Recollections of Warren Harkey, a friend and lifelong resident of New Mexico, USA
Thought you might find this amusing. It concern’s my father’s career.
The application under the for our future home was made under the terms of the Homestead act, which was filed 10/05/1936. I was born in August 1937 and vaguely remember living in the back of the depot at Ancho, New Mexico. Remember crawling around trying to find the what was making a dripping sound on the bottom of the icebox we had there. Pop got ice from the railroad cars to put in the icebox.
Don’t know when we moved to the house Pop built. No AC power, just kerosene lamps. I remember watching Pop working in the office at the depot with headphones on and typing instructions to the incoming train which were attached to loops with a handle and the engineer slowed down and reached out and grabbed the loop and removed the note, better known as “orders” and pitched the loop back down. All communication in and out were by landline Morse code! I wanted to learn it but never made it!
Rural Railroad Station Manager at work
Until the 1950s, train movements were coordinated primarily by telegraphed messages. Orders conveyed by the dots and dashes of Morse code directed trains to use specified routes to avoid collisions and kept dispatchers up to the minute on train locations. There were no radios, so depot telegraphers delivered the orders to train crews as written or typed messages grabbed by train drivers ( “engineers”) as the train passed the station.
All engines were steam engines, so water had to be available every few miles. I remember the water from Bonito lake was piped to Coyote (between Ancho and Carrizozo) by gravity and huge steam driven pumps at Coyote forced the water up to Ancho and Luna and I don’t remember if it went further. Coyote had dual steam plants and dual pumps to make sure the trains could keep going. The steam plants were huge!, everything was fueled by coal which came in by rail also. Every station had water available for the steam engines.
The pumps were manned 24 hrs/day and Uncle Elbert Brown worked there. Pop took us down to visit with Elbert and I got a tour of the place-very impressive. A large water storage facility was there also just in case. Just after the war, in 1945 or 6 trains switched to diesel and hundreds were out of a job. The water from Bonito was diverted to Alamogordo. Pop’s job moved to Carrizozo and he had a longer commute. Ancho, Luna and Coyote died.
The Europe of 1940 witnessed the rapid victory of German troops over Western allies, much to the surprise of military observers. The fighting continued with a strong air offensive on England, a very costly form of confrontation with fuel consumption and the loss of quality aircraft. Adolf Hitler needed strategic resources and found them with the support of the Soviet Union, to be more exact, with the help of Comrade Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.
The Soviet Union’s demands
The relations between these great powers were resolved by meetings at the highest level, and in November 1940, Commissioner Veaceslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Comrade Stalin’s right-hand man, visited Berlin. Only oil and grain should have flowed, but Adolf Hitler was shocked to learn of the Kremlin’s wishes. Moscow demanded, among other things, points of support for the Soviet fleet in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, as well as in Thessaloniki, Greece being a coveted space by the Italian ally. Adolf Hitler had to agree with Soviet rule in Iran and communist bases in the Persian Gulf. It would have been a huge step towards achieving the ideological goal they called the ‘world revolution’ by capturing British oil reserves.
The strategic bombers would have controlled the entire Arab region and the paratroopers would have occupied everything that was essential to maintain control of communist Moscow. The BT series fast tanks would have been perfect for large space operations. Points of support on the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia were not forgotten, and Bulgaria had to be included in the communist world. Sofia’s entry into the communist sphere would have had a special geostrategic impact.
The presence of Soviet troops south of the Danube would have brought the red-star tanks only 60 km from Bucharest, and the Prahova region, with the Wehrmacht’s essential refineries, was not too far away. As Romania did not have enough anti-tank weapons, the defense of the Carpatho-Danubian-Pontic country was impossible to achieve. In addition, the Soviet ground forces were approaching the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, the two straits being interesting for a future outflow of the Red Fleet into the Mediterranean. It was a perfect indirect strategy action by the Kremlin.
The hosts were shocked when they heard about Soviet bases on the coast of Denmark, in order to have access to the North Sea and, implicitly, to the Atlantic Ocean. Soviet units were allegedly introduced into territory occupied in April 1940 by German troops. No other claim by the Kremlin went down well with those in Berlin. Romania had lost, in June 1940, the territories of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and Herta County, following an ultimatum issued by Commissioner Molotov.
Romania caught between two powers
The Romanian army, lacking anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, was forced to withdraw without a fight and abandon the population to a new communist experiment, with deportations and exterminations. At the time, Moscow was also demanding the sovereignty of Southern Bukovina, which would have meant that the city of Suceava would have fallen beyond possible future borders.
Adolf Hitler did not have a high degree in the military arts, but he could not help but notice the critical situation in which Romania found itself. The army of Bucharest would have had its flank uncovered and the defense of the city of Iasi would have been impossible. The capital of Romania went from 429 km starting from Chernivtsi to 358 km departing by air from Suceava. Berlin was interested in defending the oil-rich Prahova region, which was essential for the operation of the tank-aircraft binomial needed for large-scale offensive operations such as operation Barbarosa, which would follow two years later. The Soviet armies were approaching from the north and the one from the east was about 200 km away.
