Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Reporter - Part 5: October 20, 1955

The first thing one might notice about this edition of The Reporter is that the cover art has no connection to the banner headline. The small print beneath the headline reads “The Troubles on Israel’s Frontiers", which accounts for the cover art.

"The Turning Point” in the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower is explained by the opening paragraph of the title editorial by Max Ascoli:

What happened to the President and to the nation on that Saturday, September 24, can perhaps best be defined by the common-law term “act of God,” taken in its most literal religious sense. On that day a Power infinitely beyond our calculations stunned us all by affecting the beat of one man’s heart.

That is to say, Ike had a heart attack. The second paragraph goes on to say:

It turned out to be no more than a gentle warning both to the President and to the people, but it has been enough to convey the notion that while the Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower may well run through its full course, it will surely not be continued into a second term.

Well, so much for that article. As we know, Ike not only finished his first term—weak ticker, or not—but he did run again, in 1956, and win. And he finished that term, too.

The following (and related) article, by Sidney Hyman, entitled “The Founding Fathers and Presidential Disability” goes on at great length concerning what should be done if Ike’s heart snapped again, disabling him without killing him outright. Constitutionally, who gets to make the call that the POTUS is mentally or physically unable to do the job? This had come up before; both Woodrow Wilson and FDR come to mind in that respect, and Eisenhower’s heart attack had raised the issue again. (But not that interestingly.)

As for Israel’s border crisis. The map of Israel embedded in the text of the article, coupled with hindsight, describes it pretty well:

We’ll just let that picture be worth a thousand words, remember what geography the Israelis acquired in subsequent wars, and move on.

The letters to the editor section includes missives concerning the article on modern jazz (that I criticized in Part 4) by two prominent writers on the subject—Nat Hentoff and Whitney Balliett—both of whom pretty much agreed with what I had to say about it.

Our common thread, Sidney Alexander, pans Norman Mailer’s new novel The Deer Park. I have to agree that The Deer Park is a piece of shit by Mailerian standards. The title of Alexander’s review is “Not Even Good Pornography”. While this leads one to wonder just what kind of pornography Alexander preferred, back in the day, I also found it amusing that a novel like The Deer Park could be considered quasi-pornographic. There’s worse on primetime TV in this day and age.

The final article from this issue that I’ll mention is a travelogue about Haiti by Sabine Gova. In the final sections of the piece, the author gets onto the topic of most probable interest to Americans—voodoo and (gasp!) zombies. She has met a talkative native named Justin Villefonte in the dining room of the pension at which she is staying. He turns out to be a lawyer, educated at the Sorbonne. He has (we learn) enemies among the houngans—the voodoo priests—a situation about which he will speak only guardedly. At one point in the discussion he offers this:
"I want to make known that we Africans have solutions to offer where the white scientists are still guessing. Psychiatric solutions, psychological solutions, even medical perhaps…they are in the hands of the houngans. It’s the houngans who know more about the so-called wonder drugs than the entire scientific world." Now, here come the zombies.
He tells her of “the use of substances which do not kill but produce a cataleptic state” and of “the burying of a person treated with such a drug” whom the houngan later disinters to exist as “a mere robot without thought or will.” Villefonte hopes to make such things available to modern medicine. Thus, he has earned the wrath of the powerful houngan priestly cult.
Hm. ...whom the houngan later disinters... Can you dig it? X