Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
I decided to join my new homeland.
I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
The paper allowed us to continue the exchange for two more weeks. First, the FDR apologist, then me.
Are the lessons of Roosevelt really that bad?
, Mar 5, 2008
I was heartbroken. There it was in black and white in our hometown paper-- one of my favorite U.S. Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a monster “comparable to Hitler or Stalin.” (“GWB is no FDR (thank goodness),” Guest column, News-Times, Feb. 27, 2008.)
There, FDR’s heinous offenses were laid out in stark detail: he had pushed through “countless socialist experiments” such as Social Security, bank deposit insurance, the WPA, the progressive income tax and other measures to combat the Great Depression.
But, at least, he wasn’t trying to dismantle every single progressive program of the past 75 years (not that there were all that many before FDR’s time), nor did he preside over the greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the super-wealthy since the “Gilded Age” of the 1890s.
Then too, FDR had “tried to pack the Supreme Court with his cronies to preserve” his programs. But, at least, FDR didn’t also try to purge U.S. Attorneys on the basis of party loyalty, and his own attorney general didn’t have to be suddenly “retired” to avoid increasingly embarrassing Congressional testimony.
Matter of fact, I don’t find any record of so many of FDR’s inner circle “retiring” so frequently, many perhaps one jump ahead of an official investigation.
Even worse, FDR had “put thousands of Americans in concentration camps.”
Yes, after Pearl Harbor, innocent Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.
But at least those innocent Japanese-Americans were openly and officially interned, even while many of their sons enlisted and served bravely in the U.S. armed forces. Persons with Japanese names were not, say, just grabbed off the street and “renditioned” to some foreign country, there to be tortured in secret until-- (whoops, turned out they were innocent, too).
But, despite the fact that many American prisoners were brutally tortured by the Axis during W.W.II, nowhere did I find a note that FDR officially justified torture, or appointed attorneys general who claimed not to know whether torture was illegal.
FDR did approve the carpet-bombing “of many enemy cities” while we were fighting a world war against three modern industrialized countries – Germany, Italy and Japan – but, at least, he didn’t fake up excuses to invade and bomb into rubble another country that hadn’t attacked us, had no connection with the people who did attack us, and was already so defeated that it didn’t have the capacity to attack us.
While FDR borrowed tremendous amounts of money to prosecute W.W.II, he borrowed it from the American people themselves, through savings bonds. At least he didn’t run up inconceivably huge war debts to such “friendly” nations as red China.
But even worse revelations were to come. Reading further, I discovered that I was seriously ill! I had BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome), a terrible disease that destroyed my memories of the events of 9-11, the bombing of the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers and Marine barracks bombings, and every other assault by militant Muslim extremists against Europeans and Westerners generally, beginning with the Barbary War and continuing to the present day. (Strange, I was sure I remembered all those events!)
But it seemed that BDS victims were also blinded to the sterling honesty, transparency, intelligence, fair-mindedness, integrity and transcendent benevolence and concern for the American working class that have always been displayed by the Bush administration-- well, maybe I really was sick.
Because try as I might I really couldn’t remember any of those things! Instead, I had only confused recollections of innumerable “signing statements” that allowed Bush to ignore the will of Congress and circumvent the U.S. Constitution; the gutting of labor and environmental laws he or the big corporations found inconvenient; the transformation of public agencies such as the EPA from science-based regulators into mere mouthpieces for administration doctrine; a CIA agent’s cover blown as “payback” (and the perpetrator never fired for that crime, despite Bush’s promise); and his innocent astonishment on learning that despite huge tax breaks to Big Oil, gasoline might soon cost Americans $4 a gallon, even while the national economy is going down the old ceramic convenience.
Well, those things all seemed to be perfectly true, according to the American and British and European newspapers. And, if you can’t trust the newspapers, who can you trust?
So, maybe the great majority of Americans who now disapprove of the Bush administration don’t really have BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) after all-- we are merely allergic to BBS (spell it out yourself).
A civil war of words (and Ideas)
In this era of instant punditry, when the Iowa Caucuses seem like ancient history, it’s refreshing to find two men looking back to the 1940s to find lessons for today’s political leaders.
