Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Last Little Juicy Bits From Eleanor

I've finished and reluctantly set down Eleanor Roosevelt's memoir, "This I Remember." I can recommend it to you. You can tell why she was contracted to write a syndicated column in the newspapers of the day. Here are some of the remaining bits and pieces that will round out my lessons for the W, Rove and Co:

Starting on Page 49 - Frugality:
Franklin could see no sense in spending money in a restaurant when he had a home to eat in, and he had a lot of little economies. For example, he never paid more than two dollars for a shirt, and boasted when he found he could get one for $1.50, and he never would buy more than two pairs of shoes...
Page 61 - Politics:
This idea may seem preposterous but in political life you grow suspicious. The strategists on both sides weigh how far they can go without awakening the people a feeling that the rules of fair play have not been observed...

I remember vividly shaken with anger after an interview with an ambitious and intriguing man who, through gossip, had caused a fine public servant to resign because, true or false, the gossip and publicity would have hurt his family. This ambitious gentleman - call him X - had come to see Franklin to ask when he was going to be appointed to the new position he coveted. Franklin, deeply angry, said: "X, if I were St. Peter and you and Y came before me, I would say to Y, 'no matter what you may have done, you have hurt no one but yourself. I recognize human frailties. Come in.' But to you I would say, 'You have not only hurt another human being, but you have deprived your country of the services of a good citizen; and for that you can go straight to Hell!" The man turned and left the room and they never met again. When I saw Franklin shortly after this episode, he was still white with wrath...
Page 63 - On Rove's Slanderous Strategies:
All people in public life are subject to this type of slander. Circumstantial evidence can almost always be produced to make the stories that are circulated about their private lives seem probable to the people who want to believe them. A man who chooses to hold public office must learn to accept the slander as part of the job and to trust that the majority of the people will judge him by his accomplishments in the public service. A man's family has to learn to accept it also. In my husband's case, even his little dog, Fala, came in for his share of false accusations.
Page 321 - On Privilege:
I had a chat with a boy who was getting his last orders before leaving for India, where he would be flying the Hump - one of the most dangerous trips of all. He had just been home on leave, and told me that when flying low over some of the Midwestern country on his way back to a base near his home, he had looked down and said to himself: "I wish I could say to you people below me 'do you know how lucky you are? What wonderful lives you have? How rich is your security in comparison to the millions of people I have seen in India and China:'" He was one of the many boys who in India saw famine at first hand; I doubt if any of them will forget it.
Page 337 - On the cult of personality:
I was really worried about him that day, but instead of being completely exhausted he was exhilarated, after he had a chance to change his clothes and get a little rest. The crowds had been warm and welcoming and the contact with them was good for him. People seemed not to mind at all standing in the rain so long as they could get a glimpse of him as he waved at them. That must give anyone a very warm feeling. People love you when they believe you have done something really worth while for them, and there was not question the people of New York City had been telling him that day how much they cared. Men, women and children had stood for hours, and as far as I could tell it had made no difference that the sun was not shining.
Page 346 - On Death and Spirituality:
I am quite sure that Franklin accepted the thought of death as he accepted life. He had a strong religious feeling and his religion was a very personal one. I think he actually felt he could ask God for guidance and received it. That was why he loved the 23rd psalm, the Beatitudes, and the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians. He never talked about his religion or his beliefs and never seemed to have any intellectual difficulties about what he believed. Once, in talking to him about some spiritualist conversations which had been sent in to me (people were always sending me their conversations with the dead), I expressed a somewhat cynical disbelief in them. He said to me simply: "I think it is unwise to say you do not believe in anything when you can't prove that it is either true or untrue. There is so much in the world which is always new in the way of discoveries that it is wiser to say that there may be spiritual things which we are simply unable now to fathom. Therefore I am interested and have respect for whatever people believe, even if I can not understand their beliefs or share their experiences."

