May 19, 2008

"Vichy Forecasts Nazi Pact in Week... Form to Stress Economic and Moral Factors... Continental Solidarity Is the Keynote..."

That's a headline from the NYT on this day in 1941. 1941 is the year my random number generator had chosen for me to blog today on my side project The Time That Blog Forgot. It's strange and disturbing to read all the headlines of a day in that year, which may be the darkest year of its century. The usual stories about sporting events and market prices and local accidents are mixed — in typical newspaper style — with stories like the one with the headline quoted above. The first post, under that headline:
The article recounts the opinion of the Temps, the French newspaper read by "financiers, manufacturers and the liberal professions":
"None among us has forgotten the apostolate of Chancellor Hitler, who, even before becoming the master of Germany, quickened the strength of his country by awakening in the minds of his compatriots the ancient and noble — and also grim — notion of national honor. It seems impossible that this ardent apostle should not admit that a foreign people, even vanquished — especially if vanquished — may also feel itself bound by honor. In point of fact we know that he admits it. Since her defeat France has received his salute both as soldier and as political leader. And we were even told that in order to rebuild a well-balanced Europe France would naturally be called upon for her share of intelligence and effort."

Vanquishment is rough. It makes you say the most godawful stupid things.
The second post also quotes the French press, this time taking a swipe at the U.S. President:
"France is not a dominion of the United States."

That's the attitude of the French press today:

"As far as Mr. Roosevelt's decisions are concerned one must ask by what right on on the basis of what treaties he is interfering," said the Matin.

"France did not fall in this war in behalf of Roosevelt or Churchill but for France," added L'Oeuvre.
The third post is about an American religious leader attacking Americans.
It is not an outside enemy that will destroy America, but our own "materialism, paganism, lust, sin and selfishness."

So says the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. No matter how big our armies and how powerful our weapons, he says, "The enemy will get into the hearts of a wicked and disolute people." We need religion, in his view. "One individual, completely surrendered to God, is of more value than an army."
"London is almost reduced to ruins now. But if peace is made now and we go on for the next twenty-five years as we have lived for the last, it will be pulverized to dust by the war of 1960."

I must confess that I cannot understand this Peale character. What have we done in the last quarter century that's all that terrible? Look at what is going on in the world right now. Can't he be clear and say that is wrong and we need to fight? Instead he picks on us for the ordinary human character flaws we might have. Maybe he is saying that we need to be strong so we'll be able to fight. But he just can't help making that into an occasion for insisting that we be more religious. Eh. It's a sermon. What can you expect? I'll tell you what: a little more optimism. I don't need to hear about getting pulverized to dust in some war 19 years from now. You know, there's something to be said for positive thinking.
I'm working out the rules for this project. Am I allowed to know the future? I've decided I'm not going to reveal things about the future — I have to be in the assigned year — but I'm going to use what I know to make my comments more interesting or funny or sad.

Yesterday's year, by the way, was 1946. Just one post, about Communism.

EDITED: I've included the full text of the Peale post and deleted "More at the link" so you can see what my last point is about.


Paddy O. said...

That Norman Vincent Peale quote is powerful. Not because it's unusual to hear religious leaders say things like that, but rather because it's Norman Vincent Peale saying that.

He was famous for his "Power of Positive Thinking" book and approach which was very, very much not the Fundamentalist perspective(still then an absolutely valid word for Christian conservatives). We see this continue in Robert Schuller and lately Joel Osteen. Not hellfire preachers at all.

I've not studied Peale's life so I'm now interested to see if his theology/ministry approach changed or if him saying it this way really was a more powerful message for his time.

That kind of stuff is like crying wolf now. Overplayed and ignored. Doesn't mean it's wrong, but it doesn't have any punch anymore unless it's from unusual people. Peale seems more unusual to me as a source.

Ron said...

Even in just what you happen to put in the blog, it seems that hindsight is unavoidable.

rhhardin said...

Levinas in discussing Heidegger's Nazism, considers what he will not consider...