Although official relations remained seemingly good and trade continued, both sides moved onto military training for supremacy in Europe and, implicitly, in the world. The German chancellor ordered the Barbarossa Plan to be drawn up, and the path of war was seen as the only solution to the problems in the socialist camp.
The reason as to why it is imperative to mention Romania so much in this agreement is due to the important role they played during the war. Despite its small army, as well as its small territory, Romania always gave everything it had towards winning the war. This includes their most valuable resource at the time, oil. As the Soviet Union had an abundance of oil at the time, they weren’t interested in Romania for this exact reason. However, Germany could not get enough oil to power its mechanic military power.
Romania was not only located in the epicenter of the Second World War but also, it had a very important geographical location, as it allowed the Axis powers from the west to move in their troops through Bessarabia into the Soviet Union.
Even if this agreement had worked, it would not have lasted for a long time, as we are talking about two of the biggest military powers of the 20th century showing their hunger for more and more power. They were deeply influenced by both fascism and communism. Germany would end up declaring war, taking over most of Europe, and starting Operation Barbarossa on the 5th of December 1941. This operation consisted of a plan to use the Blitzkrieg tactic (Lighting War) to take over the whole of the Soviet Union.
Moses never got his passport or drivers license, so we can’t be certain. Neither did White Wolf, the Chippewa Indian Chief, sometimes called by his Anglo name of John Smith.
Just looking at the picture, I’d say that his tombstone is probably right.
White Wolf had eight wives, fought many battles with the Lakota/Sioux Indians and remembered the War of 1812. At the age of 116, he got hit by a locomotive; that would normally be the ticket to the Other Side, but White Wolf had a full recovery in three weeks. And living in Minnesota, he would occasionally encounter bears on his long treks to no place in particular. When they got in attack mode, standing high on their rear paws, White Wolf would point his cane at the predator and give it a stern warning to go away; at the age of 138, he couldn’t be bothered.
RIP John Smith, also known as White Wolf, also known as Kaa-be-naag-wii-wlss
I believe you.
Was healthy outdoor living his secret? Notice the ancient Mississipian culture symbol, the swastika,
appropriated by a certain criminal gang in Germany in 1920. Below is another version of this symbol, with
eagle associations and imagery. Referred to as the Feathered Serpent symbol.
Three theories exist regarding destruction of the greatest repository of knowledge up to that time, the Great Alexandrian Library.
Theory 1 is that a Christian mob attacked and burned the library and its contents, along with its female Chief Librarian on the grounds that its contents included information about witchcraft.
Theory 2 is that the same earthquake which brought down the Alexandrian Lighthouse also destroyed the Library.
Below is another take on the same subject, which the reader might find interesting.
lius Ceasar set fire to his own ships in the harbor of Alexandria during a siege against Ptolemy XIV- Cleopatra’s brother. He was trying to clear the wharf and block Ptolemy’s own ships, when the fire spread to the docks and surrounding buildings. Scholars believe that the part of the library that caught fire was a warehouse containing excess texts, not the library itself. If it was damaged at all, it was quickly repaired or rebuilt. Strabo writes about visiting it, and Plutarch wrote about a gift given to Cleopatra (by Mark Antony) of 200,000 scrolls from the library. And whether or not Plutarch’s account was accurate or propaganda against Mark, it couldn’t have been claimed either way if the library had already been destroyed.
The Serapeum of Alexandria: a wing of the great library.
So, then- what was it that completely destroyed the library?
Budget cuts, mostly. Yeah, you heard me right.
In the beginning, the library had been stocked with nearly every text the Ptolemaic Dynasty could get their hands on. (And they were really wealthy at the time). They also kept a lot of scholars there, people who could live without paying room, board, or taxes, and were given a salary as long as they gave lectures, taught a few classes, and copied a text or two. Archimedes is said to have invented his famous screw there.
And Eratosthenes came weirdly close to determining the exact circumference of the earth. He also determined that there were 365 days in a year. (366 every 4th year)
A picture depicting Eratosthenes’ method.
After Ptolemy VII was murdered, Ptolemy VIII set out to punish everyone who supported the guy. Which meant a lot of the library’s inhabitants. Most were driven out.
The library was already partly neglected by the time Julius Caesar came around. His fire didn’t help, certainly. Those scholars who had been ejected from Alexandria went elsewhere and built new libraries, and while the Library of Alexandria dwindled, other places flourished. Alexandria had other, smaller libraries built around the city, and there’s speculation that some of the scrolls from the Great Library were used to stock them.
