America: A History in Verse: Volume 2: 1940-1961

America: A History in Verse: Volume 2: 1940-1961

by Edward Sanders, Edward Sanders


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574231496
Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 12/01/1900
Edition description: SIGNED
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The year began with greed & evil
                  somewhat in check
when compared to Europe
where raw malevolence attended to nations
                                    with slashing glee

though the US too was building a Lyre of Violence
                                    with razory strings.

Europe was at war
after Hitler invaded Poland in August of '39
though the US, for now, had made itself "neutral"

Einstein had already written to FDR about
         "extremely powerful bombs of a new type"
          he urged the nation to build

& then, in November, the Russians attacked Finland
to grab land so as to prevent any Nazi blitzkrieg
                               over the isthmus to Leningrad

after which the'40sbegan
               with shapeshifting evil tumoring
                                        heart to heart
      & Good sore-shouldered from carrying gunnies of hatred

God blessed America for me

Not all things were convulsed with evil, as when
that February 23 Woody Guthrie
                   in a beat-up old hotel on 43rd Street
                           wrote a song titled
                                 "God Blessed America"

The first line was headed for the memory of a Nation:
                     "this land is your land, this land is my land"
and each verse in the early version closed with
                                  "God blessed America for me"

a blessing that was later replaced by
          "This land was made for you and me"

It was a Moment for America

On February 29
        Gone with the Wind
        won the Academy Award for Best Picture
        & Hattie McDaniel was the first Black to win an Oscar
                    for best supporting actress
                                     in G with the W

March 1
    Richard Wright's
               Native Son
    came forth from Harper & Brothers
    a Book-of-the-Month club selection
                      & 250,000 copies were sold the first 3 weeks

The Almanac Singers

Pete Seeger met Woody Guthrie March 3
at a Grapes of Wrath migrant worker
                                 benefit concert
& soon they formed the Almanac Singers

Guthrie was from Oklahoma
where as a kid
       he'd sung country music with local bands

He went to California
                to flee the dusts of wrath
Became a popular country singer on th' progressive station
                                            KFVD, in the late '30s
"Talking Dust Bowl" and "Do Re Mi"
             were among his protest songs
                            for the farmers destroyed by
                                            laissez-faire economics

In 1940 he came to NYC
& recorded his Dust Bowl Ballads for RCA Victor

sang with the Almanacs
               & wrote for the Daily Worker

      Woody Guthrie
a great American leftist

March 18
       Hitler and Mussolini
                   met at the Brenner Pass
                                on the Italian-Austrian border
                          and joined forces for WWII

The Muss-man thirsting for terror Terrae
            i.e., to grab land before Hitler got it

* * *

It was the year the American Civil Liberties Union
        fired Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
        the inspiration for Joe Hill's "Rebel Girl"
        —& one of the founders of the ACLU—
                          'cause she was a commie

* * *

March 28
     Britain and France agreed not to make a separate peace with Germany

April 10
      Hitler invaded Norway
             It took the Nazis two months, then they
             installed Vidkun Quisling
                    head of a small Norse fascist party
                                  to run things for Hit-vom

Denmark was also conquered, same day

April 15

British cryptanalysts first deciphered
the key used for encoding messages on
                      the German "Enigma" equipment
                                  used for radio transmissions

after which the Allies could decipher a good proportion
                                         of Germany's secret message

May 9

Just before midnight
       Hitler ai yi yi'd the following to his troops:
             "The fight beginning today decides the fate
                          of the German nation
                                      for the next thousand years!"

The Germans' official reason was
     that they had "evidence" the Allies were scheming
            a swarm through th' Low Countries into the German Ruhr

Then it was what they called a blitzkrieg
                           modeled on lightning
             the smash bash slash of evil commingled in quickness

  as gliders swooped soldiers into Belgium
  and paratroopers, some disguised in Dutch uniforms,
                                    filthed into the Netherlands
and tiny Luxembourg sullied w/ [SYMBOL OMITTED] 's.

By this the Germans
     side-swarmed France's putatively impenetrable Maginot Line
     & cornered
             th' English and French troops at Dunkirk.

He was sure that the swastika soon
          would rup! and pop in the wind
                            on London's buildings

Churchill Appointed Prime Minister
May 10

Neville Chamberlain resigned as British Prime Minister
       —enough conservatives deserted him
       and Winston Churchill formed a coalition
                                gov't, including the Labor Party
       Churchill was his own minister of defense.

After that, he led his nation in war
chomping on a thick cigar
in a narrow brimmed hat
flashing his V signs
& mixing his undeniable eloquence
with the steel of his soul to
               fight for every flower and stone
                                            of England

till the collapse of Germany in '45 (and his defeat
                                         in the 1945 election).

May 14
    the Dutch army surrendered
    Germans broke the French defense line
    and smeared north and west toward the English Channel
                        dividing th' French and English forces in two

Emma Goldman

had been tossed from the USA
                   in the Palmer Raids o' '19
          & unfairly never allowed to return
                          except for one brief visit
She became a British citizen
& spent the last few years of her life
               for the Spanish Anarchists.
She'd visited Spain a few times
             loved the anarchist collectives
                            —the workers in control of Barcelona
but the Spanish anarchists were
caught in a hideous historical vise:
snip-snappy commies on one side
& fascists of evil on the other

till they were squeezed out of history

She died of a stroke in Toronto on May 14
             and was buried in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago
                                  where you can pay your respects

(You can also read her interesting essays in her book Red Emma
or visit her archives in Cambridge, Massachusetts
                        at the Schlesinger Library by Harvard Square)

May 26-June 4

The German "panzer units"
           featured the Panzerkampfwagen IVD battle tank
      & shoved just 15 miles away from
                     the French city of Dunkirk
                             on the coast near the Belgian border
whereupon Hitler dumkopfedly called off the advance on May 24
& ordered a 3-day rest

a much-debated "fatal error"
giving England time to organize
a massive pull-off by boat

the stuff of history, code-named Operation Dynamo.

