Jon Schwarz is editor of MichaelMoore.com and was research producer for 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' He's also contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Saturday Night Live and NPR.
This is from the March 10, 1919 diary entry of Cary Grayson, Woodrow Wilson's personal doctor:
…the President said…that if the present government of Germany is recognizing the soldiers and workers councils, it is delivering itself into the hands of the bolshevists [sic]. He said the American negro returning from abroad would be our greatest medium in conveying bolshevism to America. For example, a friend recently related the experience of a lady friend wanting to employ a negro laundress offering to pay the usual wage in that community. The negress demands that she be given more money than was offered for the reason that "money is as much mine as it is yours." Furthermore, he called attention to the fact that the French people have placed the negro soldier in France on an equality with the white men, and "it has gone to their heads."
That one paragraph truly contains everything you need to know about U.S. foreign policy:
1. It's built on a foundation on upper class twit urban legend. Who knows what really happened with the "friend of a friend" of Woodrow Wilson. But I think we can be certain that, if the "negress" actually did exist, she didn't ask for more money than usual because she was inspired by bolshevism to say "money is as much mine as it is yours."
This reminds me of the time shortly after the 1992 Los Angeles riots when the nephew of a huge Hollywood producer told me he'd heard that all the black people in Compton were making plans for next time, when they were going to come burn down the three B's: Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Sure, you bet.
2. The terrifying danger that the U.S. upper crust perceived in 1919 wasn't that the lower orders were going to stage a Bolshevik revolution. It wasn't even that they were going to try to get the right to vote and have a voice in the government. It was that they were asking for a raise.
(Also, worker councils were not a good idea that made workplaces run better, but pure revolutionary bolshevism. If you paid attention to the right-wing freakout over the UAW trying to organize the VW plant in Chattanooga, you saw nothing whatsoever has changed.)
3. The terrifying danger wasn't coming from just any part of the lower orders, it was from the teeming non-white masses who want to take all our money.
4. What was the the natural response to the threat of a slight change in political and economic power within the U.S.? It was to invade another country (in this case, the nascent Soviet Union), together with the other main white powers, the UK and France.
You can draw a direct line from this diary entry to every foreign policy action taken by the U.S. in the past 95 years.
P.S. The house where Cary Grayson and his family once lived in Washington, D.C. is now the administration building of Sidwell Friends, the private school attended by Sasha and Malia Obama.
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