In 272 AD, the Emperor Aurelian fought to recapture the city from the Palmyrene queen Zenobia, and destroyed the Great Library’s section of the city in the process. If it was still standing then, it was certainly destroyed in the process. The 297 siege by Emperor Diocletian would’ve certainly destroyed the rest. Julius Caesar was not the (main) reason for the Library of Alexandria’s destruction.
Whatever the reason for destruction of the Great Alexandrian Library, the result was the irreplaceable loss of records of mankind’s recorded heritage up to that time. Destruction of the Great Libraries of Baghdad by Genghis Khan and episodes of bookburnings and murders of scholars and scientists since continue–as in the “Cultural Revolution” in China, the Cambodian genocide, destruction of Mayan, Aztec and Inca libraries and, of course, the Holocaust.
You would think humanity could do better than that.
German Kurt Henke had lived part of his childhood in Norway. On February 16th 1945, 10 days after his arrival in Denmark, he started passing information to the local Danish resistance group, who called him “The Norwegian”. He succcesfully prevented the Gestapo in destroying a resistance weapons depot and workshop and arresting the resistance members. Being able to speak German and Norwegian/Danish, he worked as an enterpreter between the Wehrmacht and the towns people. Post-war he was allowed to stay in Denmark, and he worked for the Danish Brigade’s occupation forces in Germany. He married a German refugee woman in Denmark and settled in Germany, but he still visited Denmark to go fishing with his old friends.
Thanks to our Norwegian brothers who gave Kurt Henke a good upbringing!
Granted, Denmark was not the most dangerous “frontline”, but if he had been found passing warnings to the resistance, he would have have been a dead man.
Sabotaged railway that Kurt Henke was to protect (unknown date).
The following contains disturbing details about the German refugees that died in Denmark post-WWII:
German soldier who in 1945 was stationed in Skanderborg, where he helped the Danish resistance movement.
Kurt Henke was an interpreter for the German Security Police in Skanderborg and Århus. With his life in extreme danger he passed on the information he as an interpreter received, to the resistance movement via an intermediary and thereby saved several resistance fighters from arrest. Furthermore, he prevented the Gestapo from carrying out reprisals against Brigadir Nielsen’s mechanic’s workshop, Banegårdsvej 23 in Skanderborg, where the resistance movement had stored weapons.
Kurt Henke was born in 1914 in Berlin. In the years 1924 to 1939 he was in family care in Norway with several long stays, where he went to school in Tromsø.
I dec. In 1939, he was called up for service at Siemens, which manufactured parts for airplanes. In late 1943, he was drafted into the army and deployed to Poland.
Later he was transferred to Ers as a member of Und Ausbildungsbataillon O 292 (effort and training battalion) in Rostock. The letter O referred to that it consisted of people with ear disorders from deafness to total deafness in one ear.
On February 6, 1945, the battalion, which consisted of 550 men, was relocated to Skanderborg. The task was to secure the railway line Skanderborg – Hørning, Skanderborg – Hylke against sabotage.
The soldiers were accommodated at Skanderborg Kommuneskole, Hylke Forsamlingshus, Vrold Forsamlingshus, Forsamlingshotellet and Håndværkerforeningen.
When Kurt Henke spoke both German and Norwegian / Danish, he got the job as an interpreter in the dialogue between the armed forces and the population and the city management.
The “Norwegian”, as he was called, gradually developed a good relationship with many people in Skanderborg, and based on his pacifist attitude to life, he opposed the occupying power. He contacted the local Danish resistance movement as early as 16 February 1945, and he was associated with it until it was abolished on 15 July 1945.
At the capitulation (the term for Germany’s surrender), Kurt Henke was given permission to stay in the city at the request of the city leader of the resistance movement, Munch Carlsen, and the air defense chief. The Danish air defense chief offered him the place as an office assistant at the refugee camp “Sølund”, where he was to act as an intermediary between the air defense chief and the German refugees.
Later, Kurt Henke got a job as an interpreter at the Danish Brigade in Germany, where he worked until 1948.
Excerpts from Gefreiter Kurt Henke’s memoirs:
The strange thing was that after the capitulation, we had a whole lot of children here at Sølund who died. It was because of the milk. The doctor said to the mothers: “You must not give the children the milk”. They got a daily ration of half a liter, as far as I remember, and the mothers got a quarter of a liter. But the mothers were so crazy that they also gave the quarter liter to the child.
But the doctor said that the only way to save the children was that they did not get any fats, because they were not used to it. The nutrition they had received as Germany’s forces collapsed might have consisted of dry bread and perhaps some coffee substitute, but no fats. I myself was completely sick of the milk. I first started drinking milk again a few years ago. But then the refugees came. It was also a problem.
It was a fucking job, it was, because I was the one who had to requisition schools, youth centers and everything around here in the city, receive refugees at the train station. There was a whole train, probably from Copenhagen, with a couple of hundred refugees. And then I say to the general “Where should I send them, all those people”? And then he said: “Henke, difficulties are too much to overcome!” (Difficulties exist to be overcome). “Well, what should I do?” “Yes,” he said, “make a big pit, throw everything in there!” (“Yes,” he said, “dig a big hole and throw them all in there!”).
