Monday, December 01, 2014

Straight Talk and Reflections

Straight Talk and Reflections

by Stephen Lendman

I generally restrict personal comments to one-on-one emails. Or discussions with friends, family and others. 

This article an exception. Why not at age 80. Still working at trying to regain my full health and vigor. A daily struggle.

So much more I want to do. Feeling rushed to do all I can while I can. Taking things a day at a time. Hoping for the best. Aging isn't for sissies. For sure not getting sick.

At age 70, I discovered my passion. What I love best. In retirement. What I never could have imagined earlier. Polar opposite my formal working life.

Writing on major world and national issues. Media work as host and guest. 

Explaining what readers, listeners and viewers most need to know. What directly affects their lives and welfare. 

Scrupulously seeking hard truths. Telling it like it is. Criticizing media scoundrel rubbish. 

Denouncing it for what it is. Burying hard truths. A propaganda bullhorn for wealth, power and privilege. 

Big Lies repeated ad nauseam. On issues mattering most. On the wrong side of history. 

Orwell was right. Saying in times of universal deceit, truth-telling is a revolutionary act.

An essential one. Especially at the most perilous time in world history. With homeland freedoms eroding. Disappearing in plain sight. 

Lunatics in Washington make policy. Confronting Russia irresponsibly. Recklessly. Risking global war.

Potential mushroom-shaped cloud denouement. Jack Kennedy transformed himself in office from cold warrior to peacemaker.

"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind," he said.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." More on him below.

A personal note. I grew up in Boston. From the mid-1930s - mid-1950s through college. 

Then military service. Wharton Graduate School. In February 1960, a newly-minted MBA.

At a different time than now. Good and bad. Eisenhower was president. Real unemployment low. Good jobs available for those qualified.

Anyone wanting work found it. With good pay, benefits and job security.

Most years saw good economic conditions. During post-WW II expansion. Inflation was low. 

The average new car cost $1,500. My new VW Beetle cost $600. A typical home under $10,000. 

College was affordable. Harvard's 1952 full-year tuition was $600. Four years later it was $1,000. For a full, two-semester year. 

Anyone could attend evenings. For $5 a course. Get a Harvard degree for about $175. Taking courses with professors teaching daytime.

What my mother did. Taking some of the same courses I took at the same time with the same professor. I daytime. She at night. 

Graduating with me in the same class. The first mother and son ever at Harvard. Perhaps to this day. 

I inquired recently if so. By email. To Harvard's president. Explaining a little about myself. No response. Maybe no records exist. Showing it one way or another.

I still have a Harvard graduation photo. A treasure. My mother and I together. In cap and gown. I looking straight-faced. 

My mother beaming from ear-to-ear. Not for herself. For me. She was all give. No take. Special and then some.

Wharton treated me better than Harvard. In 2010, several reunion committee members contacted me. About representing my class. 

For its 50th reunion. They were outvoted. Choosing a former corporate boss instead. Robert Crandall. Former American Airlines chairman and president.

He gave a marvelous address. Surprised me. I'd have been proud to deliver it myself. Expressing concerns about today's troubled world. Essential need for change.

We exchanged emails. I explained my current passion. He encouraged me to keep at it. 

I assured him I would. Urged him to follow my writing. Tell others to get active. Work for vitally needed change.

Post-WW II America differed from today. Economically dominant. Unchallenged. Its manufacturing base by far the world's strongest. Union representation high.

Television in its infancy. In a June 1950 commencement speech, Boston University President Daniel Marsh said, "(i)f (this) craze continues...we are destined to have a nation of morons."

Jefferson called an educated citizenry "a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

Madison warned that "(a) popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or, perhaps both."

In 1748, Montesquieu said "(t)he tyranny of a principle in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."

Jack Kennedy said "(t)he ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." More on him below.

In the 40s and 50s, southern and northern cities were segregated. They still are. Virtually all 1960s civil rights gains lost. Alaska and Hawaii additions grew America to 50 states.

