Jim's Reviews > The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-72

The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester
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's review
Jul 07, 2010

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bookshelves: history, to-read

Partway through this epic American narrative, describing the years between 1932 and 1972, I have two main impressions. The first is described by the aphorism "the more things change, the more they stay the same." The second is a new take on Karl Marx's philosophy on winning hearts and minds and going communist; "Two steps forward and one step back." Before I embark on the themes, I will give a little of an overview of volume I.

Opening with a discussion of the Depression and the failure of Hoover policies, he segues into the election of FDR in 1932. Brushing upon all the major points, the Depression, the New Deal, WWII, the Manhattan Project, Truman, Korea, and finally Eisenhower, the first volume ends in 1954 with the entangling alliances that led to Viet Nam and the defeat of the French in Dien Ben Phu.

In addition to covering the political strategies and tactics used in creating and combating the main events, he presents interesting vignettes about the social climate and ties in how it influences the policies of each era. While reading, Manchester sparked my interest in a number of areas about which I know little and have decided to read more about. These include:

Amelia Earhart and her disappearance. Manchester made the assertion that the government at the time not only suspected the Japanese had a hand in her death, he seemed to indicate that everybody thought that. My only recollection is that her disappearance was always a mystery.

The Hurricane that wiped out the northeast as events in Europe were heating up really intrigued me. Apparently, the news about the devastation made the headlines for a couple of days and was lost to history, washed aside by the fall of Czechoslovakia.

Orson Welles' War of the Worlds is well known, but the impact it had on the populace is astounding. I think I will read more of that. I remember one Halloween listening to a rebroadcast of the show and I was afraid even knowing it was a "hoax" back when first portrayed.

The Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb and the subsequent hydrogen bomb was very interesting, pointing out how little I know about that part of our history.

As far as the grand themes go, the first is in comparison to the 21st Century political situation. The politics of left and right seem not to have changed very much. The leftist elitists are always smarter (as in more nuanced) than their straight forward, backwater rightist counterparts. It is hard to tell where Manchester sits, but he seemed to be a little to the left of center in general in his assessments of the policies, although he was fair in describing the failures of the New Deal. He did however toe the Democrat view of the Forgotten Man. He, and FDR, describe the forgotten man as the poor working class schlub who needs hand. The real forgotten man is the person whose money is taken, by those who know better (FDR) and given to the poor working class schlub, the taxpayer in essence.

This philosophy is being replayed today with the rise of the takers at the expense of the producers. The class warfare pitting the elite "Ruling class" against the "Country class" is at the core of Obamacare. It is interesting to note that socialized medicine has always been the goal of the left, which brings me to my second theme of "two steps forward, one step back." The best way to get a radical agenda passed is to push really hard for something impossible, then accept a minor concession to get you one step closer to your goal.

Taking the idea a step further, I picture the country as being trapped in a whirlpool. In 1789 traversing the edge of the vortex was barely noticeable, but the ship of state since then has constantly been circling the drain. At some points, the country seems to be on track and things seem to be going well, but we are drifting ever downward in ever shortening rotations. The problems are coming ever faster and it is more impossible every cycle to even conceive of a way out. While our forefathers may not have perceived the dilemma, we can see that we are stuck and destined for destruction, but cannot even see rest of the surface of the water and have no hope of ever reaching it again.

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Reading Progress

02/26/2011 page 28
03/08/2011 page 57
4.0% "I know I am moving slowly on this, but the Cities in Flight is taking all my reading time. Hopefully, I can devote more time to serious stuff soon."
04/25/2011 page 632
45.0% "Great profile on Edward Murrow."
05/04/2011 page 845
60.0% "Yay, I am done. Woo hoo, uh? Sorry? Volume II? Um, oh yeah. Sigh, guess I am only 60% done. There is still volume II to go. I am going to keep that on the shelf for awhile so I can decompress. I will post a slightly more than half done review later." 1 comment
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