It was also a kind of solution. But then I got hold of the different schools, but it was difficult. We used the gym at the private school down here. We got bunk beds, I dont know where we picked them up. There were three beds on top of each other, and it had to be taken into account, an old lady could not be put in the upper bed. It was nonsense. I was actually a nanny for all of them. I organized a library and some musical instruments.
They got sick in the head if they just had to sit at school and “pick their nose” all day! With the money I got from the German Consulate in Aarhus, I drove around to different cities and bought coffins.
Because we had a whole lot of dead here at school, children, and out on Sølund later. No matter what size! I had to be happy with every single coffin I could get until the mayor said: “Now you have to stop buying coffins, because we also need someone ourselves”. So we had to save on the coffins.
So we did it in the way that I put the corpses in the coffin – there were many children – and then we drove them to Aarhus. Then we put the coffins in place, and the family – mostly the mother and maybe siblings were there – but then they were not buried after the ceremony while the relatives were there. We said they would be buried later.
The reason was that when the family was gone, we opened the coffin, you see, and just poured them into the ground, for we were going to use the box for someone else. Eventually we had to bury them in cement bags and that sort of thing. There was a mother who lost two children in 24 hours.
I only had a single coffin that was too small. The parents were going to Aarhus. We had to transport the children out to the morgue in the cots on a trailer. But because of the rough roads the bottom fell out of the beds and the children lay there crosswise. There was lots of old coke dust in the barn where the children lived and the kids were full of it.
They looked absolutely awful. I could not allow the parents to look at the children, I was so startled. I had to unplug the car, and then I said to the driver, “Drive! The parents must not get out of the carriage ”. And he gave it gas and drove away, and I stood alone with that cart. Then I had to clean the kids, and what was I supposed to do? I had to take a water hose and rinse them off, clean it out of their eyes. It looked so ugly you understand.
And then it is also a different feeling if you see an adult human being lying there as dead than you see a child. It’s so cruel. The last one I buried, it went pretty solemnly until I was about to wrap the little one. I do not remember if it was a girl or a boy, but ….. he was at least 20 cm taller than the coffin. So the only option was to pull his legs up so high he could be there. It was the last one I buried.
But then I have also experienced some fun things at Sølund. We also had a wedding. One day a woman came and said: “Tell me, Henke, is it possible that we can get married here in Skanderborg?” I did not know. I went to the mayor and said, “Is it possible for German refugees to get married here?” “Yes, why not?” He said. The groom was a hairdresser. “Did they have papers?” “Yes,” they had. And then they got married here at City Hall. The mayor is coming, he was a nice guy, he was gracious, he was a human being. Strict on the one hand, absolutely sovereign and strict, but he was a human being. Then he gets into his car after they had been married and returned with a large layer cake.
And then you can say: A layer cake, it’s nothing! But then one must understand that people who have not seen layer cake for 5-6 years, whipped cream, a cake that tastes great. At home, (in rationed wartime Germany) they were given 20 grams of butter or margarine. Here they get a whole layer cake! It is like the dear God coming from heaven. And the people of the resistance movement – they were completely unique.
They made sure that the soldiers from the occupying forces (German soldiers imprisoned in Denmark or left behind when Germany surrendered) got their food every day from Skanderborg – all the way down to the border! We drove two trucks with bread and sausage and horse ham. Of course it was not first quality, that is clear, but they got food at least. We picked up people who had bad legs and could not walk anymore, and drove them to the next station … It was strange conditions, but that was it …, why should we shoot at each other? It’s no use. Why should we be unfriends? The ordinary German soldier would be a thousand times better off at home as a prewar civilian than a day in Skanderborg. It is true. You can not blame the ordinary soldier …
Isaac Newton, Professor at Trinity College, London, fled London to escape the twin catastrophies of a recurrent Bubonic Plague outbreak and the later “Fire of London”. Both of which occurred during a 2 year period, 1665-66, during which a third of London’s population died.
To occupy himself during his self-imposed “lockdown”, he compiled his reflections on gravity and related physical phenomena, in a classic work entitled: PRINCIPIA, the foundation of modern physics.
Gravity and light were key parts of his research interests and speculations. It was two centuries and a fraction later that Albert Einstein proposed that both light and gravity were “wave” phenomena and that both were “bent” as they moved through space. Light had been observed to bend and break up into primary colors and wavelengths long before, but gravity was, and is, a continuing mystery in many aspects, even to Einstein.
Suppose, during the Covid 19 imposed lockdown, we could focus on phenomena such as gravity, and engage in thought experiments which sometimes lead to breakthroughs in science and understanding of our world.
Like most of us, I’m afraid that human nature during this 2020 pandemic and related political opportunism and disfunction have clouded our minds to the point that distraction would be helpful.
