|[Major General Smedley Butler. Image reprinted from Philadelphia’s Organized Crime of the 1920 and 1930s by Anne Margaret Anderson with John J. Binder courtesy of the Library of Congress (pg. 11, Arcadia Publishing, 2014).]|
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights, Politics
"One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics," Zappa went on to explain. "Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what's in it...And so, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don't know what's in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?"
In 1934, a colossal claim reached the American news media: There had been a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in favor of a fascist government. Supposedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from a very conspicuous and reliable source: Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush (George Herbert Walker Bush's father and George W. Bush's grandfather). While news media at the time mocked Butler’s story, recently discovered archives have revealed the truth behind Major General Butler’s claims.
Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), nicknamed "Old Gimlet Eye", was a senior United States Marine Corps officer who fought in both the Mexican Revolution and the World War I. Butler was, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler later became an outspoken critic of American wars and their consequences. Butler also exposed an alleged plan to overthrow the United States government.
By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal (along with Wendell Neville and David Porter) and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.
In 1933, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Butler selected to lead a march of veterans to become dictator, similar to Fascist regimes at that time. The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations, but a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony.
Halloween yesterday had impact.
Major General Smedley Butler is one of nineteen men to win two Congressional Medals of Honor. He was on his way to becoming Commandant of the Marine Corps. His reporting the coup led to likely his stall at two stars and lackluster failure to gain elected office as a republican senator. His reveal of the fascist plot to overthrow the US government is instructive. To quote the historian Timothy Snyder, "On Tyranny":
"History does not repeat, but it does instruct. As the Founding Fathers debated our Constitution, they took instruction from the history they knew. Concerned with the democratic republic they envisioned would collapse, they contemplated the descent of ancient democracies and republics into oligarchy and empire. As they knew, Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants. In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of laws by rulers for their own benefit. Much of the succeeding political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women for example."
History and Tyranny, Prologue, Timothy Snyder, "On Tyranny"
We're seeing a growing rise in inequality as the 1% build their versions of castles and motes in exclusive enclaves, separating themselves from the rest of the population. They continue post Citizens United influencing electoral politics with bucket loads of money and horse shit. The poetry we ascribe to our founding documents neglects that John Jacob Astor - our nation's first multimillionaire - after struggling in the fur business, made cheddar in the opium trade to China, as did "Warren Delano Jr., the grandfather of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt." He eventually settled...into New York real estate with the help of Vice President Aaron Burr. One of his properties was part of the original New York Public Library system. When you investigate history, it has a way of destroying illusions.
America’s First Multi-Millionaire, 250 Years Later
Get the facts about John Jacob Astor, America’s first multi-millionaire.
Barbara Maranzani, History.com
We have deluded ourselves into thinking we are "the good guys." The Constitution is at most a suggestion by White, Anglo Saxon Protestant Cisgender men who owned slaves, kept wives and mistresses, defying the demands of Colonial England and usurped power. Though they used the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal," African slaves were not considered human and women were not regarded at all except as sexual partners and mothers. The tendency towards miscegenation resulting in mixed children that fostered "colorism" within the future African Americans made things even more confusing. We need to recognize this designed division for what it is: a way to maintain power by those in power. It will not bring back coal, put blacks on the back of the bus, women out of the work force, LGBT back in the closet or immigrants - Ellis Island, Emma Lazarus poem notwithstanding, or asylum seekers - back in their native countries.
This is a moment for Americans to consider our founding documents with regards to what kind of country we had to what kind of country we ultimately want going forward: one with sovereignty that selects its own leaders, or an anarchy selected in banana republic elections in literal Russian Roulette?
We won't always have a self-sacrificing Smedley Butler to save us.
WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.