Excerpt of The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
(Page 6 of 8)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
"But can the company fire you for turning them down?"
"Honey, I did what I did. That's the end of it."
But she didn't believe what he'd told her the Boss had said; she
believed that he was making up what the Boss had said to get her
to stop blaming herself for refusing to move her children to a Gentile
town that was a haven for the German-American Bund and by
doing so denying him the opportunity of his lifetime.
The Lindberghs returned to resume their family life in America in
April 1939. Only months later, in September, having already annexed
Austria and overrun Czechoslovakia, Hitler invaded and
conquered Poland, and France and Great Britain responded by declaring
war on Germany. Lindbergh had by then been activated as
a colonel in the Army Air Corps, and he now began traveling
around the country for the U.S. government, lobbying for the
development of American aviation and for expanding and modernizing
the air wing of the armed forces. When Hitler quickly occupied
Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Belgium, and all but defeated
France, and the second great European war of the century
was well under way, the Air Corps colonel made himself the idol of
the isolationistsand the enemy of FDRby adding to his mission
the goal of preventing America from being drawn into the war
or offering any aid to the British or the French. There was already
strong animosity between him and Roosevelt, but now that he was
declaring openly at large public meetings and on network radio
and in popular magazines that the president was misleading the
country with promises of peace while secretly agitating and planning
for our entry into the armed struggle, some in the Republican
Party began to talk up Lindbergh as the man with the magic to beat "the warmonger in the White House" out of a third term.
The more pressure Roosevelt put on Congress to repeal the arms
embargo and loosen the strictures on the country's neutrality so as
to prevent the British from being defeated, the more forthright
Lindbergh became, until finally he made the famous radio speech
before a hall full of cheering supporters in Des Moines that named
among the "most important groups who have been pressing this
country toward war" a group constituting less than three percent
of the population and referred to alternately as "the Jewish people"
and "the Jewish race."
"No person of honesty and vision," Lindbergh said, "can look on
their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved
in such a policy both for us and for them." And then, with
remarkable candor, he added:
A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed
to intervention. But the majority still do not . . .We
cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to
be their own interests, but we must also look out for ours.
We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of
other peoples to lead our country to destruction.
The next day the very accusations that had elicited roars of
approval from Lindbergh's Iowa audience were vigorously denounced
by liberal journalists, by Roosevelt's press secretary, by
Jewish agencies and organizations, even from within the Republican
Party by New York's District Attorney Dewey and the Wall
Street utilities lawyer Wendell Willkie, both potential presidential
nominees. So severe was the criticism from Democratic cabinet
members like Interior Secretary Harold Ickes that Lindbergh resigned
his reserve commission as an Army colonel rather than
serve under FDR as his commander in chief. But the America First
Committee, the broadest-based organization leading the battle
against intervention, continued to support him, and he remained
the most popular proselytizer of its argument for neutrality. For
many America Firsters there was no debating (even with the facts)
Lindbergh's contention that the Jews' "greatest danger to this country
lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures,
our press, our radio, and our government." When Lindbergh
wrote proudly of "our inheritance of European blood," when he
warned against "dilution by foreign races" and "the infiltration of
inferior blood" (all phrases that turn up in diary entries from those
years), he was recording personal convictions shared by a sizable
portion of America First's rank-and-file membership as well as by
a rabid constituency even more extensive than a Jew like my father,
with his bitter hatred of anti-Semitismor like my mother, with
her deeply ingrained mistrust of Christianscould ever imagine
to be flourishing all across America.
>From The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Copyright by
Philip Roth 2004. All rights reserved.