Saturday, November 1, 2014

With Mencken In “Old” Palestine

Last week Sweden officially “recognized” Palestine as though it were an existing state imbued with all the accouterments of a genuine nation. That is, it was a nation invisible on any standard map except the ones to be found in Palestinian school books. This was as much an exercise in fantasy as recognizing the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling as a real, authentic state with which to exchange ambassadors and diplomatic immunities. The “recognition” is fundamentally an endorsement of Hamas’s genocidal agenda. Daniel Greenfield remarked about this delusional cretinism in his October 30th FrontPage article, ”Sweden Recognizes Unelected Government of Bankrupt Terror State That Doesn’t Control its Own Territory”:

…Sweden didn’t recognize an elected government. It recognized the leadership of a terrorist group…..

Not only is it unelected and not in control of its own territory, but it’s funded by foreign interests. If it had to function as a state, it would die tomorrow. Not only doesn’t it have the infrastructure, but it doesn’t even have the economy.

 …Sweden recognized the unelected government of a bankrupt terror state that can’t function as a state or a government because… that’s how much it’s new leftist leaders hate Israel and Jews. There’s no rational reason for extending state recognition to an entity that fails the test of functioning as a state at every level from the economy to elections to simple territorial control.

But, then, Sweden was not setting a precedent in acting on its own fantasies. In a nearly analogous exercise in leftist ideological incontinence was President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. recognizing the Soviet Union as a legitimate government in 1933. Josef Stalin and his terror leadership at the top of the Soviet machine controlled Russian and satellite territories, but their economy was anemic and failing. Read Walter Duranty’s white-washing New York Times story of November 17th of the event here. One certainly couldn’t accuse him of “Communophobia.” Duranty was a “journalist” like I am a nuclear physicist or beautician.

The recently published The Days Trilogy: Expanded Edition of H.L. Mencken’s memoirs contains a lengthy and illuminating section about the journalist’s visit to Palestine, then under the British Mandate, in 1934. In Chapter XIX, “Pilgrimage” (pp. 578-580), he records the contrasting differences between Jewish lands and Arab lands. Not much has changed since Mencken’s visit, at least in terms of Muslim character.

                These [Jewish] colonies interested me greatly, if only because of the startling contrast they presented to the adjacent Arab farms. The Arabs of the Holy Land, like those of the other Mediterranean countries, are probably the dirtiest, orneriest and most shiftless people who regularly make the first pages of the world’s press. To find a match for them one must resort to the oakies now translated from Oklahoma to suffering California, or to the half-simian hillbillies of the Appalachian chain. Though they have been in contact with civilization for centuries, and are credited by many fantoddish professors with having introduced it to Europe, they still plow their miserable fields with the tool of Abraham, to wit, a bent stick. In the morning, as Fellman [A.L. Fellman, a guide from the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem Mencken befriended] and I spun up the highroad to the north, I saw them going to work, each with his preposterous plow over his back, and in the evening, as we went westward across Galilee, I saw them returning home in the same way. Their draft animals consisted of anything and everything – a milch cow, a camel, a donkey, a wife, a stallion, a boy, an ox, a mule, or some combination thereof.
                Never, even in northwestern Arkansas or the high valleys of Tennessee, have I seen more abject and anemic farms. Nine-tenths of them were too poor even to grow weeds: they were simply reverting to the gray dust into which the land of Moab to the eastward has long since fallen. As for the towns in which the Arabs lived, they resembled nothing so much as cemeteries in an advanced state of ruin.  The houses were built of fieldstone laid without mortar, and all the roofs were lopsided and full of holes. From these forlorn hovels ragged women peeped at us from behind their greasy veils, and naked children popped out to steal a scared look and then pop back.
                Of edible fauna there was scarcely a trace. Now and then I saw a sad cow, transiently reprieved from the plow, and in one village there was a small flock of chickens, but the cows always seemed to be dying of pellagra or beriberi, and the chickens were small, skinny, and mangy.
                These Arab villages were scattered all about, but most of them were on hilltops, as if the sites had been chosen for defense. Sweeping down from them into the valleys below were the lands of the immigrant Jews. The contrast was so striking as to be almost melodramatic. It was as if a series of Ozark corn-patches had been lifted out of their native wallows and set down amidst the lush plantations of the Pennsylvania Dutch. On one side of a staggering stone hedge were the bleak, miserable fields of the Arabs, and on the other side were the almost tropical demesnes of the Jews, with long straight rows of green field crops, neat orchards of oranges, lemons, and pomegranates, and frequent wood lots of young but flourishing eucalyptus.  Fat cows grazed in the meadows, there were herds of goats eating weeds, and every barnyard swarmed with white leghorn chickens. In place of the bent sticks of the Arabs, the Jews operated gang-plows drawn by tractors, and nearly every colony had a machine shop, a saw-mill, and a cannery.
                The contrast between the buildings on the two sides of the hedges was a remarkable as that between the fields. The Arabs, as I have said, lived in squalid huts letting in wind, rain and flying things, and their barns were hardly more than corrals, but the Jews lived in glistening new stucco houses recalling the more delirious suburbs of Los Angeles, and their animals were housed quite as elegantly as themselves. The architecture on display, I should add, caused me to cough sadly behind my hand, for the general effect was genuinely oriental, as indeed it is in Los Angeles. The Jews appeared to be very proud of their habitations, for every time Fellman and I stopped at one and found the householder at home, he insisted on showing us through it, and almost always pointed with swelling emotion to its tiled floors, its screened doors, and its running water in the kitchen.
                These Jews, however, appeared to spend but a small part of their time admiring their quarters: virtually all of their waking hours were given to hard labor in the fields. In the larger colonies they did not even come in for meals, but were fed from a lunch-wagon working out of the central kitchen….
                Fellman and I dropped in at several schools, and inspected the young inmates. They looked as healthy and happy as the prize babies whose pictures appear in the rotogravure advertisements of the milk companies…

