Vanguard Spotlight Book of the Month: May 2017

Monthly Reads from ASU-Beebe Students, Faculty and Staff.

Faculty/Staff/Student Favorites

Each month Abington Library will feature a favorite book from a faculty, staff member, or student. They will give a brief synopsis of their chosen book.

Featured ASU-Beebe Faculty Member: Ticu Gamalie

About Ticu

Ticu Gamalie is an assistant professor of math and physics at ASU-Beebe.

About the Book

There are vocations and then there are avocations

Physics and science would be the vocation for me, but I must admit that I am a sap for history and particularly I love those “What if’s ...” of history.  I know that these “What if’s “were called by reputable historians and “an Idle parlor game”, but I cannot help it.  Just imagine some questions and their possible outcomes:

a) What if Christianity missed the West? Effect: The Enlightenment starts early – and lasts a thousand years.

b) What if the Romans won the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest? Effect: No one would speak English.

c) What if President Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt? Effect: Republicans win every election for the next 30 years.

Even for a Physics aficionado like myself, these are alluring subjects.

That’s why that when my colleague Brian Weaver proposed for our book-club Phillip’s Roth book “The Plot Against America” I was the only one who did not complain about the length (380 pages on the cover edition, which had to be finished in just one month especially just before the Finals would start!). That’s because the subject is a fascinating scenario:

What if Charles Lindbergh were elected President in 1940? Effect: America joins the Nazis.

Philip Roth’s bestselling novel, gives us an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh, trans-Atlantic pilot, and all-American hero, becomes the Republican presidential candidate in 1940, defeating the incumbent Franklin Roosevelt. President Lindbergh, a white supremacist and anti-Semite, declares martial law, throws his opponents in prison, and allies with Nazi Germany in World War II.

But first of all, and you might well ask, what happens to America? To make this plausible, Roth must rearrange the 1940 Republican convention. There is a persuasive actuality to the way Lindbergh captures the electorate's imagination by flying from city to city. You can just about imagine Lindbergh's having the same effect on the American backwoods with his message: "Vote for Lindbergh or vote for War." Almost everybody was keen on voting against war with Germany until Japan attacked, and if Hitler had been less crazy he would never have declared war on the United States (which the terms of his treaty with Japan did not oblige him to do). If he hadn't, Roosevelt might have had a hard job getting America into the war – that was the true fork in history.

Roth's preparation of an alternative history is just a rearrangement of the furniture. The challenge is not easily met, because America was never Germany. In the United States, where the separation of powers is the fundamental principle of the Constitution, not even the most charismatic President could have instituted, in peacetime, racially selective federal laws without the approval of Congress. Had Lindbergh set about to gain such approval, he would have had to sway the media, not to mention Hollywood.

Without giving too much of the subject I would tell you that the plot would involve that President Lindbergh was blackmailed by a hostile foreign power which some people with a malicious sense of humor might find it quite funny in the actual political context.

For the reasons mentioned above and for many more which you will discover only after the actual lecture I would recommend this book as a pleasant reading for your summer vacation.

Ticu Gamalie

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