They rounded up every ship they could find,
                 including ferries and small fishing boats
and on May 26 began to cross the English Channel.

The trapped soldiers came upon the Dunkirk beaches, inlets and piers
                                                 to clamber aboard
                                       & cross back to Dover
                           guns firing constantly
                     German bombers always in the sky

243 ships and boats were lost
but 200,000 Britons were saved
                    & 140,000 French and Belgians

while Hitler's troops sprang forth in butcher-bash
                            toward Dunkirk
                            which fell to the [SYMBOL OMITTED] 's
                                     in early June

Woody Guthrie at the Library of Congress

that summer the great Woody Guthrie
famous later for "This Machine Kills Fascists"
                                 glued to his guitar
recorded with Alan Lomax
                at the Library of Congress

* * *

June 5
     German tank forces captured N and NW France

June 10
     Mussolini declared war on Britain and France

The Fall of Paris

June 14
the Germans entered Paris

WWI hero/yet right wing nut Marshal Henri Pétain became Premier
and signed an armistice with Germany

The northern and western 3/5s of France became occupied,
                           with the rest of France nominally sovereign.

Pétain moved the capital south to Vichy
            & the WWI hero twisted it into a fascist style dictatorship.

Killing the New Deal

         Beginning around June 20
         to get ready for War
         Roosevelt brought into the government
         a group of New Deal-haters and tsk-tskers
         among them as Secretary of War Henry Stimson
                    73 and a pillar of the conservative Republicans
and Navy Secretary Frank Knox, publisher of the Chicago Daily News
         whose ink had only derision for the New Deal

I.F. Stone called it "The New Deal Retreat"
the alliance w/big business of 1940.

Roosevelt had a strong sense of himself
                      as the Protector of America
I think he welcomed the role of a Fisher King
—that he could hold inside himself the contradictions
              of a Great Nation
                           & make it flourish for the
                           even surrounded now by those
                           with little but spittle for the workers.

The Smith Act
         June 28

Congress passed what was called the Smith Act
which made a crime of advocating the forcible
                   or violent overtoss of the gov't.
All aliens in the US were to register & be fingerprinted

Fear of Germany
& fear that Commies were
causing strikes at defense plants
               fueled the Smith Act
(Its conspiracy clauses were later upheld,
                            though somewhat liberalized
when, in '57, the Supreme Court ruled
you couldn't be sent to jail merely for
teaching communism or other revolutionary theories)

It was used first against Trotskyists, who were members

of the Socialist Workers Party
                     and of Teamsters Local 544 in Minneapolis

As the US prepared for W2 the Trotskyites would not desist
                 from trashing th' imperialist war aims of th' US

so 28 Trots were arrested in '41
                         (see their trial in '43)

June 28
    Russia acquired Bessarabia and Bukovina from Romania
    and occupied them with troops

On th' same day Britain recognized DeGaulle leader of th' Free French
DeGaulle was in England

Henry Wallace as Vice President

Vice President John Garner
         had opposed Roosevelt running for a 3rd four
         so Franklin dumped him
         and pressured the
         Democratic Convention in Chicago that July 19
         to nominate the plant geneticist Henry Wallace
                who used to publish the newspaper, Wallace's Farmer

Wallace had been the Secretary of Agriculture since '33
      running the New Deal assistance programs
                                         to farmers

The right wing hated him
        and slowly, during the following years
                      formed a Get Wallace! fang-pack

The Battle of Britain
July 10-October 31

The Germans were surge-massed
                          on the English Channel
They were preparing an invasion called Operation Sealion
but Göring talked Hitler
                 into a first strike by aircraft

so the Germans with over 1,350 bombers and 1,200 fighters attacked
shipping, airfields, towns, prepping for invasion.

They called it the Battle of Britain
'tween the R.A.F. and Luftwaffe in the skies over England

The English had Ultra
               (information from the deciphering of
               the German radio enciphering machine)
the advantage of owning the home area
(they could salvage more planes for instance)
                               and very good radar

The Germans screwed up badly
             by not bombing the radar stations
and the English did well in the sky war
especially in September—
so well that Hitler called off Sealion on September 17.

The Germans switched plans
        and started indiscriminate bombing
                      of cities, especially London,
                                       with the bigger attacks at night

On July 20
     as the Nightmare Kick Drum doom-droned from Europe
            the first record chart
                           was published in Billboard
     (At the top of the charts Tommy Dorsey's "I'll Never Smile Again"
                                                     sung by Frank Sinatra)


In a suburb of Mexico city on August 21
Stalin's murd-minion
set his bundled coat on the table
                       for easy access
then pulled out an ice axe
closed his eyes
and smote Leon Trotsky on the head

The murderer recalled the scream
a long & huge & horrible scream

that never seemed to bring itself
        to a final shrail, then wail, then ail, then ai

August 23
     All night long
            th' Naz-slime bombed London
                       in the form of attack known as the "Blitz"

then August 28
     Britain bombed Berlin

angering the always-angry Hitler
       who then attacked British population centers:
              Coventry, Liverpool, London
              whence children had been taken to the countryside

    the USSR seized Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
                  and implanted puppet governments in the Baltics

The Beginning of Lend-Lease
September 3

Acting on his own
               without a vote of Congress
—prodded by the very very persistent Mr. Churchill—
Roosevelt handed over 50 recently reconditioned
                     WWI destroyers
                     to Britain
in exchange for rent free bases in Newfoundland and the Caribbean
                                                          for 99 years

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