A Non-Political Side Line
(First, note that I have now blogged two days in a row. This may not at all be a healthy sign).
I do a lot of reading and my recent reading has taken me to some pre- and post-WWII history, particularly on the thinking of the Progressives as it culminated in FDR. Most interesting, in view of Senator Obama's recent redesign of the presidential seal (turning it into a blue eagle) was the work of the National Industrial Recovery Act under Hugh S. Johnson, who was a philosophical follower of Mussolini's Fascist theories in the 1930's and also Time Magazine's man of the year for 1933. Americans who didn't cooperate with the New Deal, said Mr. Johnson, would get "a sock in the nose." Johnson's goal was to change difficult economic times by waging a "war" on the Depression: "It is women in homes--and not soldiers in uniform--who will this time save our country . . . . They will go over the top to as great a victory as the Argonne. It is zero hour for housewives. Their battle cry is 'Buy now under the Blue Eagle!'" And the eagle looked a good deal like the German National Socialist eagle of the time. The 1933 Musical Footlight Parade, starred James Cagney and featured a chorus line (like those in North Korea, for example) who hold up flash cards that together made an American flag which were flipped to form a large portrait of FDR to the tune of different service songs (though the country was not at war). Following that (it's the Shanghai Lil sequence and can be found on YouTube) we look down on the crowd and see them form the NRA Blue Eagle (The film is worth watching for the brilliantly camp "By a Waterfall" with it's Busby Berkley human waterfall as well as a now embarrassing portrayal of an oriental by the brilliant Ruby Keeler--many stars--introducing Dorothy Lamour and Ann Sothern as uncredited chorus girls and Billy Barty, also uncredited, as a boy in a mouse costume. Warning for parents: alcohol use and some "blue" humor as this was produced before advent of the film code). The biggest parade in New York City was not the one for Charles Lindberg after he successfully crossed the Atlantic, but the Blue Eagle parade: 50,000 garment workers, 6,000 brewery hands, performers from Radio City Music Hall, 250,000 men and women marching for 10 hours past an audience of over a million (even larger than this picture of the parade for Olympic medalist Gertrude Ederle).
"A hundred thousand schoolkids," writes Jonah Goldberg in his Liberal Fascism, "were marched onto the Boston Common" to swear allegiance to an oath administered by the mayor: "I promise as a good American citizen to do my part for the N[ational] R[ecovery] A[dministration]. I will buy only where the Blue Eagle flies." All this patriotic sounding government intervention had a dark side, though. If you wouldn't charge 40 cents for a product for which you wanted to charge 35 cents, you were thrown in jail for three months, as the aim of the New Deal was to "create artificial scarcity to drive prices up." Crops were left to rot, 6 million pigs were slaughtered. The regulations of the NRA effectively (whether it was intentional is debated) aided the already racist labor unions in keeping blacks out. While head of the NRA, Johnson distributed a tract from one of Mussolini's favorite economists to the Secretary of Labor and begged her to give it to the rest of the cabinet.
All of this was a piece of history new to me. I was startled, therefore, when I saw the redesigned presidential seal for Senator Obama's rally (which has since been withdrawn, intended, it has been said, for only that one time use) with the eagle all in blue. Now, this is clearly not the NRA eagle, but the choice of color was interesting. And likely no one would make the connection, nor would I have, who did not have the historical background. In the national debate, the issue is the supposed presumption of the candidate, but I can't help wondering if someone on his staff was aware and wanting to make a connection to Roosevelt, but didn't check out their history carefully enough. Verbum sapienti satis est.