Suppose that, instead of the usual energy hogging metal boxes we move ourselves around in, we used gravity to gently lift our metal boxes off the surface just enough to eliminate the need for wheels or tracks.
Many of you will recognize that this describes an already studied method of doing this, known as “magnetic levitation”. However, this technology requires enormous amounts of electrical energy and infrastructure to implement and operate, so seems to have receded into the archive of brilliant but impractical schemes. Battery-electric vehicles and gyroscopic power systems have their own well-known obstacles to overcome, and neither can function without specific infrastructure and abundant fixed energy suppliers.
All that would be needed for gravity fueled levitation is a means, attached to the “metal box, something like car with no wheels or engine” which needed to be moved around, to reflect the energy already existing between the box and the earth–up to now securing the box to the earth–back to the earth such that the box is lifted sufficiently to enable frictionless movement.
The beauty of harnessing gravity via reflection/deflection is that, exactly as the gravity field between heavy masses and light ones automatically adjusts to whatever the “metal box” earlier mentioned weighs, sufficient spacing to achieve frictionless travel would depend on how it was focussed rather than a need for external power input. Remember Newton’s determination that, absent air resistance, light bodies fall at the same speed as heavy ones.
Of course, any human inside the box would have in mind a destination, rather than some random amusement ride which could turn into something truly terrifying.
Frictionless movement over a level surface could be enabled by nothing more than, say, the cooling fan or turbine used to displace heat from onboard air conditioning for passengers, for example. Of course, some sort of battery or power source would be needed, since vehicle AC compressors typically require 3 to 5 horsepower to operate. Some type of vane or rudder system would be needed to provide directional control as well.
Braking and wind effects on a frictionless land vehicle would be significant engineering challenges once the forward motion systems are sorted out, but if we were able to harness gravity to lift such a vehicle, perhaps we could use the same force to maintain direction despite wind effects and control momentum (braking).
Most urban travel, except for cities like Pittsburg and San Francisco, is typically on fairly level ground. Hills would obviously be a challenge for frictionless vehicles, so summoning up imaginative solutions for that problem would be additional brain teasers.
My speculation on the “ascent” (hill) challenge is to imagine that harnessed gravity to lift “metal boxes” to enable frictionless movement could possibly be finessed to enable ascent of such a frictionless body, since ascent is a similar challenge to gravity with an added horizontal component.
Have you forgotten about pandemics and politics yet?
Note from Kilroy: President Lincoln and Czar Alexander II, cited below, were assassinated because of their efforts to free, in the case of the U.S., slaves, and in Russia, serfs. Both men enjoyed a long, friendly correspondence, but never met.
Has Russia ever been there for any ally other than ethnic Russians? Note about the author pictured below.
Leonardo Morán, I was born in Cuba, studied and worked in Europe, and live in California.
“…Who was our friend when the world was our foe?”
Never question Russian resolve. If you’re ever in a fight you’d better hope you’ve got them on your side.
The Imperial Russian fleet in New York harbor, October 1863, Harper’s Weekly
In 1863 the United States was being torn apart by a great Civil War. It would take more American life than any other war before or since; more would die in the Civil War than in the First and Second World Wars combined.
With the issue still in the balance, Britain and France conspired (as great powers do) for political advantage. In their perception, a divided America would strengthen Anglo-French power. But a unified America might one day wield greater power than all of Europe combined. Before the future was taken by the upstart young nation, they would seize the moment and destroy a potential rival.
Paris and London plotted intervention on the side of the Confederacy. They claimed to be moved by purely “humanitarian” motives. Enough blood has been shed, they declared; the wiser, older European powers, masters of civilization, would put an end to the barbaric bloodletting. In fact, claimed motives were cynical and false. Great nations do not go to war out of charitable instinct.
They saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. France could recover territories lost in the Louisiana Purchase. England knew that, without access to the port of New Orleans, the North could not long survive economically. A bankrupt Union might even reverse the outcome of the American Revolution, and England would (at the very least) enlist a new ally in the Confederacy. Both England and France tried to enlist the Russian Empire in their ploy. The Russian reply was unexpected and immediate.
The Czar rejected Anglo-French overtures. A capable and intelligent man, he did not trust the British any more than he did the French. Countering their cynical scheme, Czar Alexander mobilized the formidable Russian Navy. In America’s weakest moment, it came to her aid:
On September 24, 1863, the Russian Baltic fleet began to arrive in New York harbor. On October 12, the Russian Far East fleet began to arrive in San Francisco. …The Russian admirals had been told that, if the US and Russia were to find themselves at war with Britain and France, the Russian ships should place themselves under Lincoln’s command and operate in synergy with the US Navy against the common enemies.
