Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.

RSS, LBJ, and A Good Reason to Kill People

At the top right of this site is a link for RSS subscription. I decided to subscribe to myself, so in order to not disappoint me, I’ll need to make more posts.

As always, the bulk of my posts are written in leftover lunch time or Saturday morning at the coffee shop, though I may post them at any time of the day, after having considered my words. At least sometimes I do that. Often I speak too hastily. SERIOUSLY, a person should twice consider anything written or spoken for the public. If only I did that more often.

Part of the conundrum of the study of history (I say as a historian) lies in the desperate expository by the student of single or anomalous utterances of the subject. We so love history that we seek to unlock a heretofore unseen deep truth at every turn, or to reduce a complexity to a mere declarative conclusion. It’s in man’s nature to desire manageable categorization; to neatly classify people as friend or foe, good or bad, honest or dishonest.

I imagine a couple of you rolling your eyes right now and yelling, NO CRAP, JUSTIN. This is YOU! HELLO???

I know, I know. The dangers of reductionism and oversimplification are by no means confined to the study of history. I’m living proof of this. I have a few dear friends who have suffered for my accomplished talent to complicate the simple, over simply the complex, and obfuscate the obvious. On the whole, I call it a mark of immaturity when I see it in others. In myself, I can’t say. Or I won’t, anyway.

Let me provide an example: If I died tomorrow and all but one of my many journals from over the years were lost, the keeper of the lone remaining diary of thoughts might make any of these conclusions:
1. I hated my father (a lone day of wrath, Age 14)
2. I became an archaeologist (age 9)
3. I married Kim Wintory (age 16)
4. I bought and ran a construction company (age 24)
5. I spent my life working for the University (age 32)
6. I doubted the existence of God (days 2 – 75 of college)
7. I became a millionaire (Mr. Mahaffey’s journal, age 15)
8. I became a minister (age 28)
9. I became a senator (age 34)
10. I became the President of the United states (age 14, 15, 23-27, 29, 30, 35, 38)

Of course, none of these are true, least of all that I hate my father. But a false reality can be woven from stray threads. This was always my fear in doing research – that my body of evidence be neither as substantive as I saw it, nor contextual. I sometimes struggle with this in my study of LBJ, one of my favorite historical subjects of study, but a despicable man on the whole. If I were to complete my thesis, it would be a continuation of what is already over 50 pages of proof text that LBJ was certain before things ever got bad that we would lose the war in Vietnam, and yet he kept us there solely for his political expediency (the actual political repercussions taking him off guard in the end).

The LBJ Treatment - His Mentor Richard Russell
And with what I have learned of LBJ (so very different than the public could know until the wealth of declassified recordings and CIA documents of 2004 began to surface), I wonder what the present Whitehouse OCCUPANT is truly thinking. It would initially appear, with no distance in time passed for analysis or consensus, that OCCUPANT is of a flavor heretofore untasted in U.S. History. Nuff’ said.

LBJ was a brilliant and masterful politician. This means not only being an efficient liar and deceiver, but a master manipulator, which is where the action happens. OCCUPANT is not at all a master politician, he is more the antithesis of LBJ – not by honesty, mind you, but by ineffectiveness. Now there’s a dissertation for someone: Barrack Obama in an LBJ world.

I will grant LBJ this: he contributed to the possibility today that we could have a black president. He envisioned “a great society” which, while patently liberal at its core, also included needed civil rights legislation.

So tell me. How do YOU classify or verbally describe your opinion of a man who seeks social improvements for the poor and the minority, yet does nothing to stop a full scale war which he privately told his friends (there are recordings of this) that “we can’t win” and “is a lose – lose situation”? He said these things before the war had begun. But it was also during those 11 months before he was legitimately elected as Kennedy’s successor, so any action to draw public attention to a pending struggle against communism would force his hand. He’d either have to be a war-monger or a softie on communism, either label most likely causing his defeat in the election.

“Get me through November,” he told a group of generals at a Christmas party in December of 63, “and you can have your war.” (Stanley Karnow’s “Vietnam”)

I am no less a sinner than was Lyndon Johnson, nor less of one than OCCUPANT, and I shudder at the thought of having to make the decisions these men make each day. But my selfishness has not yet caused the deaths of 68,000 Americans and many times that in total human life. LBJ did not take us to Vietnam. He did not start the war that drove the French from that region. He did not create the greater struggle between communism and democracy for global dominance. Nor did he put the first few thousand of our U.S. soldiers into Vietnam. But he was confident that we would lose a war there and he whispered so. It apparently bothered him, but he reasoned it was more important to lose tens of thousands of lives and take hundreds of thousands more, than to be ousted from office, because what good can you do if you aren’t in office at all?

So watch what you write during lunch. You could kill a country.

It’s time to throw away my empty Ramen containers.

  • Yeah, what good *can* you do if you’re not in office? I know I’m pretty worthless.

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