by Stefan Schindler
If today’s children and grandchildren are lucky, smart and diligent enough not to live in a dystopian future, their history books will highlight the Second World War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, America’s Indochina Holocaust, and 9/11 as four events which could have, and should have, stopped America long enough to do some serious soul searching; i.e., a public examination of professed values and actual practice, and the contradictory distance between.
Had Henry Wallace continued to be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President, instead of being replaced by Harry Truman, Wallace would have become President when FDR died in April 1945, just prior to the end of the war in Europe, and several months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Wallace wanted an end to war, and he saw that imperialism was war’s primary cause. He favored de-colonialism. He was a self-confessed champion of “The Common Man.” He was a social democrat with a moral and pragmatic plan for planetary peace.
FDR wanted to keep Wallace as his running mate in the 1944 presidential election. But Roosevelt was ill and dying, too weak to campaign effectively. The party bosses forced Wallace off the ticket, replacing him with Harry Truman. After the war, Truman gave America an unconstitutional secret intelligence and covert operations agency, amounting to an unaccountable government inside the government.
Wallace, like Roosevelt, saw that World War Two was a continuation of the moral contradictions of imperialism that burst into World War One. In October 1962, Kennedy and Khrushchev were appalled and terrified at how close they had come to total human annihilation. Wallace, Kennedy, and Khrushchev wanted peace; the building of a sane and ethical new world order, no longer run by the war-making barons of wealth and greed.
Truman was replaced by Eisenhower early in 1953. Stalin died, replaced by Khrushchev, who began Soviet reforms and extended a hand of friendship to the West. Eisenhower rejected that gesture, assuring a nuclear arms race. Then he unleashed Richard Nixon, who, as head of the newly formed National Security Council, gave free rein to the Dulles Brothers and their global network of sabotage and assassination teams, overthrowing democracy in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, and trying for the same in Cuba and Vietnam.
The Cuban Missile Crisis occurs in October 1962. In 1963, Khrushchev is replaced by a neo-Stalinist, and John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
In 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are killed to ensure the continuing triumph of the “military-industrial-intelligence complex” created by Truman and Eisenhower.
Presidents Johnson and Nixon perpetrate America’s Indochina Holocaust in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. President Ford pardons Nixon, and says it’s time to put Vietnam behind us while he and Kissinger finance a holocaust in Indonesia. President Carter starts a covert terror campaign against the social democratic government of Afghanistan. Russia counter-intervenes.
President Reagan dreams of star wars, creates Al Qaeda, launches the wholesale unraveling of FDR’s “New Deal” in order to assure more riches for the super-rich. Bush the Elder says, “I will never apologize for America, I don’t care what the facts are.” Clinton approves repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.
Al Gore is defeated in the 2000 presidential election when the Supreme Court executes a judicial coup d’état, appointing George W. Bush as the new president of the United States. Dick Cheney chooses himself for vice president, the real Oz behind the curtain, planning to move America into “the dark side” shortly after “a new Pearl Harbor.”
The Cheney-Bush Administration gave us 9/11; and in its aftermath, instead of the soul-searching public discourse that should have ensued, Congress passed the egregiously unpatriotic U.S.A. Patriot Act.
Cheney-Bush were reelected, then left us with two wars in the Middle East and the worst economic and banking implosion since the Stock Market crash of 1929.
Ahh, the missed chances of history. To learn something important behind the perpetual blizzard of epistemological confetti blanketing the land. But there were heroes along the way. Men and women with courage and conscience.
I think of Helen Keller, Joan Baez, Bella Abzug, Olof Palme, John Lennon, Muhammad Ali. The torch carried by Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Vandana Shiva, Katherine Gun, Greta Thunberg.
Perhaps we are, still, on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius. History’s folly, history’s tragedy, history’s unlearned lessons climaxing in breakdown that glimmers with the light of breakthrough.
I think of The Peace Abbey Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, Massachusetts, with its six-foot statue of Gandhi, and its garden of plaques in honor of folk including Julian Bond, George Harrison, Mother Jones, Maya Angelou, Dave Dellinger, Howard Zinn, and the Berrigan brothers.
In the current battle for the soul of civilization, there is much light, much hope, constant change. If today’s children and grandchildren live in an eco-socialist approximation of possible and pragmatic planetary harmony, it’s because peace-makers create cracks to let the light in, then weave a more luminous world.
— Stefan Schindler is a retired professor of philosophy, a poet, and a member of the Board of Directors of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey. His books include The Tao of Socrates, America’s Indochina Holocaust, Discoursing With The Gods, and Space is Grace. His forthcoming book is Buddha’s Political Philosophy. He is currently writing a book on The Tao Te Ching. He is a contributing writer to the website Political Animal Magazine, which has published his articles on Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, “Heart-Mind Cosmos,” and “The Battle for the Soul of Civilization.” He occasionally teaches at Salem State University’s adult education program. His musical videos on You-Tube include “Butterfly Dream Buffalo Thunder” and “Peace Abbey Peace Poem.”