conscientious objection. I decided that as long as vicious thugs roam the earth, no one has clean hands.

Gringo said...

For a song that reflects my change from a peacenik into a warmonger, I am partial to the Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. Also reflects my changed from a progressive of the left into an evil right winger.

Like they say, I gave peace a chance, and it didn't work.

Donna B. said...

The violence in the quoted text is revolting to me. I fail to see how that could lead to or reaffirm a anti-war feeling.

It's not anti-war, it's merely designating a new enemy. It calls for violence.

I have never read Johnny Got His Gun, so maybe the lack of context is confusing me.

However, it was the violence and hatefulness of the anti-war protests (and protesters I met) that turned me off in when I was in college.

It has been my lifelong experience that "liberals" are violent.

Gringo said...

Donna B.: perhaps you had to read all of Johnny Got His Gun to get a better feel for it. Johnny was a soldier in WW1 who lost his arm, face, and legs to an artillery shell. What AVI quotes is preceded by hundreds of pages, which lead up to the crescendo quotes. After the preceding hundreds of pages, what is quoted seems more reasonable than if one reads it without the preceding pages.

To get a quick and more reasonable introduction to the anti-war feeling, consider another famous anti-war song that was well-known in the 1960s. Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye, is here performed by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. (The song begins about a minute into the video.)

Yes, the anti-war message is still mostly invalid, but you have to give the devil his due.

Donna B. said...

My "favorite" anti-war song was by Country Joe & the Fish:

Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don't hesitate,
Send 'em off before it's too late.
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

(and yep, I oughtta learn me some html)

Gringo... I grew up in Montrose CO and never heard of Dalton Trumbo... isn't that strange? What I do remember is a soldier with Montrose ties being implicated in the My Lai massacre.

Should I read the book?

Gringo said...

Donna, I have some anger towards Dalton Trumbo, for having played me for a fool. I was a pacifist; he never was. If you wish to read the book as an example of what a Commie-Masquerading-as-a-Pacifist-Because-Fearless-Leader-Said-So would write, then do so. He is a good writer, I will grant him that.

For what it’s worth, here it is in Google Books. I would not spend any more than 10-15 minutes skimming it. If that. I see no need to reread it. Were Dalton Trumbo’s grave within walking distance, I would spit on it.

Country Joe and the Fish had themselves a good song, though I no longer agree with what it says.

For an example on how to do HTML links, right click on page source for this page, and search for ( CTRL-F in Firefox) “clancy.” That will give you an idea. That is quicker than looking it up. (Though you don’t really need the REL= “no follow” brouhaha.) Preview will enable you to check your work.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon this blog post while searching for information about Dalton Trumbo. It's difficult to tell from this post alone exactly what the blog aims to achieve, but the fuzzy logic and deployment of generalities ("Those progressives who caution us most vehemently"—an undefinable group useful only for making empty rhetoric seem less vacuous) certainly don't inspire me to read any more of it.

What has inspired me to comment is in fact the comments attached to this post—namely the ones by "Gringo." To him I would simply recommend the recent American Masters episode about Trumbo, the viewing of which might add some nuance to his simplistic and venomous opinion of the man. What kind of person, I have to wonder, is this "Gringo," who would spit on a man's grave for having written so well that his book (misread by this same Gringo) could convince him to become a pacifist? Now there's a strange sin. But of course the problem is with Gringo himself, who is apparently so gutless that he will not sign his real name to his views—something Dalton Trumbo was never shy about doing, except when compelled to by reactionaries and demagogues. Gringo seems to have internalized those oppressive forces. How sad.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

So, Joseph Hutchison comes in at part nine of an eighteen part series, but we're the ones who aren't nuanced, and are in the thrall of oppressive forces.

Yes I know. Liberals always hate it when you generalise about them, and then behave exactly as expected. Those of us who used to be liberals are pretty immune to condescension as a tactic at this point.

Gringo said...

Joseph Hutchison:
I have to wonder, is this "Gringo," who would spit on a man's grave for having written so well that his book (misread by this same Gringo) could convince him to become a pacifist?

Apparently you have reading comprehension issues, which should not be a surprise for someone who recommends a TV show as a way to obtain knowledge. In my previous postings I made it quite clear that reading Johnny Got His Gun did NOT convince me to become a pacifist: In any event, my conscientious objection convictions were decided upon long before I read the book. I read Johnny Got His Gun over a year after I obtained 1-O status.

The deciding factor for my becoming a pacifist was most likely the death of a friend in a gun accident with his brother when I was a young boy. It was NOT reading Trumbo’s book. Te lo juro.

There was also a difference between the pacifism expressed in Johnny Got His Gun and my pacifism. From Johnny Got His Gun: ". . . There's nothing worth dying for. ... I would trade democracy for life. I would trade independence and honor and freedom and decency for life. . . ."

While Trumbo’s pacifism here expresses a horror of dying, my pacifism was expressed on a horror of killing. I did not fear dying; I was ready to go to jail for my convictions. I feared killing, as I knew some of the consequences of killing: how the poor brother suffered over what he accidentally did to my friend, his younger brother. Two lives were ruined, not just one.

Before June 22, 1941, Dalton Trumbo wrote, “I would trade democracy for life..” After June 22, 1941, Dalton Trumbo would trade life for defending the Soviet Union. After June 22, 1941, Dalton Trumbo turned people into the FBI for wanting to purchase Johnny Got His Gun. I suppose that Mr. Hutchinson considers it simplistic and venomous to point out such contradictions in Trumbo.

For an additional view of Trumbo’s anti war position before June 22, 1941, here is a Time Magazine review of his book The Remarkable Andrew. It is unusual that a pacifist ALSO has extensive geopolitical reasons for not going to war, as in this book. That further casts doubt on the sincerity of Trumbo’s pacifism.

This is a guy who changed his pacifist beliefs on a dime. Anyone who considers Dalton Trumbo to have been sincere, committed pacifist would no doubt be interested in a Bridge in Brooklyn I have for sale. If his pacifism were sincere, he wouldn’t have changed his point of view after June 22, 1941. Before June 22, 1941, Fearless Leader considered pacifism a good stance for the US. After June 22,1941, Fearless Leader changed his mind. Dalton Trumbo followed in tandem.

I would spit on his grave a thousand times over. I grew up with too many refugees from Communism and Nazism to have a benign view of a Stalinist toady such as Dalton Trumbo. Someone who changes his beliefs in tandem with Fearless Leader IS a toady, regardless of how skilled a writer he is.

Trumbo was a very skilled writer. Would I watch some of his movies? Yes. His being a Stalinist toady does not negate his being a top-notch screenwriter.Nor does his being a top-notch screenwriter negate his being a Stalinist toady. He was both.

As I have been subjected to some rather vicious ad hominem real-life attacks, I will keep my screen name, thank you. If you wish to consider me gutless for doing so, that is your business. ¿Me entendés?