Downward Spiral


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downward spiral Franklin Delano Roosevelt

       Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of our countries best known and most
beloved presidents.  He is commonly remembered for taking a tired, beaten,
nation and instilling hope in it.   This positive view of Roosevelt is held
by Burns, who paints the picture of a man whose goal was to alleviate our
nation's economic pains. But, is this view too myopic?  Is Roosevelt
deserving of  such a godly reputation?  These questions are posed by Conkin
as he points out the discrimination that underlies many New Deal programs,
and even suggests that many of Roosevelt's actions were for purely political
motives.  
       During the weeks preceding Roosevelt's inauguration the country was engaged
in an economic crisis that was quickly spiraling downward.  Banks failed,
people panicked, and the nation looked to someone, anyone, for help.
Hoover, sensing the country's desperation, but realizing his lack of power,
and the feelings of resentment harbored towards him looked to Roosevelt.  He
asked the president-elect to join in economic planning, support policies,
and most importantly to reassure the nation.  While both authors note
Roosevelt's unwillingness to cooperate with Hoover they site different
reasons for it.  Burns talks of Roosevelt's belief that the nation was not
yet his domain, and that Hoover had the authority to handle the situation.
In addition, Burns excuses Roosevelt by maintaining "Roosevelt did not
foresee that the banking situation would reach a dramatic climax on
Inauguration day. No man could have." (P. 148)  This position is an
exceedingly benevolent one when contrasted with Conkin's who writes
Roosevelt "did nothing, and helplessly watched the economy collapse, letting
it appear as one last result of  Republican incompetence."  This measure
allowed Roosevelt to emerge as the "nation's savior," and ally the
Democratic party with this image.
    Furthermore, the two authors differ in their assessment of the effect
of public opinion on Roosevelt's actions.  Burns gives the impression of a
president who looked to engage all in his coalition.  He states,
politically, his cabinet "catered to almost every major group."  Burns also
adds, "Roosevelt did not slavishly follow the wishes of group leaders." (P.
150).  Roosevelt is portrayed as the paragon of a humanitarian, "he wanted
to help the underdog, though not necessarily at the expense of the top dog.
He believed that private, special interests must be subordinated to the
general interest." (P. 155)  
       Conkin attempts to poke holes in this idealistic portrayal of Roosevelt.
Conversely, Conkin implies that many of Roosevelt's programs helped the top
dog,  at the expense of the underdog.  He argues, many New Deal programs
such as the AAA and NRA, ignoreed the plight of the common American, while
helping the politically more influencial sectors of the population.
Similarly, many programs such as the Wagner Act, Social Security, and the
AAA did not apply to migrant labors: those with the least political clout,
and a comparatively low rate of  voter turnout.
       I have come to be a believer in many of the arguments made by Conkin.
While Burns spends much time praising Roosevelt and focusing on his
successes, he ignores to talk about the non-existent benefits that the New
Deal brought to a significant percentage of the population.  He does not
focus on Roosevelt's policy towards blacks.  Why?  Because Roosevelt's
programs typically did not aid this sector of the population.  As noted by
Conkin Roosevelt's AAA led to an increase in unemployment among blacks, and
Roosevelt refused to support an anti-lynching bill, fearing that his support
would alienate the white Southern Democratic vote.  My support for Burns'
opinion is strengthened by my additional outside knowledge.  Roosevelt's
programs such as the CCC and PWA were not designed, to and mainly did not
include women.  Moreover, under the Roosevelt administration a law enacted
which legally allowed only one family member to hold any type of job, this
measure essentially kicked married women out of the workforce.    
       I think Conkin's argument is much more concrete than Burns'.  While Burns
focuses on high figurative language to praise Roosevelt, Conkin gives the
reader concrete examples that serve to cast doubt on this demi-god image of
the former president.  What must be understood is that Conkin does not go as
far as to denounce Roosevelt as a leader, he merely makes us look at some of
the short comings of "the New Deal President."  To quote Conkin, the man who
in my opinion said it best, "To call Roosevelt a dictator is  as
meaningless as calling him a demigod."      




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Mafia Violence

Violence can either be used as mean of attaining power or as means of revenge.  It is a highly known fact that the main focus of a stereotypical Mafia family should centre around the use of violence.  The Godfather as well as The Last Don are two novels which hold true to this focus and are interestingly enough both written by the same author:  the late Mario Puzo.  Although being written more than twenty-five years apart, the two novels almost mirror each other throughout.  For instance, near the beginning of each book the only daughter of each family gets married.  Aside from that we also see one son die in each novel as well as the husband of the familys only daughter to be killed by the family.  Throughout all these instances the only thing dissimilar regarding the two Mafia families is their reasons for violence.  A familys use of violence is determined by how much power they hold.  In The Godfather, the main purpose behind all killing and violence can be directly related to attaining power.  On the other hand, The Last Don is a novel in which all cases of violence are used for the sole purpose of revenge.  
    The killing of one of the sons in both novels by Puzo appears to be the most prominent deaths.  The unfortunate son in The Last Don, Sylvio, is a very caring and nurturing individual who wishes to have his younger sister, Rose,  marry the man of her choice.  Her first choice is the son of a rival Mafia boss.  He is a part of the Santadio clan.  For obvious business reasons Don Clericuzio does not wish his daughter to become involved with the rival son let alone have him become a part of his family.  Therefore Don Clericuzio strictly forbids Roses marriage to him.  As a means of reconciling this difference Petie meets Roses lover to seek the solution to their marriage.  On the way home after making arrangements to persuade his father to let his sister marry, Petie is sideswiped in his sportscar by a member of the Santadios and gunned to death.  The fact that the Clericuzio clan is the most powerful family in the world means that the killing of any Santadio would not be by any stretch for personal gain of wealth.  The Don of each family lays the seeds for generations to come which helps explain the future killings in this book.  It is Don Clericuzio who as an act of revenge plans the total wipeout of the Santadio family.  He lets the wedding between his daughter and the Santadios son proceed sending only his nephew Pippi to go as representation of the Clericuzios.  All goes well at the wedding as Pippi dances among his foes.  Rose and her new husband go to the wedding bed that night and only that night.  In the middle of the night a band of the Clericuzios storm the Santadio mansion and kill all of their men.  They wear masks to disguise themselves from Rose but it is to no avail as she notices Pippis wedding shoes.  In the end it is Pippi who kills Roses husband but not before the seeds of life had been planted for Roses child who was to be named Dante.  Don Clericuzio had avenged the death of his son Sylvio. Unfortunately this was only the beginning of the chain of revenge.
The after effects of the Santadio-Clericuzio war was laid to rest by all of the Clericuzios except for Rose who was deeply in love with her husband.  The hurt was evident throughout as she shunned upon the presence of anybody but her dear son Dante.  Rose ended up going mad and became a senile old woman by the time she was fourty years old.  The Clericuzio family kept the war against the Santadios quiet throughout Dantes life as well as Cross lifetime.  The exception to this was when Dantes mother would often whisper the truth about it to him.  For this Dante,..dreamed of vengeance on Pippi, and though these were fantasies, he thought them for his mothers sake. (P.429)  Cross was Pippis son and was baptized at the same time as ... more

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