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Reclaiming American Idealism

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/11/09/reclaiming-american-idealism


Brilliant essay. My shirt is soaked in tears.


Yes, one of the best I’ve read from LTC. Astore.


I also thought this was one of the best articles I’ve seen recently.

This part was salient to me:

“Apparently, this country couldn’t then and still can’t accept any major-party candidate who doesn’t believe in a colossal military establishment and a government that serves business and industry first and foremost or else our choice in 2020 wouldn’t have been Trump-Pence versus Biden-Harris.”

I would think carefully about this and then quote
Bertold Brecht, “Can we elect a new people?”

How many are really interested in a peaceful, green world? I worked on the McGovern campaign. Hope I don’t get shot or spied on now.


Like so many combat veterans of the “greatest generation,” McGovern never bragged about his wartime exploits.

This is where I lost track of what this elaborate collage was supposed to be about, anyhow. The shibboleth surfaces: “greatest generation” – if you can stomach that, then maybe this sentimentality for reclaiming some lost sense of decency makes sense to you. It makes zero sense to me.

Troops from the “greatest generation” who crossed my path as a youngster told me some Japanese cities needed to be incinerated in order to save their skins. Countless US Americans have heard this cowardly excuse for nuclear terrorism, from the so-called “greatest generation.” Give me a break: genocide is genocide, at home or abroad, so please spare me your fond recollections of good old days.

George McGovern: the lovable bomber pilot. What an appropriate face to sell liberal mouthwash.


I have a slightly different take (from the comments above), different only in the emphasis compared to the comment of ThomasMarx:

If one were to show this essay to most any “centrist” or “moderate” Democrat born since 1970 or even a little before, and even some “progressives,” the likely response would be on the order of “Who IS this Commie terrorist twerp McGovern?”


Notice that Mr. Astore put that “shibboleth” in quotation marks.

Pretty much every American adult in the years immediately following The Great War, Part 2, would have agreed that the use of nuclear weapons was indeed necessary, not for their own sake but to bring the war to a decisive end for the sake of humankind. They would probably have said “MANkind.”

Within a very few years people who were paying attention realized that the official justification for that slaughter was a lie, and that the real reason was as a “warning”–clearly misguided–to Russia, the Soviet Union* having not yet been “united.” I suspect that at some time between then and now but before the teaching of even sanitized history was abandoned, a fair number of people in this country would have also come to realize that fact, as have many more in the past couple of decades.

It seems to me that far from being a paean to war, this article (by a retired USAF LTC) is saying precisely the opposite, bemoaning the fact that after a certain degree of partial detente in the mid-80s, this country–both government and populace–returned to even greater heights of militarism. One can argue that the US should have done more to stay out of WW II, but such arguments are fatuous–coulda-shoulda-dooda. The SUBJECT of the article clearly internalized what he learned from his military experience, at significant personal cost.

The driving force behind this nation’s “endless wars” today is the Military-Industrial complex. Military (government); Industrial (business): As a friend pointed out recently, the USA has BEEN fascist since those bombs were dropped, DESPITE the efforts of many people, some of whom are currently imprisoned or awaiting trial.


While you attribute the driving force behind those endless wars the US wages as the MIC it must be acknowledged that the USA has been at war through over 90 percent of its history and the bulk of those wars predate the MIC.

The MIC has its roots in the principles of which the Country founded on and those principles as espoused by the hallowed “Founding fathers” were racism, genocide and land theft under the guise of “manifest destiny”

There would not be an MIC were it not for those beginnings. The MIC is much more a symptom than it is a cause.


If i had any nostalgia for an earlier unsuccessful American politician who represented genuine ideals and great hope it would be Eugene V Debs who went to prison for his anti-war beliefs. Let us reclaim his aspirations and create the socialist cooperative commonwealth, not a capitalism with frills and ribbons.


One of the things that changed is how we fund war. We use to have to pay for it by raising taxes and actually pay for it, those in congress were held accountable and people (tax- payers) could respond accordingly. Now we just charge the cost, it makes it far less concrete for the people paying for it.