Coming on the heels of the bloody Union reverse at Chickamauga, news of the Russian fleet unleashed an immense wave of euphoria in the North. It was this moment that inspired the verses of Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most popular writers in America, for the 1871 friendship visit of the Russian Grand Duke Alexis:
“Bleak are our shores with the blasts of December,
Fettered and chill is the rivulet’s flow;
Thrilling and warm are the hearts that remember,
Who was our friend when the world was our foe.
Fires of the North in eternal communion,
Blend your broad flashes with evening’s bright star;
God bless the Empire that loves the Great Union;
Strength to her people! Long life to the Czar!”
The Russian Brig Merkury in battle (Tkachenko, Mikhail Stepanovich)
When an attack on San Francisco by the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah appeared imminent, the Russian admiral ordered his ships to defend the city, by any means necessary. With no Union warships on the scene, Russia was ready to fight for the vulnerable United States.
Could a divided United States of America have successfully fought the British, and the French, and the Confederacy, and won? It seems unlikely. But for our Russian friends we might not be here to ask the question. Luckily, Lincoln never had to find out. As Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles put it: “…God bless the Russians.”
Although the Antonine Plague would have little influence over the arts or Roman culture, its social and political effects have left an indelible mark on the pages of history. With it, the plague brought the death knell of the Roman Empire, and would herald in a time of constant upheaval, betrayal, and—some would argue—insanity at the hands of a capricious dictator.
But, perhaps what we should also remember is the effect the plague had on Roman society. Amid the terror and confusion, Romans gave in to believing falsehoods, behaving badly, and acting without true understanding and honour.
Marcus’ thoughts had been plagued by another pestilence, and according to his writings in the Meditations, he was deeply troubled by what he observed. His beloved Rome was descending into chaos, wanton acts, denying fact in favour of fiction, and choosing lies over truth and justice. Perhaps we have something to learn from the following reflection of his,
“Real good luck would be to abandon life without ever encountering dishonesty, or hypocrisy, or self-indulgence, or pride. But the ‘next best voyage’ is to die when you’ve had enough. Or are you determined to lie down with evil? Hasn’t experience even taught you that—to avoid it like the plague? Because it is a plague—a mental cancer—worse than anything caused by tainted air or an unhealthy climate. Disease like that can only threaten your life; this one attacks your humanity.” Meditations, IX.2
Marcus died in 180 CE, likely of the plague mentioned which started in 165 CE and claimed 2000 Romans a day. Smallpox was the likely cause.
Are forces unleashed in today’s U.S. (with help from Putin’s Russia) behind attacks on Jews and Blacks related to the origin story related below? How does this relate to Trump and his collaborators today?
The waves of anti-Semitism emanating from Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany and the prospects of American involvement in the war in Europe convinced the Christian Americans to tone down their anti-Semitic rhetoric by the early 1940s. As Vance Muse’s co-worker and wife, Maria, confessed in 1943, “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic outwardly, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right.”
The Origins of Right-to-Work. Vance Muse, Anti-Semitism, and the Maintenance of Jim Crow Labor Relations
Michael Pierce, associate professor at University of Arkansas, is working on a book project examining the rise and fall of New Deal-style liberalism in Arkansas. He is the author of Striking with the Ballot: Ohio Labor and the Populist Party
As Kentucky legislators pass a measure outlawing the union shop and Missouri’s General Assembly contemplates doing the same, it is worth remembering that so-called Right-to-Work laws originated as means to maintain Jim Crow labor relations and to beat back what was seen as a Jewish cabal to foment a revolution. No one was more important in placing Right-to-Work on the conservatives’ political agenda than Vance Muse of the Christian American Association, a larger-than-life Texan whose own grandson described him as “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so.”
The idea for Right-to-Work laws did not originate with Muse. Rather it came from Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles, who on Labor Day 1941 called for the passage of a United States Constitution amendment prohibiting the closed or union shop. Muse visited Ruggles soon thereafter and secured the writer’s blessing for the Christian American Association’s campaign to outlaw contracts that required employees to belong to unions. Ruggles even suggested to Muse the name for such legislation—Right-to-Work.
But Muse first attracted national attention through his work with Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby in the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, which sought to deny Roosevelt’s re-nomination in 1936 on grounds that the New Deal threatened the South’s racial order. Despite its name, the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution received funding from prominent northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers including John Jacob Raskob, Alfred P. Sloan, and brothers Lammot, Irénée, and Pierre du Pont. Among Muse’s activities on behalf of the Southern Committee was the distribution of what Time called “cheap pamphlets containing blurred photographs of the Roosevelts consorting with Negroes” accompanied by “blatant text proclaiming them ardent Negrophiles.” Muse later defended the action and the use of its most provocative photograph: “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy . . . . It was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt going to some nigger meeting with two escorts, niggers, on each arm.”
