manager. West is described as “the rugged son of an East Texas tenant farmer who had fought his way to the top,” and who “had never been timorous in letting the world, especially Roosevelt’s world, know exactly where he stood.” It was while Haley was working for West that the rancher was burned in a very slick, perhaps shady business deal with the Johnsons. This is perhaps the seed of Haley’s personal animosities against the President. But his attacks on “those big businessmen more anxious to suck the teat of government subsidy than to rustle for themselves on the ranges of free enterprise” are deeply rooted in the American tradition. Haley’s philosophical position predates Joe McCarthy and Robert Welch. It even predates Father Coughlin and his Coughlinites. Let me quote two passages which could be integrated into A Texan Looks at Lyndon without the slightest contradiction: We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral political and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized. . . . The newspapers are largely subsidized and muzzled, public opinion silenced. A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forbodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute despotism. These quotes are taken verbatim from the Populist platform of 1892.. The fact that the powers the Populists revolted against were conservative, and those who arouse Haley’s ire are liberal, is totally incidental; the revolt is against authority itself. This hypothesis as to Haley’s political roots is not important at all, though, unless we realize that Haley’s is much more than a strain of political provincialism. It is a strain of black romanticism, or sensual puritanism is you wish, which runs through the whole fabric of American experience. We cannot realize the real danger this kind of thinking presents to our society unless we recognize the schizophrenia of American thought with regard to it. Our govetnment springs from the Age of the Enlightenment, of reason, while a large body of our literature springs from the dicta of the nineteenth century and the apocalyptic vision of the romantics. No other country has maintained such a schism for so long. The prejudices we damn in Haley we praise in poets. The virtues we praise perhaps in President Johnson are those whe damn in poets. It is not bad to damn business, to praise the soil, to loathe cynicism and compromise if you are a poet, nor is it evil to chastise passion, imprudent action, “extremism” if you wish, if you happen to be a statesman. Do the prejudices of William Faulkner and J. Evetts Haley differ in kind or merely in quality? There is a good argument either way, but the point is that there is an argument. D. H. Lawrence asked this question in another way in his introduction to his studies of American literature: What did the Pilgrim Fathers come for, then, when they came so gruesomely over the black sea? Oh, it was in a black spirit. A black revulsion from Europe, from the old authority of Europe,’ from kings and bishops and popes. And more. They were black masterful men, they wanted something else. No kings, no bishops maybe. Even no God Almighty. But also no more of this new “humanity” which followed the Renaissance. None of this new liberty which was to be so pretty in Europe. Something grimmer, by no means free-andeasy. I don’t know of a better statement of this contradiction in our society. Here perhaps is why we can praise Eleanor Wylie when she writes, “Deep in the Puritan marrow of my bones, there is something in this lushness that I hate,” and damn Haley when he says the same thing; why we can publish little magazines with attacks on the John Birch Society interspersed with poems exhorting the ripping apart of roofbeams and an invitation of the apocalypse. The public and private characters of many Americans are unalterably opposed. We say yes when Thoreau proposes that any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one, but laugh when Haley proposes that “in her healthy intuitive wisdom, America knows the truth.” This is the real bone of contention between Haley and Johnson. It is the conflict of reason and intuition in public affairs. Haley writes: Lyndon Baines Johnson has repeatedly said that man’s best “hope lies in the realm of reason.” With no desire whatever to argue his point of view, the authoras a weary chronicler of history and a battered cowboy of the I append a brief comment, auxiliary to Mr. Hickey’s review, on Haley’s pamphlet. Haley’s way of using footnotes disguises the slipperiness of his method. Instead of footnoting each of his assertions of vital new fact, or ostensible fact, he specifies groups of sources that he says undergird long passages. Released from precise documentation by this method, he asserts as facts contentions that have not been established and builds rumors into interpretations that would collapse without them. For instance, he asserts that Johnson telephoned George Parr and received indications that Parr might pick up, in Precinct 13 in Alice, the margin of votes Johnson needed to win the close 1948 Senate election, although in fact not one of the inquirers into that election has provided any proof that Johnson personally solicited or caused anyone to change the returns from Box 13. Rumor-mongering, Haley uses, for example, these phrases: “The story is still told that . . .”; “it was reported . . .”; “There is a .pertistent but completely unconfirmed story that . . .”; “There is a persistent belief that . . .”; “it is said . . .”; “By report . . .”; “is said to have retorted . . .”. He even brazens to say of one matter, “Many people wonder . . . what proportion may have been a payoff.” Where two damaging constructions are available he may choose them both, even though they are mutually contradictory. For instance, he follows one report that Johnson sent word to Kennedy at Los Angeles that he, Johnson, deserved the vice-presidency and intended to get it, but on a facing page sunlit ranges of Texas, feeling no personal obligation for logical defense of his own spiritual faithsimply wishes to say that he could not be more confirmed , in disagreement. In the context of our form of government, I believe that most readers would side with the President in this conflict, but it is not so foolish a question to ask what would your opinion be if Lyndon Baines Johnson and J. Evetts Haley were novelists. I. AM NOT SUGGESTING the return of literature to Pope or the, return of government to the Sun King. I am merely pointing out that this apocalyptic tradition has existed as long as America has and that its intrusion into the realm of public affairs is not something that can be destroyed by name-calling. The apocalyptic politician, like the apocalyptic artist, thrives on rejection, it is a badge of his rightness. It must be recognized for what it is ; the translation of perfectly valid, traditional private American attitudes into the public sphere. As they stand, this translation is potentially dangerous to the maintenance of a civil society. So our job is to negotiate, to communicate, to neutralize and modify these positions into their public equivalents, if we wish to retain “sweet reason” in our government and “black passion” in our literature. recounts a fantasy that “some responsible students of Johnson’s career are convinced that he accepted second place for money.” Most conclusively for Haley’s standing among fair-minded men, he unmistakably, sometimes with astonishingly naked innuendo, leaves implications of, but does not allege, vague connections between Johnson and a number of the gravest felonies, although there is no evidence of such connections. Johnson’s past is checkered, and there are many good questions about it that have been asked before and will be again, as they must be. But to hyperconservative Haley, Johnson is an “evil genius,” a Caesar who “sold out” Texas, “betrayed America,” and is “a traitor to the South”in short, to _Haley Johnson is all bad: not a person at all, but an abstract embodiment of evil. His pamphlet is fundamentally irresponsible because it violates, time after time, the obvious precept that one never assumes, asserts, or implies to be true an unproved suspicion that would be gravely damaging if it was confirmed. It is fundamentally caricature because it fails to conceive Johnson as a real human being. None of this would matter. much if all it amounted to was Haley’s exposure of himself as an incorrigible Johnson-hater.. The broadside’s mast circulation by the John Birch Society and the eager public it has found means something much more disturbing than J. Evetts Haley about our national situation, present and future. R.D. September 18, 1964 An Auxiliary Comment
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