The Heart of Darkness
Part I: Treason
During the latter stages of World War II, the American labor movement was divided sharply in two: on the one hand the old line craft unions, such as ladies’ garments and headgear, joined in the American Federation of Labor; on the other the unions attached to the newer mass industries: auto , mining, steel, aluminum (see Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest).
In Washington, DC, however, the newly formed CIO was thought of as a haven for Communists or their sympathizers, many of whom had in fact infiltrated FDR’s New Deal. The AFL detested them. My father, Charles H. Green, had been a long-time AFL pork-chopper (as union intellectuals were known), and was about to start a new life by enrolling at NYU Law School.
However, around this time he was approached by George Meany, the President of the AFL, and deep-down antagonist of the CIO and its leaders. He had an offer for my father: move us all to DC (i.e., twelve-year old me and my mother) and become a vice-President of the Office of War Information, which was known throughout the political arena as a hot-bed of German/Jewish Communists, who’d been recruited for their linguistic skills (supposedly), of whom the most well-known, and most suspected of ill-intentions by the anti-Communists in town, was Herbert Marcuse. Dad turned it down; missed my chance.
Los Alamos, the historic locale of the film, Oppenheimer, was by its very nature like a Western version of DC, though even worse, since deep political differences about Communism were intensified by even deeper professional and ethnic (e.g., Jewish and not/Jewish) identities. But these rivalries had a further depth that determined not just what happened at Los Alamos but the course of world history as well. And everyone knew that’s what was happening. That’s what the race to develop the A-Bomb–and later the H-Bomb — was all about.
Not quite midway through the film there is a scene that defines the entire course of the film; and Oppenheimer’s career. In a conversation with his friend Haakon Chevalier, he learns that a Soviet agent has penetrated the Manhattan Project and exclaims, “That’s treason!” “Yes,” replies Chevalier. Neither of them ever brings the subject up again: which makes this one of the most serious American political films we’d ever seen.
Wednesday night we came home from the film in time to tune in to the MSNBC group discussion of the Republican debate, and to discover that we had missed: in short, “treason.” Like Haakon Chevalier and Robert Oppenheimer, the Republican candidates for slithy toad had all (minus the barely audible Chris Christie and the intransigently silent Asa Hutchinson) missed their cue.
“Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third . . . .” At this point, Patrick Henry was interrupted by shouts of “Treason!” But George the Third,” he went on, “may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!”
Ah no! Here a quote from the most impressive–the only impressive — supporter of Donald Trump and/or the Republican Party in the year 2023: heading for ‘24:
“Can’t we all agree that we should ban late term abortions? Can’t we all agree that we should encourage adoptions? Can’t we all agree that doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them? Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available? And can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion? Let’s treat this like the respectful issue that it is.”
So said Nikki Haley who as various commentators said “dominated the normie lane” in Wednesday night’s debate. As of course she did, as no one else with any audible brain power or knowledge about anything was there with her. Thus inspired by her own rhetoric, she took care to get rid of any doubts the normie lane might inspire by endorsing Dobbs, previously cheered on by Republican leaders and good Christians everywhere.
Seconds later–I know you heard this but you will not believe it!–she also endorsed South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban, thus emulating the Canadian essayist Steven Leacock, who according to his own report “jumped on my horse and rode off in all directions.” Thereby managing to join Mike Pence, the genial evangelical, who lets it be known that whatever he believes, it’s the right thing, and he’ll go right on believing it, because it’s the right thing and let’s get down to cases outlawing abortion–nationwide. And may all those good women go to Hell. Any doubts there, Nikki the trickie?
Genially. And so as the merry band lets it all hang out, courageously attacking inflation, which maintained a stock silence; and immigration, whose evil-doing spokespersons were delayed by an accidental landing on the far side of Jupiter; and wokeism, which joined inflation in stoic silence, and most of all the lie of climate change which, thanks to the courageous sick child Vivek, did not get away with the hoax of its fake appearance on Maui…as anyone with half a brain would agree. But no, Like Chevalier in the teeth of truth’s hurricane, they all managed to miss the tell-tale path of the most visible scourge of the day–though of course utterly trivial in the face of the “carnage of the cities.”
Who are these people? Well, we can let them speak for themselves: they’re angry, everything around them is in decline; they’re enraged, they are terrified by the carnage that surrounds them if they’re accidentally thrown into one of our non-white cities ….
What did they do to deserve this treatment? They lost an election? NO–Unacceptable. Hey, It’s a Wonderful Life. If only we’ll elect…yeah, that one. “When we saw this Democratic president come to power we were angry, we were scared, but at this point we’re just going to let the Democratic cities just wallow in their misery.” There’s a platform! How dare he “come to power?” His unforgiven Vice-President Mike Pence, who dared-–how dare he? — Who dared to certify the 2020 election results, elicited “hissing and boos.” “Treason” came shouts from the audience .
It was time to ask the only question that matters. So if Donald Trump is the party’s nominee for president, will they still support him? Are you kidding?
Up went the hand Vivek Ramaswamy. Followed immediately by Nikki Haley, seemingly throwing her copy of Profiles in Courage into the audience; and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, “who helped Mr. Trump weather accusations of racism.” Really? Here I’ve been thinking he’s a Hitler wannabe; dear me.
Ron DeSantis “once seen as the most formidable challenger to Mr. Trump, looked to his left, looked to his right and then raised his hand “ — after those four others had done so. Mike Pence, then lifted his, “clearly reluctantly.” Home of the Brave…
But more to come. Would they support Trump as the 2024 Republican nominee “even if he’d been convicted of a felony,” Up shot DeSantis’s arm. Haley’s, too. No hesitation. No equivocation. And then–excuse me–Mike Pence. Oh dear. “No concern, “ as one observer put it, “about which of Trump’s 91 felony counts might be under discussion. No insistence that they’d have to see how strong the evidence turned out to be.” Not one.
No no, come on: like Klaus Fuchs, they’re transformed by loyalty–just to the other side.
As Robert Shallow said to Pistol, Henry the Fourth’s courier, “If, sir, you come with news from court, I take it there’s but two ways — either to utter them or conceal them. I am, sir, under the King, in some authority.”’
To which Pistol responded, “Under which king, Bezonian? Speak, or die.“ Klaus Fuchs knew whom he served, as did Chevalier’s unnamed friend. These buzzing houseflies know only their own interest. Not better and not worse: they are nothing. Unlike the King’s courtier, drunk on cowardice.
And on an absence of thought so deep we cannot even define it. “… as the summer has gone on, it became evident that it’s not just smoke, and not just Canada. This has been the summer from climate hell all across Earth.“ Only to be missed by the willfully blind. Who have no difficulty in not seeing a hoax.
But that was days ago. And now:
“Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced he was opening an inquiry into Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney, questioning whether she had collaborated with Biden administration officials and targeting any federal funding her office receives.”
And oh yes, there’s always one more Circle; that’s why Hell was invented. From The Intercept: “ Georgia GOP Gears Up to Remove Atlanta Prosecutor Who Indicted Donald Trump. Lawmakers invoked a new law that’s supposed to target reform DAs. The real targets are Black Democrats.”
My father did rarely, but on occasion, use the word “treason.” I never did, perhaps because in my limited sense of recognition, never saw it in action–well, maybe not until Klaus Fuchs came along. But treason–why, if that’s the deeply depraved opposition to what we used to call the Rule of Law-now we see it every day. But Shut Your Mouth!