Walt Wentz started the exchange with a column critical of President Bush for the Feb. 22 News-Times (“Just say ‘no’ to steady diet of fear”).
That drew last week’s response from Krystof Zmudzinski, who found fault in Wentz’s logic.
What’s notable, is that at a time when many on-line comments about stories or columns quickly devolve into personal attacks, these men have stuck to facts -- although they have interpreted those facts differently.
Wentz’s reply is printed here. If Zmudzinski wants the last word in this duel of ideas, we’ll provide space next week.
Copyright 2008 Pamplin Media Group, 6605 S.E. Lake Road, Portland, OR 97222 • 503-226-6397
Progressives’ bias colors history of tyrants
, Mar 12, 2008
Editor’s note: For the past three weeks, two Forest Grove residents have traded divergent views of history and the lessons it holds for modern-day America. Walt Wentz started the tit-for-tat with a guest column criticizing George Bush. Krystof Zmudzinski responded with a column drawing parallels between the perceived abuses of our current commander-in-chief and the perceived virtues of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Wentz countered last week with a defense of FDR. This week Zmudzinski wraps up the exchange with some thoughts about the American left’s views of another strong world leader.
Both gentlemen have agreed that this will end their public discussion in the printed pages of their hometown paper.
But we encourage you to take up the conversation.
It is often said that elections are won not by people who vote but by people who count the votes. (Apparently it is only a rumor that Bill Bradbury says this when he counts petition signatures.)
The same could be said about history.
March 5 marked 55 years since Joseph Stalin died. As I was growing up in Gdansk, Poland, I often heard anecdotes of people crying in the streets when they heard the news.
Some cried because they were afraid to look indifferent or, God forbid, rejoice. Others however were truly sorry for a great leader was dead. They mourned because the only history they knew was written by Stalin himself.
It took decades before the scale of Stalin’s crimes and failures of Soviet economic system were fully understood by Americans, where many progressives were sympathetic to Stalin and to communism.
They believed that only a central government could solve human ills by controlling all aspects of the economy and people’s lives, and that such a government should have all the power it needed to deal with its detractors.
And so in the 1930s, the American media were unwilling to truthfully report on Stalin’s tyranny. Maybe the most infamous of all was the New York Times and its Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty.
While millions were perishing in Ukraine, Duranty not only denied that fact, he denounced British journalists who tried to report the truth as malignant propagandists. Duranty defended Stalin’s tyranny and his use of gulags, the Siberian labor camps, as necessary means to a more egalitarian state.
No wonder FDR was able to enact new federal programs the U.S. Constitution never envisioned. After all, people didn’t know how much personal freedoms they were about to forfeit to gain little economic security.
When Stalin became an U.S. ally in WWII, criticizing him would have been counterproductive. Since almost anything FDR did was supported by progressives in the US media, no bad or critical news was allowed.
After the war, progressives and other communist sympathizers continued to infiltrate the academia, the media and the federal government a.
This is also when history books were written by people like Howard Zinn. Books that were understanding of tyrants who in the name of progress committed grave crimes.
They were also very approving of FDR and many others who tried to push the country closer toward socialism no matter the cost, no matter the consequences.
When the Soviet Union finally failed, Americans were allowed to take a look at the vast destruction wrought by Stalin and those who succeeded him.
In the name of a society without classes people were forced to live in virtual slavery; millions were starved to death, sent to gulags, and executed. And that economic security never materialized anyway. Food and health care had to be rationed for the central government was too corrupt and inefficient to provide for its subjects.
Today, progressives in the academia and the media, even when confronted with objective evidence, continue praising their political heroes while refusing to acknowledge shortcomings or even utter failures of their policies.
Attempts at unbiased analysis are routinely met first with ridicule, then by character assassination and outright intimidation.
History’s gatekeepers control what we know. Shouldn’t we ask for a recount?
Krystof Zmudzinski lives in Forest Grove.
Copyright 2008 Pamplin Media Group, 6605 S.E. Lake Road, Portland, OR 97222 • 503-226-6397