The focus on Jerusalem and that region today is not on “Arabs” but on fictive “Palestinians,” who claim that Israel stole Palestine from them, neglecting to mention that they are basically “refugees” refused admittance by other Arab states in order to create a wedge in the campaign to erase Israel, and that they’re now on their second, third, and perhaps even fourth generation of “refugees.” Gaza began as a “displaced persons camp” for Arabs, and, if truth be told, it still is one. Its Hamas-ruled population is definably stateless. Also, Gaza and the West Bank have advanced over Mencken’s stone huts and pitiful farms and live in conditions measurably better thanks solely to the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have been poured into those sink holes over the decades.

It should be noted that Western foreign aid partly fuels the Muslim invasion of Western nations. Muslims seem to want to escape the culture of corrupt, skimming-off-the-top governments which foreign aid sustains,  but yet bring with them the same creed of submission to  the corruption and Allah that they left behind. All nations that receive Western foreign aid, for all practical purposes, are on international welfare. Like our own welfare class in this country, they will never learn to become independent, responsible, and self-sustaining for as long as they are on welfare, which, concerning our own domestic welfare class, aside from direct and indirect taxation such as inflation, is merely another method of wealth distribution to beneficiaries across the seas.

Mencken could be brutally wry, so much so that you could practically hear the cat scream in protest as he suspended it by its tail for the dogs of satire to have at it. He was, as a rule, incorrigibly sardonic when discussing any religion. When he made some less than flattering remarks about Jews, he was accused of being anti-Semitic. He told a newspaper, “I don’t like religious Jews. I don’t like religious Catholics and Protestants” (p. 806). This was a natural, non-discriminatory form of cat-baiting for a man who disliked religion qua religion, organized or not. He had no respect for deities or for anyone who worshipped one without reservation or hesitation or critical faculty. One can only imagine what he would write about Muslims. I don’t think it would be less acerbic than Winston Churchill’s estimate of them.  HIs 1922 article, “Where is the Graveyard of Dead Gods?” certainly exemplifies that dispassionate attitude.

“The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effects must be plain enough to everyone. All it accomplishes is (a) to throw a veil of sanctity about ideas that violate every intellectual decency, and (b) to make every theologian a sort of chartered libertine.” (The American Mercury, March 1930)

Yet, whether Mencken was a certified atheist, or an agnostic or a skeptic is an elusive determination I have never been able to resolve to my satisfaction. In my column, “Mencken, Islam, and Political Correctness” of January 2010,” I refer to him as an agnostic. He was married in an Episcopal church (p. 806), but that might have been just a courtesy to his wife.

Mencken, a brittle and unforgiving curmudgeon on virtually every subject he tackled, penned a 1938  newspaper column urging German Jewish refugees be allowed to come to the U.S. to escape the Nazis, “Help for the Jews” (P. 808).  When he visited Havana, Cuba, in April 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor,  he helped some Jews go to the U.S (p. 809). He wrote:

There is only one way to help the fugitives, and that is to find places for them in a country in which they can really live. Why shouldn't the United States take in a couple hundred thousand of them, or even all of them? (“Help for the Jews,” 1938, in The Impossible H.L. Mencken, Anchor Books, 1991).

This was at a time when the U.S  adopted the official and disgraceful policy of refusing Jews asylum. See the saga and tragedy of the S.S. St. Louis here. 

Mencken certainly was a man of mixed premises. He very likely rued the day when he published a column in The Atlantic in November 1914, “The Mailed Fist and Its Prophet,” which, on one hand, extolled the “positive” influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, “heretic, rhapsodist, and prophet of the superman,” had on Germany and German culture in the 19th century, but on the other hand underscored the role of ideas in Western civilization. While he was an isolationist in regards to World War II, he wound up calling the Nazis “ignorant thugs.” He was a registered Democrat and initially was enthusiastic about FDR, but as the realities of Roosevelt’s policies became apparent, ruthlessly attacked him and FDR’s “Brain Trust.” 

At one point in his career, Mencken was mistakenly identified as Jewish in some kind of who’s-who listing. When he learned about this, he said he didn’t much mind. His best friends were Jewish and through years of wear and tear he was pretty nearly circumcised.

Seventy years have passed since Mencken’s tour of Palestine. The only thing that has changed since his drive with A.S. Fellman about the Arabs is the extent and cost of the window-dressing that disguises the Muslim mentality. And the only thing that has changed about the Jews is their numbers in that region and a determination to survive and live as life should be lived. 

.חם חיים במלואם
And Mencken certainly did.

*The Days Trilogy: Expanded Edition, ed. Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. New York: Library of America , 2014. 872 pp.

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