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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Great Influenza and its Impact on American History

Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States for two terms from 1912 until 1920. He was a Progressive and a believer in government, and big government, to be the way that America should be governed.   Wilson won reelection in 1916 based on his having kept America out of the first world war raging in Europe.   On April 2, 1917 Wilson delivered his statement for war to Congress following Germany’s announcement to initiate unrestricted submarine warfare against all merchant vessels, in addition to the revelation of the Zimmerman note in which Germany tried to involve Mexico against the Southwestern United States. Wilson was determined to carry on total war until victory was achieved.
Not during the Civil War, nor World War II nor the Korean War had any chief executive taken control of every facet of government which impacted every citizen. He was an organizational genius and created a host of government institutions to assist in winning this war as if it were a crusade. (1) By the spring of 1918 a strong strain of influenza started hitting the troops in numerous camps that had been established; the flu caused numerous deaths among the troops and continued wreaking its havoc on troop ships sent to France with many of the troops arriving sick. American troops were involved in the final stages of the war for only a few months; the peace conference started in Paris in December of 1918.

There were many participants from many nations but it was the Big Four: President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Premier Georges Clemenceau of France, and, of least importance, Italian Premier Minister Vittorio Orlando. who were responsible for the drafting of the peace treaty. Wilson’s 14 points and his determination to accomplish “A peace without victory” fell on the deaf ears of Georges Clemenceau who wanted to humiliate Germany by dismembering parts of Germany and giving them to other nations, by stationing occupation forces in Germany for 15 years as well as demanding reparations that would stifle Germany’s economy; Lloyd George feared this humiliation of Germany would do more harm than good in achieving a permanent peace; but because he won his position of Prime Minister by promising to be tough with Germany, he failed to heed what he knew to be right and sided with Clemenceau. The Italian representative was only interested in what Italy could get out of the peace treaty and uninterested in anything else.

In March of 1919 Wilson’s wife and Gary Grayson, Wilson’s personal White House physician, came down with influenza. Clemenceau and George both cane down with a moderate influenza.  In the meantime Wilson’s sessions with Clemenceau and George were brutal, Wilson fighting against a humiliation of Germany.  Wilson continued to fight insisting, “The only principle I recognize is that of the consent of the governed.” On April 2 after the negotiations for the day finished, he called the French “damnable”–for him, a deeply religious man, an extreme epithet. He told his press spokesman “We’ve got to make peace on the principles laid down and accepted or not make it at all.” (2)  Wilson was prepared to leave the conference with no treaty at all rather than concede to the French position. But in the evening of April 3 Wilson was hit with a serious attack of influenza, probably caught from Clemenceau.

Wilson had coughing so severe that it interfered with his breathing; he had profuse diarrhoea and a temperature of over 103 degrees.  A young aide in the American delegation got the flu at the same time as Wilson and died 4 days later at age 25. After 4 days in bed he got up and renewed his threat to leave the conference, even having a ship readied for departure. On April 8 Wilson insisted on continuing the conferences at his sickbed, but he was not the same man. (3)

After a matter of days Wilson suddenly agreed to all the demands of Clemenceau as well as demands of other countries such as Italy, China and Japan, abandoning all his principles.  The influenza had put him in deep depression, affecting his mind, and was unable to think or reason as he had before the attack of influenza. (4), (5) On May 7 Germany was presented the treaty, complaining bitterly that Wilson had violated all his principles designed to bring about true peace.  Four months later, after his return home to Washington, Wilson suffered a massive stroke, which incapacitated him to such an extent that Grayson and Wilson’s wife effectively took over the reigns of government until the next election in 1920.

One cannot absolutely say for sure that had President Wilson not been struck by such a debilitating bout of influenza, that he would have stuck to his principles, even carrying out his threat to leave the conference unless there was agreement on his desire to see peace without victory, instead of the virtual dismemberment of opposing nations in the war. Those who knew him well and his fighting spirit felt certain that he would have left the conference rather than give in to the demands of Clemenceau and Lloyd George. Had this been so, with Wilson either winning over their demands or leaving for home without a treaty, how history would have been changed without the specter of another world war only 20 years after the ratification of the treaty!.

