Ball Four, Hitler’s Poker Games & the Snowden Revelations: The Truths that Make Us Free

“Most good history does this, stands the standard narrative on its head, whether it’s Colin Calloway’s books about American Indians, Ilan Pappe’s revisions of official Israeli history or contemporary accounts of slavery in the American South by Frederick Law Olmsted. Noam Chomsky does it for just about any modern period of American history, and any number of younger journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, and Jeremy Scahill, to name just three, are busy correcting the official lies we are fed on a daily basis. It’s a good time for truth….”

My latest at Eclectica.

Ball Four, Hitler’s Poker Games & the Snowden Revelations: The Truths that Make Us Free

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About Thomas J. Hubschman

Thomas J. Hubschman is the author of Look at Me Now, My Bess, Song of the Mockingbird, Billy Boy, Father Walther’s Temptation, The Jew’s Wife & Other Stories and three science fiction novels. His work has appeared in New York Press, The Antigonish Review, Eclectica, The Blue Moon Review and many other publications. Two of his short stories were broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Posted on April 20, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m been thinking about this since you first posted it some weeks ago. I only half agree. Yes, the truth will make us free. But all your examples suggest that the truth is inevitably a bitter pill to swallow, that it inevitably involves the dark side of human behavior.

    But the truth is far more complex than that — and I know from the other things you have written that you know that. Sometimes the truth is gob-smackingly beautiful. Sometimes it reflects a generosity, a creativity, an altruism or simply an unexpected dynamism that is exhilarating, spectacular, stunning.

    To take just one of your examples – medicine. Yes, medical advertisements today sometimes suggest outlandish promises. You would almost think that you can eat, drink, use drugs, and sit around doing nothing, and a pill will eliminate the slightest inconvenience. But medicine has also developed vaccines for polio and measles, and has wiped small post from the face of the earth. Medicine has reduced the death rate of both mothers and new-borns dramatically. Medicine has contributed to increased life expectancy around the world. Personally, cataract surgery has changed my life.

    Even the atomic bomb. I wish we hadn’t dropped it. And I am not so naive to argue that the desire for revenge and power were not underlying factors. But do you really think Truman decided to authorize its use because it had been so expensive to develop? Personally I would need a little more evidence than the fact that the accusation is so unpalatable.

    Interested to know what you think. Am I missing something?

    Terry
    PS: I like your new photo.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write such a careful, considered response, Terry.

    You’re quite right. The truth need not always be a negative, a “bitter pill.” It’s the surprise of it, I think, that I find so liberating, even when it turns out to be atrocious. I suppose I also take a perverse delight in seeing things turned on their heads, not matter what that entails. Sometimes, I admit, I do get angry or even depressed by new revelations. But, mostly I have a sense of things falling into place. The idea that we would incinerate two civilian populations at least in part because we would have been embarrassed not to use a weapon we had spent so much time and money on, is not of the same order of convincingness, I admit. But, the quote from the Air Force general (sorry I can’t provide a name) about doing more or less the same thing in Vietnam (killing far more people, though with “conventional” bombs) seemed to demonstrate that the mindset of 1945 was still alive a few decades later, whatever the actual reasons for dropping the A-bombs were (scaring the bejeezus out of the USSR must have been one).

    The truths of science, and art, are indeed gob-smackingly beautiful, and I delight in them, especially when they run contrary to common sense or even to the physical laws of the world we live in. I recently viewed a video of Richard Feynman in which he explained how a computer works (back in the ’80s, to a bunch of nouvaux-hippie UC students sitting on the floor in front of him). It exploded any possibility of believing that a computer in any way “thinks.” I already knew most of the information he offered, but his description, which relied on a single analogy to illustrate what he was saying, made the “truth” brilliantly clear, and hence a delight.

    I delight not just in truth, Terry, but in contrariness. It annoys even people who love me, and I don’t blame them one bit. It’s a deep part of my psychology, always has been. That’s probably why I glom onto the sort of things I do: the opposite versions of accepted historical narrative, for instance, whether it’s the greed of economic failures like George Washington who wanted a break with Britain because the crown wouldn’t let him engage in land speculation in places like Ohio following the French and Indian War (Jefferson was another such, along with many others of our other secular saints of that period) or Richard Rothstein’s revelation about the policies of racial segregation mandated by the Federal Housing Administration, the creation of FDR, another secular saint, at least for liberals.

    These are the kind of truths that catch my interest and motivate me to share them (you should pity my wife). And, it seems almost any truth can be turned on its head. Sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing the reality that was there all along which I failed to notice, like the subjects of that naked king.

    I could go on and on. Thanks again for your response. I was waiting for it.

    • Oh, I recognize the type! I grew up in a family half of whom I think were genetically predisposed to see the dark side and half to see the positive side. Whatever else, I think it gave me an appreciation of the value of seeing more than one point of view — especially about really important issues. As you say, almost any truth can be turned on its head.

      In my family, I think the pessimists resided primarily on the German side; the Poles were the optimists. Maybe it boils down to one’s supply of happy chemicals like serotonon?

      Thank you, too, for your response to my comment. Actually, I rather suspect we are pretty much on the same page, even if, for myself, I prefer doubt while you may have a preference for what you call contrariness.

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