The Plot Against America a book report and a reality check by Gilad Atzmon
As it happened, on the day the Iranian President decided to share his thoughts regarding the legitimacy of the Jewish state with some four thousand students, I picked up Philip Roth’s latest book. This was nothing but a mere coincidence. Already a year ago, I was advised by a few friends to pay attention to Roth’s ‘Plot Against America’. The chunky hardcover book was awaiting my attention beside my bed since last Christmas, yet somehow I couldn’t find the time and energy to launch into a journey through Roth’s imaginary world. It was only a chance occurrence that just when I decided to begin my solitary walk through Roth’s labyrinth, the entire international community joined forces against President Ahmadinejad. But it wasn’t just the international community that voiced its indignation on cue, it was principally every Western media outlet and even the odd Palestinian opportunist politician who was probably craving for a glimpse of CNN exposure.
It wasn’t easy for me to watch the Iranian president being bashed from every possible direction. At the end of the day, I tend agree with president Ahmadinejad. In my writings and interviews I keep challenging the Jewish state’s right to exist. This isn’t to say that the Israeli people should be wiped out. As far as I am concerned, President Ahmadinejad was clearly referring to the state of Israel rather than its people. Considering the crimes committed by the Jewish state, this is rather a fair and legitimate political comment.
Not only did the president have the right to say what he said, he was basically repeating the Western post war ideological liberal mantra. As we all know, Western left thinking sees its minimum common denominator as being against racism and nationalism. For those who fail to realise it, Israel is racist and fanatically nationalist. It is racist because it legally favours what it classifies as the Jewish race. Its nationalism is fanatical because it adopts the notorious Lebensraum philosophy at the expense of other nations and peoples. Clearly President Ahmadinejad had a valid argument at his disposal. Moreover, following Western liberal philosophy, the Jewish state should have been wiped out a long time ago. But then, rather than supporting the spirit of the Iranian president’s remark, the entire Western world denounced and condemned him.
While the world was enthusiastically engaged in giving the Israeli government a green light to attack the emerging Iranian nuclear plant, something that would necessarily lead towards an escalation of the war against Islam, I was diving into Philip Roth’s plot.
Roth is no doubt an astonishing writer but somehow he has always failed to convince me. I always had the feeling that Roth is just too aware of his enormous talent; something that made him slightly technical and pretentious at times. Being a prolific writer, Roth can be slightly impersonal to my taste and yet, in his latest book he is free from that. No literary imposed tactics or strategies can be traced. In his latest book, Roth is overwhelmingly personal. Astonishingly enough, the fictional reality he conveys is so convincing that I found myself totally captivated from beginning to end. So enthralled was I, that I even managed to forget how depressing the world is out there. I avoided the anti-Iranian media blitz. I switched it off for three days and let the international community attack the Iranian president in a single Judeified voice.
‘The Plot Against America’ is a fictional tale that unwinds like a historical document enriched with personal detail. Its theme is: what would have happened if ace pilot Charles Lindbergh, the man who made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927, the man who later called Hitler ‘a great man’, and was decorated by the Führer for his services to the Reich, had run for the American presidency against Roosevelt in 1940 and managed to win? Lindbergh’s message to the American nation is a classic Republican isolationist one. ‘No more war! Never again will young Americans die on foreign soil’. The year is obviously 1940 and Lindbergh is referring to Europe and the Pacific rather than Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Iran. In Roth’s book, instead of Roosevelt being elected for an unprecedented third term, Lindbergh wins in a landslide victory. He then signs non-aggression treaties with Germany and Japan. Soon enough the charismatic Lindbergh is cheered by American society as a whole. Every American loves him except of course the Jews who are far from being happy with a ‘peace loving’ president who happens to make business with the enemies of the Jewish people. But in fact this isn’t entirely true, a single prominent liberal Rabbi named Bengelsdorf positions himself right behind the new president.
The narrator is Philip Roth himself, a seven-year-old Jewish Ghetto boy from Newark, New Jersey. He tells a story of a Jewish family encountering a major disastrous political shift. Young Phil is telling the story of father Herman, mother Bess and brother Sandy. It is a story of collective fear, a story of a Jewish family’s reaction to the rise of anti-Semitism. However, throughout the book it is very hard to determine whether anti-Semitism constitutes a real objective threat or rather something the Jews bring on themselves. This very confusion is in my opinion the greatest literary asset of the book.