But the great influenza of 1918 had so damaged the mind of the president that he was unable to accomplish his peace without victory. The American people should now be cognizant of the great pandemic of 1918 which brought about the demise of the mental capacities of President Wilson, but such is not the case. By the 1920s people had forgotten the horrific number of deaths due to influenza as well as the effect on one of the most powerful people of the time, President Wilson. All the great writers of the 20s and 30s make no mention of the great pandemic of 1918. No historians make mention of the great pandemic except Alfred Crosby. Most historians mention President Wilson having a small stroke prior to the peace treaty instead of influenza and a major stroke later which totally incapacitated him. Look in any history book and you will not see any mention of the 1918 pandemic and the 550,000 deaths of American civilians and military (a conservative estimate) due to influenza.  Compare this number with the combined battle deaths of U.S. Armed Forces in WWI, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts of 423,000. The worldwide estimate of deaths due to this pandemic are a conservative 20 million. (6)

It was not a small stroke that brought about a bad peace treaty in 1919; it was the great pandemic of influenza between 1918 and 1919.  The only comforting result is Wilson’s inability to carry out his plan for the complete domination of American life through a strong, all powerful federal government.

(1) The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, Penguin Books 2005, pp. 120 - 129
(2) ibid, p 383
(3) ibid, pp. 384, 385
(4) ibid, pp. 385, 386
(5) America’s Forgotten Pandemic by Alfred W. Crosby,     Cambridge University Press,......New York 2003,   p194
(6) Ibid, pp. 206, 207

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Smear that Failed

An introduction to this post seems to be in order considering my post on George VI in March of this year, 2013 was based on my having seen "The King's Speech" many times on a DVD and also having found an English review of the King’s Speech that helped me understand some of the historical background. However, it was only after finding the history of the Kindertransport that I ran into the smear involving criticism of the film itself and George VI in particular which happened more than 2 years ago in 2011. 

I had never run into information about this smear until about one month ago when I felt it necessary to give the history of this smear attempt and show that it was unwarranted and unfair. The fact that I never ran into this information about the smear of the film and the King probably speaks for itself in showing that the smear was indeed a failure. Now I will return to the start of my post published only yesterday and hope that this introduction will answer any questions about the tardiness of the smear in relation to my posting of the story of George VI and “The King’s Speech” earlier this year.

A short time before the Oscars were to be presented for movies of the year 2011, an e-mail of unknown source was directed to Scott Feinberg, a Hollywood commentator. The e-mail accused the directors and producers of “The King’s Speech” of covering over history by not revealing German sympathies of King George VI and accused the King of anti-semitism by assisting in preventing Jewish refugees to emigrate to Palestine before the outbreak of war with Germany. 

As to the charge of German sympathies before the war, the King had supported appeasement of the Germans by the then Prime Minister of England Neville Chamberlain with the hope of forestalling involvement of England in a war with Germany which the king believed would be so devastating. Winston Churchill on the other hand knew that Hitler was a tyrant and that inevitably war with Germany would come. George VI, having had thought of appeasement as a way of avoiding war did not support Winston Churchill for prime minister in the election of 1940 because he mistakenly thought of Churchill as wanting war.  

As a result, in the beginning of Winston Churchill’s tenure as prime minister, the King and Churchill did not get along; but this was of short duration as war had already been declared by England against Germany and the king now realized his duty was to join the fight against the declared enemy of England. He and Churchill worked closely together in fighting Germany; the king was privy to all British and Allied strategy which Churchill shared with the king during the entire war.

As to the charge that the king was anti-Semitic because he approved the prevention of Jews emigrating to Palestine prior to the war, it is pointed out that this was British policy because of Arab sympathies with Germany; it was thought by the British government that allowing Jewish emigration to Palestine at that time would have complicated the attempt by Britain to avoid war with Germany. 

The historian, Andrew Roberts, pointed out that George VI was just supporting British policy at that time, and to conclude from this that the king was therefore anti-semantic, was ludicrous.  In fact the British allowed 70,000 Jews to emigrate to England prior to the opening of war with Germany including 10,000 mostly Jewish children in the

Parliament passed a law in December of 1938 allowing the immigration of 10,000 Jewish children under the age of 18. This movement of so many children with the assistance of many jewish and non-jewish humanitarian agencies was called the Kindertransport. The king is always involved with laws that are passed by Parliament so one must presume the king was in support of the Kindertransport.   When war broke out with Germany these mostly German Jewish children were labeled as “enemy aliens”. But very quickly these children announced their loyalty to King George VI and were designated as “the King’s most loyal enemy aliens”.  Most of the older children joined the British Army and fought the Germans. 

There is a memorial plaque in Parliament thanking Parliament and the British people for rescuing these children; much to the disgrace of the United States and other large nations there was no such transport of Jewish children before the opening of the war in December of 1939, to save them from the Holocaust where two and a half million children perished, one and a half million of them Jewish.

