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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—One of our local newspapers commented editorially the other day on the way a number of Congressmen have been "rewriting" the history of recent events in Spain. I would add, indeed, that some of them have succeeded in rewriting Spanish history in a way which must astonish even the Spaniards—nowadays an ever more restless people.

Some of these Congressmen, congratulating the people of Spain on their dictator, Generalissimo Franco, patted themselves on the back over the fact that the U.S. had such a "reliable ally." One of them, Rep. Cornelius E. Gallagher (D., N.J.), called for a "pragmatic view," whatever that may be, of Franco's alliance with Hitler. This was in an effort, of course, to make us forget that Franco had been placed in power in the battle against the democratic forces of Spain—a battle in which Hitler's andMussolini's troops, who were our enemies, along with a small Spanish military minority put down the democratic Spanish revolution.

By that time, the only help to the Spanish democrats came from the Communists, and hence it was a Communist-controlled movement that was put down. Our Congressmen, however, forgetting everything that had gone before, consider that Franco's dictatorship was really a triumph against communism. One sometimes wishes that our Congressmen, before they make speeches in an effort to rewrite history, could go back and read the newspaper files of the day.

One is somewhat taken aback to find that this dictatorship has been praised by Congressmen Rooney, Anfuso, Santangelo and Celler, all of New York. I am sure Congressmen Rooney has a perfectly good explanation, for I know of no more plausible a gentleman. But I am a little surprised to see Congressman Celler defend a dictator of the Franco type, and would be interested to know why. I know, to be sure, that we have military bases in Spain. Constructed at great expense, we believed they would be of great importance to NATO. Here, in case of war, would be a striking base to reach areas of the world quickly that we could not reach from the U.S.

That is no longer true. We can now reach almost any area directly from home, just as others can now reach us. Hence our strategic air bombers constantly patrol the world to protect us from the Soviet Union, whose patrols in turn protect the Soviet Union from us. These are today important, whereas our bases in Spain are relatively not—even though our military people may want to keep up the fiction and even though, from the point of view of NATO, they may still be a convenience. But this does not make it necessary for our N.Y. Congressmen to perjure themselves and incorrectly rewrite the history of the past.

Could it be that Franco's type of rule seems more familiar to some of our old-time N.Y. politicians? The prisons of Spain are filling up with those who happen to belong to the party opposing Franco. Unconsciously, perhaps, some autocratic Congressmen might like to be able to use some of the methods of the dictator. They might find it convenient to jail our opposition leaders—or, say, just put them in before a primary and let them out the day after!

In any event, we must be alert to public statements that distort the facts of history. We have come to accept almost anything which anyone does and we almost seem to wipe out of our minds the fact that they have done it. People's memories are so short that by the time an official runs for the next election no one will remember what he said in his last campaign or what he has done in the intervening time. That is why we reelect people whose actions we disapprove of. It is just too much bother to remember even for a year or more.

If Congressmen rewrite history at home in a way that has very little relation to the facts, and get up on the floor of Congress and rewrite the history of Spain in a way which has even less relation to the facts, in both cases you and I are responsible—because we never get up and scream about the nonsense we are being fed.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 8, 1962

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.