All the rest could, if necessary, still be attributed to the inevitable immorality of politics - haven't all states been responsible for wars? Consequently, all forms of compromise and servility, self-serving contacts and suspect friendship, unworthy statements and acts, and the pure opportunism of the citizens of totalitarian states could still, if necessary, be ascribed to a lamentable self-interest - cowardice or caution - and as human weaknesses appeal to some indulgence on our part.

ricpic said...

"...some indulgence on our part."

Yes, I agree. Easy enough to mock the statements made by or for a vanquished power, even one as execrable as Vichy France, for being stupid. But what would you do under similar circumstance? They maneuvered for wiggle room in their awful position. They flattered, they cajoled, they cooperated in some spheres in order to resist, if ever so slightly, in others. Human. All too human. How many act heroically in resistance? The French Resistance, the Dutch, the Polish, did not actually rise against the Nazis until the cavalry could be heard approaching from behind the hill. To expect more?...

Ann Althouse said...

Paddy, yeah, read the whole post and you'll see that's where I used what I knew in the future. I checked to see the publication date of "The Power of Positive Thinking," and saw that it was 1952.

Bender said...

What a low opinion you have of humanity, ricpic, ignoring the sacrifices of millions of people who did, in fact, actively resist the National Socialists, the SS, the Gestapo, as well as their cousins in evil, the Soviets. Indeed, that is one of the reasons that Poland was marked for exinction from the face of the earth.

Perhaps you would have been a willing collaborator like the French, happily rounding up Jews and other social undesirables to send off to death camps, all to save your sorry ass, but do not make the mistake that everyone would, or that everyone did.

rhhardin said...

Levinas spent the war in a concentration camp.

John said...


Most people have a very poor understanding of the events of 1940 and 1941. The French were not invaded and occupied like Poland. They were defeated in war, surrendered and effectively joined the other side. The first combat casualties the US took in the European Theater in World War II were as a result of the Vichy French defending the beeches of French Morroco. The French Resistence was by and large a myth creaed to sooth French pride after the war.

vbspurs said...

It is not an outside enemy that will destroy America, but our own "materialism, paganism, lust, sin and selfishness."

That's okay. We can all move to Vermont and be cured.


Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.


You ask whether, as impressaria of your new Theatre that Time Forgot (as I should call it), You would pretend an Ignorance of the Future, or, if You should write with modern Knowledge?

As the Ghost of a Gentleman dead these 250 Years and more, who has been fortun'd to haunt this, your Theatre of Modern Topicks, You may know that I have thought upon some very similar Matters not a little, and I pray I do not importune You or your Audience by way of offering some small Advice.

Such of your Audience whose Eyes I have not glaz'd by my Performances will know that, no matter the Topick, I habitually pitch upon the Theme of how much, yet how little, the World has chang'd from my Day to this.  Such Observations require an extensive View of all that has transpir'd in the Centuries between.  I cannot pretend to be a Person from the first Years of the Eighteenth Century suddenly shipwreck'd on the Shoals of the Twenty-First; altho' that is a very pretty Conceit that I am sure Dr. Swift could have made much of, had he not invent'd better for his Gulliver.

Nay, Madam, what I write requires me to have been sensible in one Way or another all these Years; for how else could I have retain'd the Expression of my Youth, and yet have ghostly Knowledge enough of the present Day to be able to offer my paltry Efforts for the Improvement of the Modern World?  If You would presume to write only as if trapp'd in a certain Year, ignorant of the Future, I believe You would soon find Yourself intolerably entangl'd in Contradictions & Anachronisms, such that they would become the Topick for your Audience, and not the Matter You should wish.

To contrast one Age with another with full Knowledge may not be a certain Way to Success, but neither should it miscarry.  To belabour your View with needless Complications, is to mar your Talents for an easy, clear, attractive & rational Style.

Wishing You again ev'ry Success in this new Venture, and praying You will not consider my Advice anything but in a Spirit of Friendship, I am,


Your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

PatCA said...

Have you read The Fall of Paris by Lottman? Good book on the failure or the French government that led to their vanquishment.

Noumenon said...

Labels: blogging, France, Germany, history, hitler, Nazis, religion

Ann, shouldn't you have a category "The Blog That Time Forgot" so that people can go back and read through the entire project?