Janus was the Roman deity who looked to past and future. Some say that’s where January got its name.
In American English, being two-faced has a particular meaning: false, treacherous, double-dealing. The two-faced aren’t as they seem.
We pondered this as we biked around Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park, NY, 80 miles north of our home.
Some say that our government “is the problem”—notwithstanding that we all depend on it.
FDR showed that a vigorous American government could solve problems.
FDR put the People’s Government to work for the People. He used it to bring America out of the Great Depression. It protected American democracy from the 1940s foreign and domestic versions of today’s fascists. Under FDR, Congress and the Presidency stood up for workers, the old, the poor.
And like everyone, FDR was flawed.
Click here to read “Facing Up to FDR’s Racism”, in which Rafael Medoff acknowledges FDR’s greatness but doesn’t flinch from pointing out his bigotry.
FDR considered Japanese “biologically different, undesirable, and untrustworthy”. He boasted of having no “Jewish blood” and wanted “the Jews spread thin all over the world” so they would not “overcrowd the professions”, which he said had resulted in the “understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany.” In 1942, he asked a government commission to study “problems arising out of racial admixtures” and to determine, for example, whether “the South Italian stock—say, Sicilian—[is] as good as the North Italian stock—say, Milanese—if given equal social and economic opportunity?” Black Americans did not fit his vision of America, even as they—and Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Sicilian Americans, and other Americans FDR deemed inferior—were defending America on WW2 battlefields and at home.
To be fair, FDR was a man of his time, often walking a political tightrope.
Yet Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman of her time—thinker, writer, diplomat, a voice for the voiceless—did not share his prejudices.
Still, let’s not sink to “canceling” FDR. As Medoff wrote,
Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership during the Great Depression and World War II has rightly earned him the nation’s undying admiration. But presidents have their flaws, too, and FDR’s accomplishments need not prevent us from recognizing the tragedies that can ensue when a president’s actions are influenced by racial prejudice.
Here’s one of the ways in which FDR redeemed himself.
On January 6, 1941, FDR gave a powerful State of the Union Address to Congress, the same body that criminal insurrectionists tried to overthrow on January 6, 2021.
In May 2018, we wrote about that speech. Click here: “The Four Freedoms, Distilled”.
FDR’s speech inspired us to design a pin to show fealty to freedom.
Not the freedom to hate, cheat, exclude, demean, ignore, refuse to listen, to pretend to have all the answers.
Real freedom. Based on the supremacy of human rights.
If you’re among the next 50 people to donate to Human Rights First, or to add to a previous donation, I will tell Jeffrey to send you a 3” (7.6 cm) pin so you can share the message. (And set off metal detectors!)
And a donation still gets you a souvenir Beatles postcard, signed by me. (And by Jeffrey too.) And for a limited time, your new or increased donation will be matched by our friends Bruce and Martha Karsh.
(Pins, postcards, and match are provided at no cost to Human Rights First.)
Our thanks to all donors! And thanks to all who remind their neighbors:
January 6, 2021, is the day when a lame-duck president called for lawless brutality.
January 6, 1941, is the day when a re-elected president called for human rights first.
Always interesting with lovely photos!
Jeffrey and Joey, My newspaperman father said that journalists gave FDR the “Order of the Doublecross” for his duplicity with the Press. Keep on keeping on riding for justice you two! We are with you. Mimi
On Wed, Jul 7, 2021 at 6:25 AM Ride for Human Rights wrote:
> Joey posted: ” Joey here. Janus was the Roman deity who looked to past and > future. Some say that’s where January got its name. Two-faced Janus In > American English, being two-faced has a particular meaning: false, > treacherous, double-dealing. The two-faced ar” >