"Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life, and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other underground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, practical and unbelievably dull; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation."

Norman Mailer
"The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China--why then it will be spring."

"This new history of yours," said McPhee, "is a wee bit lacking in documents."

C.S. Lewis

Synchronicities this week

  • June 24 Midsummer/St. John’s Day
  • June 24, 1947 The first flying saucers are sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold.
  • June 24, 1542 St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet, is born.
  • June 24, 1938 500 ton meteorite lands near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
  • June 24, 1717 First Free Masons' grand lodge founded in London.
  • June 24, 1374 A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • June 24, 1314 Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains independence from England.
  • June 24, 843 Vikings destroy Nantes.
  • June 23 Midsummer’s Eve
  • June 23, 1972 Nixon & Haldeman agree to use CIA to cover up Watergate.
  • June 23, 1942 Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales.
  • June 23, 1888 Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president.
  • June 23, 1848 Workers’ insurrection in Paris.
  • June 23, 1713 The French residents of Acadia are given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia, Canada. They choose the latter, migrate to Louisiana, and become Cajuns.
  • June 21 Summer Solstice (11:28 a.m.).
  • June 21, 1964 Three civil rights workers-Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney-are kidnapped and murdered by the Klan in Mississippi .
  • June 21, 1948 The 33 1/3 RPM LP record is introduced by Columbia Records.
  • June 21, 1944 Ray Davies of the Kinks born in London.
  • June 21, 1916 Mexican troops beat US expeditionary force under Gen Pershing.
  • June 21, 1877 The Molly Maguires, ten Irish immigrant labor activists, are hanged in Pennsylvania prisons.
  • June 20, 1947 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, gangster, the “man who invented Las Vegas,” shot dead in Beverly Hills, Cal.
  • June 20, 1909 Errol Flynn, greatest of the swashbucklers, born in Hobart, Tasmania.
  • June 20, 1944 Congress charters Central Intelligence Agency.
  • June 20, 1943 Detroit race riot kills 35.
  • June 20, 1893 - Lizzie Borden acquitted in murder of parents in New Bedford Mass.
  • June 20, 1871 Ku Klux Klan trials began in federal court in Oxford Miss.
  • June 20, 1837 Queen Victoria at 18 ascends British throne ; rules for 63 years ending in 1901.
  • June 20, 1756 146 British soldiers imprisoned in the "Black Hole of Calcutta." Most die.
  • June 20, 1631 The Irish village of Baltimore is attacked by Algerian pirates.
  • June 20, 1214 The University of Oxford receives its charter.
  • June 20, 451 Germans & Romans beat Attila the Hun at Catalarinische Fields.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This Week in the Secret History: The most radical presidential speech of our time?

How two pacifists and their president cut out the Joint Chiefs of Staff and crafted a revolutionary foreign policy statement

"If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."
It is likely that JFK, with his keen sense of the absurd, smelled out the ritualized game aspect of the whole Cold War scenario as soon as he got within sniffing distance of where the levers were pulled. And of course he would have known, at the same time, that it was a rigged game, like all of them ultimately are. Only this was rigged for destruction, rigged by the defense and national security apparatuses of the two countries, a rigged and demoniac game. At first he accepted it because he couldn't see a way around it. But Kennedy had had possibly the most existential moment of any 20th Century American. He (and Nikita Kruschev) had actually looked down the nuclear barrel, into the literally unthinkable blackness at the bottom. After that, no-one could tell him he had to keep the game in play. So he decided to tell his country that we were going to stop playing.

The origins of the speech lay in Pope John XXIII's recruitment of Norman Cousins, a lifelong peace activist and Unitarian, as an informal link between the Vatican, the Kremlin and the White House. Cousins spent some time with Kruschev; he then came home to talk with Kennedy. It became clear to Cousins and Kennedy that Kennedy and Kruschev were in symmetrical positions in their two power structures: "Kruschev would like to prevent a nuclear war but is under severe pressure from the hard-line crowd, who see every move in that direction as appeasement. I've got similar problems," Kennedy said.

David Talbot picks up the story in his book Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years:

"When Cousins sugested that Kennedy blast through the impasse with 'a breathtaking new approach, calling for an end to the Cold War and a fresh start in American-Russian relationships,' Kennedy was intrigued. He asked Cousines to confer on the speech with Ted Sorensen [JFK's speech writer] a fellow Unitarian with whom Cousins was friendly.

"The idea of two anti-war Unitarians working on a presidential speech to re-define U.S.-Soviet relations would surely have been deeply disturbing to national security apparatchiks, as Kennedy knew. The president directed Sorensen to keep his working draft under tight wraps, and not to circulate it as usual to the Pentagon, CIA and State Department for comments."

Americans had been indoctrinated for years with the idea that the Soviet Union represented all that was abhorrent to American ideals, that they were fanatically bound to their goal of exterminating us, that confrontation was inevitable, that we could not share the planet with them. To which JFK said, sure we can. No person with a mind and a soul wants this. And so let's begin with our minds and souls, and worry less about theirs. Because the moral onus is as much on us as on them. Because peace, not victory, is the highest good.

Not many heard or absorbed the speech, then or now. A week later it had brought 896 letters into the White House in response. A bill on the cost of freight shipping brought in 28,000.

"Please read it. It's one of the great documents of the 20th Century."
- Robert McNamara

Read the American University speech here.

Watch it here.

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