Special

If you could travel back in time and kill Hitler as an infant, would you?

I’ve been asked that question before, and my answer is always “It wouldn’t matter.”

The question presupposes that Hitler was a remarkable, irreplaceable human being, and I don’t think that’s accurate. I think he was an idiot.

And in an alternate time-line, where infant Adolf is murdered in his crib, I believe the same societal forces that forced that idiot to the front would just force some other idiot to the front.

He wasn’t that special.

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Misguided

In this excerpt from Huey Long by T. Harry Williams, ©1969, Huey Long explains why he did not fight in the First World War:

“I did not go into that war,” he proclaimed in the Senate. “I was within the draft age. I could have gone, except for my dependents. I did not go because I did not want to go, aside from that fact… I did not go because I was not mad at anybody over there. I did not go because it was not the first time in history that the sons of America had volunteered themselves as cannon fodder under the misguided apprehension that it was going to be a fight for humanity,” when in reality they had been used to centralize “the wealth of the United States and the world in the hands of a few.”

Since then, similar words have been spoken about nearly every American conflict.

A Horse

Excerpted from Huey Long by T. Harry Williams, ©1969:

The story seems too good to be true– but people who should know swear that it is true. The first time that Huey P. Long campaigned in rural, Latin, Catholic south Louisiana, the local boss who had him in charge said at the beginning of the tour: “Huey, you ought to remember one thing in your speeches today. You’re from north Louisiana, but now you’re in south Louisiana. And we got a lot of Catholic voters down here.” “I know,” Huey answered. And throughout the day in every small town Long would begin by saying: “When I was a boy, I would get up at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday, and I would hitch our old horse up to the buggy and I would take my Catholic grandparents to mass. I would bring them home, and at ten o’clock I would hitch the old horse up again, and I would take my Baptist grandparents to church.” The effect of the anecdote on the audiences was obvious, and on the way back to Baton Rouge that night the local leader said admiringly: “Why, Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. I didn’t know you had any Catholic grandparents.” “Don’t be a damn fool,” replied Huey. “We didn’t even have a horse.”

Two Gallons of Milk per Day

In 1930, actress Mary Astor contracted tuberculosis.  In her autobiography My Story, she recounts how it was treated:

The treatment was to be rest and sun; a glass of milk every half hour (eight quarts a day), mineral oil, complete bed rest, and sun on the roof. There were to be no visitors, only my maid Greta and himself (the doctor); no phone calls, no cigarettes, and no liquor.

Those who cannot remember the past…

Wendell Willkie was the Republican– yes, Republican— nominee for president in 1940:

“In the money-mad period of the Twenties the heads of some of our corporations forgot their primary function– that of running a business enterprise in a way that would be sound for the worker, the consumer and the investor. Instead of attending to the duties of management they began playing with corporate structures as with a child’s building blocks, becoming promoters rather than business men. And some financiers in Wall Street and elsewhere, instead of serving as a link between the savings of the people and the enormous capital needs of industry, became jugglers of finance, concerned primarily with making money and securing power for themselves.”  ~Wendell Wilkie, as quoted in Toward One World: The Life of Wendell Willkie by Bill Severn, ©1967

The cause of an incident

I bought Sammy Davis Jr.’s autobiography Yes I Can at a charity sale for $1, and it has far exceeded my expectations.  I had no idea of the hell he went through on his way to becoming a headliner.

In this excerpt he has just begun to have some success as an entertainer, but is acutely aware of the racism that surrounds him.  He has been turned away from clubs and motels in the past because of his race, and was once severely beaten for a friendship with a white woman:

I finished my main course and asked for a check. Pete the headwaiter came over. “Compliments of Mr. Danny (Stradella).” On the way out I thanked him but he brushed it off. “Cut it out, willya? Thank you for coming in.” He put his arm around my shoulders and walked us to the door. “Now, don’t be a stranger. Please, I want you to think of this as your home away from home– y’know what I mean?”

Danny and Marty Mills caught the late show that night and drove me back to New York. Marty said, “How about a sandwich?”

The last thing I wanted was to be the cause of an incident somewhere. Especially in front of Danny. He thought of me as a winner…

He was saying, “Let’s go over to Longchamps, at 59th and Madison. They’re open all night. Most of the kids from the shows drop in. We’ll have some laughs.”

As we reached the East Side I asked them to let me out at 61st Street. “I’ll meet you in a little while. There’s something I’ve gotta do.”

“We’ll wait for you in the car.”

“No, please. You guys go ahead. Everything’s fine, no problem.”

They had to think I was crazy but they dropped me off at Fifth Avenue and 61st. I started walking toward a dark building as if I really had something to do there. When they were out of sight I looked for a phone so I could call Longchamps and leave word I couldn’t make it. But I was repulsed by the indignity of backing away. It was the defeat of everything I wanted. I killed twenty minutes walking around the block, and headed for the restaurant. At least if it’s a turn-away maybe nobody’ll see it.

I looked through the plate-glass window. Marty was sitting at the table talking to someone, but his eyes were glued to the entrance. By the time I went through the revolving door he was at my side, leading me to our table. Four showgirls from the Riviera were sitting there with Danny. I pointed to a table for two right next to it. “Let’s you and me take this one.” I didn’t wait for him to answer. He shrugged, not understanding, but he sat with me.

Danny gaped at us. “What the hell are y’doing?”

I gave it a Jack Benny reading.  “I hope you won’t take it personally but I can’t sit with those girls. They’re only in the chorus and I’m a star! I mean, you understand–” The girls laughed and I played it like I had something private to tell Marty and somehow I got lucky and Danny wasn’t insulted. Or, maybe he understood.

1934

It’s 84 years later.  Things should be a lot different.

They aren’t.

“God invited us all to come and eat and drink all we wanted. He smiled on our land and we grew crops of plenty to eat and wear. He showed us in the earth the iron and other things to make everything we wanted. He unfolded to us the secrets of science so that our work might be easy. God called: ‘Come to my feast.’ Then what happened? Rockefeller, Morgan, and their crowd stepped up and took enough for 120 million people and left only enough for 5 million for all the other 125 million to eat. And so many millions must go hungry and without these good things God gave us unless we call on them to put some of it back.”  ~Huey Long (source)