In 1936, on the heels of the Southern Committee’s failure to deny Roosevelt’s nomination, Muse incorporated the Christian American Association to continue the fight against the New Deal, offering up a toxic mix of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism, and anti-unionism. The Christian Americans considered the New Deal to be part of the broader assault of “Jewish Marxism” upon Christian free enterprise. The organization’s titular head, Lewis Valentine Ulrey, explained that after their success in Russia the “Talmudists” had determined to conquer the rest of the world and that “by 1935 they had such open success with the New Deal in the United States, that they decided to openly restore the Sanhedrin,” that is, both the council of Jewish leaders who oversaw a community and the Jewish elders who, according to the Bible, plotted to kill Christ. This “modern Jewish Sanhedrin”—which included people like Justice Frankfurter and NAACP board member Rabbi Stephen Wise—served as the guiding force of the Roosevelt Administration and the New Deal state. Vance Muse voiced the same anti-Semitic ideas in much simpler terms: “That crazy man in the White House will Sovietize America with the federal hand-outs of the Bum Deal—sorry, New Deal. Or is it the Jew Deal?”
By the early 1940s, Muse and the Christian Americans, like many southern conservatives, focused much of their wrath on the labor movement, especially the unions associated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Christian Americans solicited wealthy southern planters and industrialists for funds to help break the “strangle hold radical labor has on our government” through the enactment of anti-union laws. Muse and his allies continued to claim that Marxist Jews were pulling the national government’s strings, but the membership of this cabal shifted from the likes of Wise and Frankfurter to CIO leaders like Lee Pressman and Sidney Hillman. The Christian Americans, like other southern conservatives, insisted that the CIO—which had become shorthand for Jewish Marxist unions—was sending organizers to the rural South to inflame the contented but gullible African-American population as the first step in a plot to Sovietize the nation.
The waves of anti-Semitism emanating from Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany and the prospects of American involvement in the war in Europe convinced the Christian Americans to tone down their anti-Semitic rhetoric by the early 1940s. As Vance Muse’s co-worker and wife, Maria, confessed in 1943, “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic outwardly, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right.”
Muse and the Christian Americans initially had little luck selling their Right-to-Work amendment but did have success peddling a pre-packaged anti-strike law to planters and industrialists first in Texas and then later in Mississippi and Arkansas. This law made strikers, but not strikebreakers or management, criminally libel for any violence that occurred on the picket line. For a fee, Muse and his organization would lobby legislators and mobilize public support through newspaper advertisements, direct mail campaigns, and a speakers’ bureau. In Arkansas, Muse and the Christian Americans portrayed the anti-strike measure as a means to allow “peace officers to quell disturbances and keep the color line drawn in our social affairs” and promised that it would “protect the Southern Negro from communistic propaganda and influences.”
The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation and allied industrialists were so pleased with the Christian American Association’s success in passing the anti-strike measure that they agreed to underwrite a campaign in 1944 to secure a Right-to-Work amendment for the Arkansas constitution. This placed Arkansas alongside Florida and California as the first states where voters could cast ballots for Right-to-Work laws. While Muse and the Christian Americans consulted with the campaigns in California and Florida, they led the one in Arkansas.
During the Arkansas campaign, the Christian Americans insisted that right-to-work was essential for the maintenance of the color line in labor relations. One piece of literature warned that if the amendment failed “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” Similarly, the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation justified its support of Right-to-Work by citing organized labor’s threat to Jim Crow. It accused the CIO of “trying to pit tenant against landlord and black against white.”
In November 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first states to enact Right-to-Work laws (California voters rejected the measure). In both states, few blacks could cast free ballots, election fraud was rampant, and political power was concentrated in the hands of an elite. Right-to-Work laws sought to make it stay that way, to deprive the least powerful of a voice, and to make sure that workers remained divided along racial lines. The current push for Right-to-Work in Kentucky and Missouri (along with the fueling of nativism) does something similar—it is an attempt to persuade white working people that unions and racialized others are more responsible for their plight than the choices made by capital.
In 1933, shortly after Hitler assumed power in Germany, a Norwegian army officer, Vidkun Quisling, founded Norway’s very own fascist party, the National Union. More than six years later, in the closing days of 1939, with the Second World War now underway and Nazi armies rampaging in Europe, Quisling met with the German Führer and urged him to occupy Norway. Hitler, riding high at the time and wanting to secure a presence in Norway before the British did, promptly obliged, and installed Quisling to head a puppet government.
As a result, throughout Europe, and then the broader world, the name “Quisling” became a noun, linguistic shorthand for something unspeakably grubby, opportunistic, and cruel.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Quisling as a “traitor” or a “collaborator.” But, perhaps, it is the synonyms the dictionary lists underneath that are more telling: “apostate, backstabber, betrayer, double-crosser, double-dealer, Judas, recreant, serpent, snake, traitor, turncoat.”
This week, the president of the United States – a man who publicly asked Russia to hack Clinton’s emails in 2016, and benefitted mightily from a range of other Russian interventions in his first election campaign — essentially invited foreign governments, spy agencies, and freelance provocateurs to feed him dirt on his domestic political opponents in his second campaign.