The Korean War left things unsettled. An uneasy armistice remains. Cold War politics settled in. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) prevented WW III. 

Censure ruined Joe McCarthy. In May 1957 he was dead. At age 48. The CIA's first coup toppled Iran's Mohammad Mosaddegh. A generation of terror followed. 

A year later, Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was ousted. Fueling decades of genocide against defenseless indigenous people.

Throughout the 50s, few followed Vietnam events. Its defeat of France. America's growing involvement. 

Who knew decades of genocidal war would follow. Or continue in multiple new theaters. No matter who's president. Or controls Congress. Or sits on the High Court. 

Ruthless embedded power runs things. Monied interests. War-profiteers. Gorging at the public trough. While popular needs go begging.

When I was in college and grad school, Palestinian Territories weren't occupied. Pro-Israeli zealots weren't commonplace like today. 

Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower. Less than three years later he was gone. 

November 22, 1963 a day I'll never forget. Nor should anyone old enough to remember. 

Fifty-one years ago. The worst was yet to come. Assassinating him made it easy.

War in Vietnam he wanted ended escalated. So did turning swords into plowshares. 

Rapprochement with Russia. Recognizing Palestinian rights. Lots more on the right side of history. 

Imagine what might have been had he lived. Served two terms. Imagine what never was.

Today most good jobs and benefits are gone. Social America is on the chopping block for elimination altogether.

The nation is being thirdworldized. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions persist. Poverty is a growth industry. 

About 23% of Americans wanting work can't find it. Most jobs are rotten temp or part-time low pay/poor or no benefit service ones. 

With no security or futures. Horrific conditions getting worse, not better. Hunger is a major problem. 

For about 50 million Americans. Around 13 million families. About 16 million children. In the world's richest country.

Using its resources irresponsibly. For banker bailouts. Other corporate handouts. Militarism. Permanent wars. The national pastime.

Making the world safe for war-profiteers. Wars waged to enrich them. Empower them.

Michael Parenti calling war-making the best way for Nobel Peace Prize acknowledgement. Peacemakers needn't apply.

Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy loved poetry. They made the arts part of their White House life.

On June 16, 1956, as a junior Massachusetts senator, he addressed my Harvard commencement exercises.

Outdoors in Harvard's yard. A longstanding tradition. Wall-to-wall with graduates. Family. Friends. Global guests of distinction.

Saying how "proud and grateful" he was "for the honor bestowed on me today…(A)n honor I could not possibly have foreseen some 16 years ago as I attended my own commencement exercises."

Delivering an erudite, incisive, timely address. Filled with scholarly references and quotes. Polar opposite what politicians say today.

Calling truth the object of controversy. Sacrificed for political advantage. 

In 1856, Republicans had three brilliant presidential aspirant orators. William Cullen Bryant. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1860, Americans elected Republican Abraham Lincoln. Kennedy said "(t)hose were the carefree days when the eggheads were all Republicans." 

Compare them to Obama, Bush and likeminded scoundrels. 

Kennedy once said "(w)hen power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations." 

"When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."

At Harvard, he quoted Milton, Bismark, Goethe and others. Books were the tools of early US leaders, he said. Not their enemies.

"Locke, Milton, Sydney, Montesquieu, Coke, and Bollingbroke were among those widely read in political circles and frequently quoted in political pamphlets," Kennedy explained. 

"Our political leaders traded in the free commerce of ideas with lasting results both here and abroad."

The link between US scholars and politicians lasted over a century. When freedom is endangered, intellects and politicians should be natural allies, Kennedy stressed.

"(W)orking more closely together for a common cause against a common enemy."

He ended saying "if more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live on this commencement day of 1956."

In seven years, five months, he'd be dead. Murdered by dark forces ruling America today.

Killing JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X decapitated America's left. In the 1970s, things began shifting right. Progressive charismatic leaders were gone. 

None exist today. Their absence is sorely missed. America gets away with mass murder and then some. 

Dark forces run things. War on humanity persists. Peacemakers aren't around to stop it. Survival hangs in the balance.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

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