In 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the news was all bad. The Japanese sunk some great battle ships of the Royal Navy and over ran the fortress at Singapore which most folks thought was impregnable. The human folly behind it’s capture is an amazing and tragic story. Anyway the Japanese had turned the Pacific Ocean into their own private lake to a certain extent which would lead to their unltimate downfall. At interest for me was a letter Frankiln Roosevelt wrote to Churchill which reveals some interesting private thoughts of great men. All of our talk about determinism and fatalism etc. are hinted at in this sweet little letter. What I found intriguing was the obvious tongue in cheek reference to common worship of a delightful God.
We have so called journalists bleating that here is no such thing ‘as “fake news” and that it is a fiction recently invented by fascist politicians on the right, which by the way is an oxymoron. Historical coverage of the history of the 19th century is replete with fake news and the forcing of a certain world view on masses of people sometimes telling the story in exactly the opposite way in which events unfolded.
Winston Churchill in his history of the Second World War even talks about Liberal and Conservative and Labor “organs” by which he means papers dedicated to the message of those parties.
Anyway here is Roosevelts letter to Churchill.
I am sure you know that I have been thinking a lot about your troubles during the past month. We might as well admit the difficult military side of the problems; and you have the additional burdens which your delightful unwritten Constitution puts your form of government into in war-time just as much as in peace-time. Seriously, the American written Constitution, with its four-year term, saves the unfortunate person at the top a vast number of headaches. Next in order is that delightful god, which we worship in common, called “the Freedom of the Press”. Neither one of us is much plagued by the news stories, which, on the whole, are not so bad.
But literally we are both menaced by the so-called interpretative comment by a handful or two of gentlemen who cannot get politics out of their heads in the worst crisis, who have little background and less knowledge, and who undertake to lead public opinion on that basis. My own Press—the worst of it—are persistently magnifying relatively unimportant domestic matters and subtly suggesting that the American rôle is to defend Hawaii; our east and west coasts do the turtle act and wait until somebody attacks our home shores. Curiously enough, these survivors of isolationism are not attacking me personally, except to reiterate that I am dreadfully overburdened, or that I am my own strategist, operating without benefit of military or naval advice. It is the same old story. You are familiar with it. Here is a thought from this amateur strategist. There is no use giving a single further thought to Singapore or the Dutch Indies. They are gone.
There it is – the realism that we can change nothing but perhaps we can change the future and make the world a better place for Democracy, which of course haws been the cry since the 18 hundreds. The idea that we can work hard and change things is what keeps us going and yet the shadow world around us will intrude time and again. Churchill was enough of a philosopher to get it. More on that tommorow.