A Jewish woman, Irene Coffee, born Brann, living in Britain with her mother, out of fear of being captured by the Germans, were Germany to invade England and deport Jews to death camps, attempted suicide along with her mother, by swallowing poison, in October 1941; Irene survived while her mother died; since suicide was against the law as well as assisting in a suicide, Irene was sentenced to death in an English court. 

Appeal was made to King George VI who commuted her sentence and within 3 months sympathetic people and officials saw to it that she was released from prison. Her words of praise and thanks to this compassionate King were in glowing terms.

Many in the entertainment industry pointed out that all films, especially involving war, are produced with the best of intentions to relate events that are truthful; however many liberties are taken to make the film more entertaining by not including events that are not really necessary to the plot. Most people took this point of view; as a result, “The King’s Speech” won the Academy Award for best picture of 2011.  Colin Firth, who played George VI won best actor, Tom Hooper won best director and best original screen play was won by David Seidler, a Jewish writer whose grandparents died in the Holocaust according to the British newspaper, The Guardian. 

“The smear failed and “The King’s Speech” is now recognized as one of the film industry’s finest films; and more importantly, the reputation of King George VI had been restored to it’s rightful place: King George VI is one of England’s best kings, if not the best.

References: 'Nazi' smears on George VI threatens Colin Firth's Oscar hopes 
By John Bingham 10:54PM GMT 16 Jan 2011

The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens: Germans Who Fought for Britain in the Second World War  Fry, Helen. Sutton Publishing, Great Britain, 2007

London Evening Standard  The King’s Mercy: How George VI saved a refugee’s life  By ALLAN HALL  UPDATED: 19:28 EST, 8 March 2011

THE WRAP  Covering Hollywood
Forget the Critics; Here’s Why Oscar’s Voters Liked ‘King’s Speech’ Best

London Evening Standard  Judge The King's Speech as a film, not as history  
by SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE  Published: 21 January 2011

Editorial feedback to:
 By wmw_admin on January 24, 2011

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Book of Job - Is anyone Greater Than God?

One of the great difficulties each of us, as human beings, encounter in life is the attempt to arrive at a reason for sufferings that we endure. Why do we suffer pain, disease, the loss of limbs, the fear of early death when we have so much to do in life? Why do we have to suffer the death of loved ones to accident, war, violence? How does a parent cope with the senseless killing of a child by a deranged madmen who kills for no good reason but just to kill, while the child is in school or in a movie house where they are supposed to be safe?  We live in a world of terror, where we try putting the fear of harm to ourselves or our family members aside, until that terror strikes ourselves or a member of our family with violence and death. How then do we cope? With unending hatred for the perpetrator? With unending grief for our loss? With hatred of God for allowing something we do not understand?

In the book of Job, in the Old Testament, we read of Job, a just and good man, who is confronted with the loss of all his possessions and all the members of his family and does not understand why God has allowed this. Three of his close friends insist that he recognize that he is being punished for all his sins, for all his wrongdoings. But Job responds that he is innocent of wrongdoings that would justify such punishment.  His three friends continue to insist that the reason he is being punished with such losses is because he has certainly done wrong; that the only way for Job to continue with his life, with any kind of happiness, is to admit his sins to God, repent and then ask God’s forgiveness; if he were to do that, they insist, God would forgive him and bless him with good things again.

But Job persists in declaring his innocence and points out to his friends that many people who do evil things are allowed to live their entire lives in luxury while they do harm to others; so, says Job, it cannot be that God is punishing him, an innocent man, while letting other sinners live without any seeming punishment; this would mean that God is unjust to him.  And so he questions God, while not losing faith in God’s goodness, as to why he seems to be unjust in allowing such sufferings to befall him when he is innocent of wrongdoing.

God then answers Job in this way: He reminds Job of all the wonders of God’s creation, of his providing care and sustenance to all the animal kingdom; of is providing rain all over the world so that plants might grow to provide food even in remote places where no-one lives; of his providing many good things, as well as food and wearing apparel from plants, animals and fish, for his people; he reminds him of his justice in punishing sinners and giving good things to those who love him. Job understands that he had no right to think that God was being unjust, considering the immense power and goodness of God to all his creatures, good and bad alike; 

Job repents of his complaints against God who commends him for not giving in to the unwise advice of his friends, while sticking to his profession of innocence. God then chastises his three friends for trying to mislead Job and finally restores to Job twice the possessions that he previously had, while giving him long years with new friends and family.

