Thursday, March 21, 2024

#81 / 1942

I began reading The Darkest Year on my trip to Minnesota last summer - a trip that I have previously identified as one of last year's "high points." I just finished the book in early January of this year, and I must say, by way of a truncated book report, that Klingaman's book was oddly cheering. 

Gloomy? Absolutely! What was somewhat uplifting, however, was the comparison I naturally made between the America described as of 1942 and the America in which I live today. Things, in other words, might have been bad, back then, in the year before I was even born, and here we are - and they're still bad!

Not too much to worry about, then. Business as usual!

Checking up on what Klingaman has otherwise written, I found that he pretty much specializes in the discussion of how horrible things really are. Clicking that link will take you to a website maintained by Publishers Weekly, which provides an overview of what Klingaman has written. His books include:

Because I do want this to be a "truncated" book report, not a more exhaustive listing of all the horrible things that were happening in 1942, I have decided not to document all those bad things. If you'd like to know, please feel free to read The Darkest Year yourself. Suffice it to say that selfishness, lack of social solidarity (even in the face of the attack on Pearl Harbor and our entry into World War II), and rampant juvenile crime and delinquency, were all features of the social scene - and that is significantly to shorten the list of all those "bad things" that were happening, keeping that "bad things" list to just a few, among many, of the items that Klingaman documents. 

I have always had the impression that World War II brought everyone together, with President Roosevelt enjoying almost universal support as "Dr. Win-The-War." Not so - at least not in 1942!

Looking around at our contemporary political, social, and economic landscape, and looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, many have the feeling that this is "democracy's last chance." 

Well, maybe we have chosen to double down on our worries, and things aren't quite as bad as we are tempted to believe. It's a nice thought, anyway. It's oddly cheering. There is a well-known expression that captures the thought: "Misery loves company." Reading the Op-Ed columns in the newspapers to which I subscribe does have me thinking that everyone is in agreement that things are horrible and are getting worse.

Klingaman mentions Johnny Mercer in The Darkest Year. Mercer was complaining, in 1942, that he wasn't able to write songs anymore, because gasoline rationing meant he couldn't drive around the countryside, and doing that is how he got his inspiration. I have featured Mercer before, in a blog posting that warned against the "cultivation of political despair." He is prominently featured in that "high points" and "low points" blog post, too.

Like I have been saying, here, The Darkest Hour is oddly cheering. Mercer's suggestion, in a song written in 1945, which proved he survived the creative desert caused by gasoline rationing, is good advice. It is a "good word" from a time that was not all that different from our own: 

Accentuate the Positive
Eliminate The Negative
Latch On To The Affirmative
Don't Mess With Mister In-Between

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!