That seemed to me a very natural attitude for him to take. He was always open-minded about anything that came to his attention, ready to look into it and study it, but his own beliefs were the beliefs of a child grown to manhood under certain simple influences. He still held to the fundamental feeling that religion was an anchor and a source of strength and guidance, so I am sure that he died looking into the future as calmly as he had looked at all the events of his life.
Page 349 - And Finally:
All human beings have failings, all human beings have needs and temptations and stresses. Men and women who live together through long years get to know one another's failings; but they also come to know what is worthy of respect and admiration in those they live with and in themselves. If at the end one can say; "This man used to the limit the powers that God granted him; he was worthy of love and respect and of the sacrifices of many people, made in order that he might achieve what he deemed to be his task," then that life has been lived well and there are no regrets...I have come to believe that Franklin stands in the memory of people as a man who lived with a great sense of history and with a sense of obligation to fulfill his part as he saw it.

Lastly, I leave this post with the opening paragraphs of the plan for a "society of nations" the opening salvo that begun the united nations on page 353 and the first appendix to the book:
The United States of America views with anxiety the failure of the world either to restore order in the economic and social processes of civilization or to carry out the demand of the overwhelming majority that wars shall cease. We seek not to become involved as a nation in the purely regional affairs of groups of other nations, nor to give to the representatives of other peoples the right to compel us to enter upon the undertakings calling for or leading up to the use of armed force without our full and free consent, given through our constitutional procedure.

Nevertheless, we believe that the participation of the United States with the other nations in a serious and continuing effort to eliminate the causes of war, is not only justified but is called for by the record of our history, by our own best interests, and chiefly by our high purpose to help mankind to better things.

So believing, it is our duty to confer with other peoples, not in gatherings hastily summoned in time of threatened crises, but in continuing permanent society. In such a way only can we assist in improving the underlying ills which contain the germs of war. In such a way only can we assist when nations, losing reason, take up the sword.
Perhaps this is what Kerry meant when suggesting the Iraq invasion should have stood a stronger, global test? After all, the reasons for invading Iraq have all proven false.


enigma4ever said...

Great post...I am on waiting list for this book at the library...
( I am unclear if it popular or they don't have many copies)
Thanks for posting on Eleanor...

Gothamimage said...

What is really interesting is how Kerry can mention something vague like a 'global test,' and then have it distorted easily to mean something other than what it was. Something vague is made to sound precise and binding. Yet, the President dies the reverse. His team makes precise (if misplaced) reference to UN resolution, but his political base treats them as vague tactical ruse de guerres. Retroactively the President's aides justify the Iraq war to the base, in the wake of no wmds, by pointing to very specific UN resolution violations (not a vague global test) by Hussein. In effect, the President is saying that American service personel had to sacrifice their lives and limbs in order to enforce resolutions passed by an organization that much of Bush base does not like. Yet, it the base does not mind. It seems odd to hear the President's partisans, on TV and radio, defend the war on the basis of UN resolutions.

The UN has many problems, but it is supposed to be primarily a forum for settling disputes, not an adjudicatory body handing out writs for American soldiers and Marines to enforce.

isabelita said...

Most interesting, 'spike. And who, among ANY of the current crop of fat-assed, expense accounted, greedy shitfaced politicians we are lumbered with, gives a flying fuck about fair play? One, maybe. And they'll get Feingold, sooner or later, by yanking his money rug from under him, just as they did to Hackett in Ohio.
I could scream with fury.

Neil Shakespeare said...

Fun excerpts to read. When I hear people disparaging the existence of the U.N. (as my father did often) I ask them 'Where do you think we'd be without it? What do you think it would be like if none of us ever talked to one another?' and invariably they can't seem to answer that. They blubber a bit, mumble some horseshit and change the subject.

Anita said...

Thanks for the great recommendation .. I've long been wanting to read a book on Eleanor, but there are so many out there, I get confused at the bookstore, not knowing which to chose, and end up saying to myself, never mind.

This is next on my list.