The author of the book of Job was inspired by God to write this story to help all of us understand that God allows sufferings and losses not necessarily in punishment for any wrong we might have done; that God in his infinite wisdom has manyfold reasons for sufferings we endure, but we may not understand the reasons this side of heaven; that God is good and does not treat us unjustly; that we acknowledge that God is Truth, Goodness, Mercy, Justice, Love, Humility, Understanding, Wisdom; that God can be trusted that he cares about us and loves us, with a constant love, through our sufferings; that God desires we not give up Hope; that we trust in his constant love for each of us; that God will give us the strength to go through our sufferings - a guarantee. 

In the introduction to the book of Job, the author gives us a hint that sometimes God will allow suffering to test our love for him.  The author writes of a meeting between God and Satan in which Satan tells God that his favorite Job will lose faith in him if he is tested with suffering; Satan is allowed to bring upon Job the sufferings that he endures.

The point of this introduction is not that suffering comes from Satan or that God allows suffering simply to test our faith in him; the real point is that God allows suffering for a multitude of reasons which we may or may not understand in this life. Whatever God’s reasons, for allowing each of us to suffer, they are manyfold, but God, in justice, must test our willingness to bear with the suffering, even though God may not reveal the reasons for it, without losing trust in God, without giving up our love for him; but we are to realize the presence of his overwhelming constant love for us and his understanding of our many different emotions that accompany our suffering; we are to realize that God wants to help us through that suffering especially when we ask for help. 

If we remember that the Father commanded his Son, the Christ, to suffer and die on the Cross for the benefit of all mankind, we may begin to understand that if God can do that and have his Son suffer for us, then perhaps it might be easier for us to understand that our willingness to trust in God’s wisdom concerning our suffering, may result in our suffering even being of benefit to others.

A further thought - Is anyone greater than God?  It is easy for any human being to be so overcome by tragedy involving the loss of a family member or close friend that trying to see things as Job did, in not giving up on God and his goodness even though he felt God was being unjust, can be extremely difficult.  However, God's answer to Job involved God's explaining how great God is in his creation of all things, in his providing everything for the sustenance of all his creatures, in his unconditional love for all his people and in his wisdom in his management of all things good; so why, says God, is Job not recognizing God's greatness - does Job think his suffering is so great that God and his readiness to relieve suffering is next to nothing in comparison?  Is Job in his suffering greater than God in his mercy?

Friday, September 13, 2013

If We are Made to Love, What is the Object of Our Love?

God created man and he created woman to be a partner for the man. God endowed them with many gifts they were to use to bring forth morally healthy children into the world. God has instituted marriage to be the union between a man and a woman who then through their love for each other and for God bring forth objects of their love − children. Only in the union of marriage between a man and a woman who understand what love is, as a gift from God, can children have the greatest chance of being brought into this world as good and loving citizens.
Especially in these times we see many unions between a man and a woman but not in marriage. Such unions can certainly bring forth children who become good citizens, but the element that is missing is the presence of God and his blessings of marriage; if such marriages are too great in number, without belief in God and his blessings, eventually harm to society can result.  When a woman and man marry according to God’d design they call upon God as a helper for not only bringing forth children but bringing up their children to love God so that they in turn bring into the world love as it truly is.

To understand what true love really is we have only to bring to mind the death of Jesus Christ on the cross which was a sacrifice of the son of God to free us all from the horrors of sin brought into the world by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which sin was nothing more than the desire of Adam and Eve to possess an object which was forbidden to them by God. True love then is a sacrifice or giving of ourselves, along with the giving of our God-given gifts, to another person without any expectation of personal gain; true love can never be an act of wanting to possess someone or something.

So, even in marriage, if the man or the woman or perhaps both desire to possess qualities or gifts of the other, then true love has been left out of the marriage and the possibility of failure is high. When a man and woman truly love each other, their desire is to sacrifice of themselves for the other in order to accomplish God’s plan of procreation. Sometimes the couple may not be able, through some biological defect, to have their own children; if they have true love for each other there is a desire to raise the children of others through adoption.

In our present times many marriages end in divorce; if we were to examine such cases, it is probably, more often than not, found that one or both of the partners in the marriage desire to possess things and lack the spirit of self-sacrifice for the good of the other as God has planned.  Think of Hollywood marriages where the guy claims: “ I’ve got the hottest woman of anyone”

The major cause of the troubles of our times is the rejection of God, Creator and Redeemer, which makes it impossible for men and women to truly understand what love is as a giving of oneself to another; they more likely desire possession of another or possession of material wealth over a giving of oneself to another. There is a greater possibility for marriages to fail if God is not brought into the union. Unions outside of marriage have a much greater risk of failure certainly without God’s help and with a possessiveness replacing love; such unions whose partners do not desire children only frustrate God’s plan for the happiness of the partners.