Incidentally, they want to do the same thing for healthcare.

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Eugene McCarthy was another progressive figure from that era who I admire. I even worked on his 1968 primary campaign.


Quite so, roughly 160 years out of 230 if we consider the MIC as beginning right after WW II. But it did not begin when DDE coined that phrase in 1961. The founders (does anyone but a white male supremacist refer to “the Founding Fathers” these days?) had a working relationship with the arms industry at least by 1802, when one of the DuPonts established a powder mill in Delaware.

Weapons manufacture, especially of heavy weapons, was among the earliest industries of the “revolution” by that name. It was, and still is, taken for granted in virtually every nation on the planet. This is one reason this vile symbiosis was not noticed–so not given a name–before WW II, in much the same way that global warming, known and understood prior to 1900, came to public attention only between 1988 when James Hansen testified before Congress and Y2K. The other reason is that WW II, an extension of President Wilson’s “War to End Wars,” and especially its ending, brought into clear focus just how evil that “vile symbiosis” has become.

As for the rapaciousness of the founders and the ones who came before and after them, it is not good history to judge the sins of the past by the standards of today. I would suggest that to the extent that their rapaciousness was greater than that of the European alpha males of their day, the difference is due mostly to the geography. Many of the settlers who came to the “New World” came to escape the crowding in Europe. And the state of knowledge–or lack of it, in the early modern era–leaves plenty of room for their hubristic assumption that the “primitive” or “savage” creatures they found here were vastly different from themselves. We members of Homo sapiens sapiens–“REALLY smart humans”–still see what we want to see.


Yes, the ruling class is forced to go to greater and greater lengths to conceal their project from the common people.

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Indeed, the Manhattan project took place during the depression years when people were standing in bread lines. A complete secret and millions of dollars. Probably to this day people are unaware.

Yes, such irony. But I see that and related ironies as instances of the broader moral depravity of modern culture. Why were they trying to build a nuclear weapon in the first place? Because they had reasons to believe that the Germans were already close to creating one. Why were they at war in the first place? Because 25 years earlier the Archduke’s chauffeur had taken a wrong turn after the parade.

Why so much secrecy? If news of what they were doing had leaked out (always a consideration, for better or worse) it might have spurred the Nazis to complete theirs sooner.

So what did the guy with the pistol have against the Archduke? Class warfare: Austrian low society in 1917 was at least as low as that of Dickens’ London, and they were tired of it.

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Yes, it is always something. I’m very far removed from European history but the Habsburg Empire is rich in moral depravity. By their own admission inbreeding left half of them idiots. The Archduke broke with that tradition and both he and his wife suffered the consequences. I think mere class warfare was a step up in a weird sort of way. Seen from my proletariat perch.

This is pretty interesting concerning genetic epidemiology determination, it this case French Canadians.


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Wow, I can’t believe the vitriol that this article evoked. While reading this, I was reminiscing about a shared experience from that far more hopeful time. I still have my “keep the ecology baby!” pin. With that green and white striped flag.
It is a reminder of what myself and other 4th graders of that time fully expected to be changes that we could enjoy as we became adults.
We had recently experienced positive changes brought on by an activist generation who brought us the clean air and water acts. Wildlife protections were seen as common sense. My public school had " Conservation" class as a requirement which attempted to teach stewardship of the earth. I thought we would continue.
By the time I reached high school, this idealism seemed to evaporate. McGovern had been ridiculed along with his idealism. The sinisism of the Reagan years had begun and corporate greed was openly promoted as being great for America.
Thank you for reminding me of a better, if not perfect time. We can at least strive for a better world.


Whatever it is it is eating us out of house and home offering us nothing tangible in return. A standing army may be a deterrent to some but it has developed into a club our leadership is too quick to send in harm’s way.

Sometimes I just sit and wonder how and why did we go so wrong. The grief we have wrought is just warming up!