He wouldn’t, Trump told ABC News, necessarily contact the FBI or other law enforcement agencies if he and his team were approached by overseas governments and their agents with material that would secure him partisan political advantage.
This from the man who now routinely accuses those who investigated his 2016 campaign’s Russia connections of being “traitors.” Who called for Clinton to be locked up for endangering national security by using a personal email account to conduct government business. Who is pushing the Justice Department to set in motion show trials against political opponents, law enforcement investigators, even ex-intelligence community leaders-now-TV pundits such as James Clapper. Who wraps himself in the flag and parrots ugly nationalist platitudes as shamelessly as any mid-century, mittel-European demagogue. Who has, at various times, used fire-and-brimstone apocalyptic rhetoric to promise to entirely destroy both Iran and North Korea if their leaders dare to threaten or insult the United States. Who appointed the fanatic Kris Kobach to investigate a supposed epidemic of voter fraud committed by “illegals.” Who has aggressively pushed a “citizenship question,” squarely aimed at intimidating immigrants away from participating, onto the 2020 census, supposedly, absurdly, as a way to uphold the Voting Rights Act. Who has put children into cages, and declared a national emergency, as a way to “secure” the country’s southern borders.
This homunculus, who claims to be the great defender both of the integrity of the nation and of its democratic institutions, is an utter fraud. The ABC interview simply pulls back the curtain even more on what should, by now, be plain viewing: It’s always been all-about-Trump, all about grifting and conning, cheating and lying his way to personal wealth and power. And if overseas governments want to get in on the act, so much the better for him.
In normal times, Senators and members of Congress from both great political parties would have lined up to condemn such remarks. It’s hard to imagine any other presidency surviving such a malicious action, such an invitation, by the Commander-in-Chief, to undermine the democratic institutions and tenets of the country. It’s hard to fathom any other president saying this without his senior cabinet members resigning in disgust.
Surely a runaway, rogue, president, a toxic, criminally-disposed leader, a man who cannot distinguish between his personal interests and the interests of the state, are what the impeachment process, or the 25thAmendment, were carefully crafted to prevent.
Yet Trump says this stuff, he blathers on in his crude, egomaniacal Made-Man way, seemingly without consequence. Perhaps his most durable political accomplishment has been to unleash an era of shamelessness. An era where anything goes, and where, on a daily basis, the bar for acceptable presidential behavior is deliberately lowered. Where the most appalling rending of the democratic and cultural fabric is simply viewed as acceptable collateral damage in a take-no-prisoners moment; or, perhaps worse, as just an entertainment spectacle.
In Trump’s reality-TV mindset, one can say and do the most unethical things because it’s all just a game, just a part of the endless chase for ratings. He has turned the governance of the world’s most powerful country into a 24/7 Jerry Springer show. The long-term consequences can’t be seen by the camera, and thus, in such a calculus, they don’t count, arguably don’t even exist.
Trump’s cabinet continues to back him. The GOP congressional leaders, as they do after each outrage spewed forth from Number 45’s vulgar mouth, utter milquetoast condemnations and then immediately return to the serious business of confirming conservative judges, deregulating the economy, the environment, the workspace, and passing punitive anti-abortion laws in the hopes of prodding the Supreme Court into overturning Roe vs Wade. And about four in ten voters continue to regard Trump as something akin to the Second Coming of Christ, a Messianic figure who can, in their eyes, do no wrong.
The result is such a vast corrosion of the political culture that, day by day, the memory of a more elevated tone in governance simply melts away. Was there really a moment when the president retweeting doctored images of the House Speaker, intended to make her look drunk, would have raised eyebrows? Was there really a period when the president tweeting about the Prince of Whales would have drawn howls of outrage across the political spectrum at the sheer inanity of a man who can mistake a big maritime mammal for a country? Was there really a time in American politics when the Quisling comments of a debased and odious leader would have resulted in good men and women of all political stripes coming together to say “No More”?
The answer, of course, is there was. And, I believe, that in due course there will be again. Men of Trump’s ilk can only ride the waves of power for so long. They do their damage, but eventually they get thrown, and, when they do, they fall peculiarly hard. They find then, in the senescence of their rule, that their friends, both domestic and foreign, are only fair-weather, their “achievements” as insignificant as sand-castles at high tide.
Seventy-nine years after Quisling sought out foreign intervention to smooth his rise to power, his name is still hurled as an epithet. Perhaps, far down the road from now, as the children of the twenty-second century go to school, they will be taught that Trumps are entirely dishonorable creatures; that to be called “A Trump” is the most demeaning of insults. Maybe, too, Merriam-Webster will publish a list of synonyms: “A bore, a narcissist, an ego-maniac, a fool, a cheat, a felon, a purveyor of falsehoods, an opportunist, a sadist, a man who somehow lost his soul.”