Roth is sketching a very deep and complex narrative in which each family member responds differently to the ‘devastating’ historical circumstances. Once again, Roth managed to convey an interesting image of the difficult amalgam of the Jewish identity both psychologically and sociologically. Like most American Jews, Herman the father is overtly pessimistic from the very beginning. He wouldn’t give Lindbergh even a single day of mercy. However, he is a proud patriotic American. He demands his civil rights. Were he in our midst, he would criticise the emerging catastrophic reality applying to the American liberal ideology. The mother Bess is far more practical, she tries to maintain the family’s sanity, behaving as if life must go on. More than anything else, she must calm down her righteous husband. Phil’s brother Sandy is a gifted painter and assumes a very interesting role. In the summer he disappears for an "apprenticeship" with a tobacco farmer in Kentucky. In a way he makes it into the heart of America. Later he is joining a new assimilation scheme by encouraging Jewish city boys to follow his example. This program is put together by Rabbi Bengelsdorf, the devoted supporter of Lindbergh. Sandy is doing very well, eventually he is invited to a reception at the White House. This is obviously far more than Herman can take. For Herman, the democratically elected American president is nothing but an enemy of the Jews and he refuses to give his son permission to go to Washington. The tension between family members threatens the stability of the family itself, which is on the brink of falling apart. However, all that time, America has been kept out of the war. American boys aren’t dying in a far away country. American people are very happy but somehow the Jewish Americans aren’t.
All the way through the book father Herman is portrayed as a paranoid Ghetto Jew. He is totally single minded in interpreting reality, he is overly tragic. But he isn’t alone in his obsession. Alongside his Newark Jewish Ghetto neighbours he draws a lot of support from the famous Jewish journalist and broadcaster Walter Winchell who is spreading his anti-Lindbergh poison to the nation. It doesn’t take long before Winchell is stripped of his positions as a journalist, first in the printed press and later in his prime time radio slot. But Winchell won’t surrender; once he loses his job, he decides to run for the presidency. Winchell, the Jew, decides to reshape the American future. In other words, he is determined to take America into war in Europe. Within a short time into his campaign, Winchell is assassinated. Again, the reader may wonder whether the assassination is an anti-Semitic act or rather a punishment Winchell and the Jews insist upon bringing on themselves.
All the way through most of the book I couldn’t make up my mind whether the plot against America is a Jewish or rather a Nazi one. Clearly most of America into war that may serve their cause or if it was Hitler who employs an agent in the very centre of the American administration as the mastermind behind the plot. When time is ripe, young Phil provides us with a shadow of an answer.
Towards the very end of the book Lindbergh disappears with his private fighter plane without leaving a trace. Mysteriously, the wreckage of his plane has never been found. No forensic evidence can suggest what happened to him. Foreign governments volunteer their versions: the Brits blame the Nazis for kidnapping the president, the Nazis suggest that it was ‘Roosevelt and his Jews’ who abducted the American hero. These suggestions are all highly charged, unfounded gossip that are there to serve an international political cause. However, Roth deliberately decides to leave us with a very personal account. We hear Rabbi Bengelsdorf’s account told by his wife Evelyn who happens to be Philip’s aunt. Brilliantly, Roth’s historical narrative takes the shape of modern ‘Jewish history’. History is then reduced to a mere personal account in the shape of gossip devoid of any factual or forensic reference.
Following Rabbi Bengelsdorf’s account, we are entitled to assume that Lindbergh was indeed a Nazi agent. Anyhow, this is the time to remind us that Roth’s President Lindbergh is a fictional character. In fact Lindbergh, the real man, was an American hero, a man who ended the Second World War as a P38 combat pilot at the age of 42. ‘The Plot Against America’ is a fictional tale, Lindbergh wasn’t a traitor, he was an American patriot who happened, like many others, to have admired Hitler for a while. Lindbergh was an American nationalist who loved his people and truly believed that his country should stay out of the ‘Jewish War’. Roth’s Lindbergh is indeed imaginary, but the Jewish collective paranoia isn’t. It is very real. Moreover, the Jewish intent upon shaping American reality is more than real. Most importantly, while the Nazi plot to run America is totally fictional, the Jewish Plot to run America is now more vivid than ever. Nowadays, when the American army is acting as an Israeli mission force in the Middle East, when Syria and Iran are just about to be flattened by Anglo-American might, it is rather clear what the real meaning of the ‘Plot Against America’ may be.
I read Philip Roth’s book while the entire international community was standing shoulder to shoulder behind the war criminal Sharon. While in Roth’s book the Herman Roths and the Walter Wichells were expecting America to sacrifice its best sons on the Jewish altar, we are now watching the entire world joining the Jewish war against Islam. It is rather depressing to see our Western politicians enthusiastically adopting the most corrupt version of Jewish morality: a totally blind worldview based on supremacist endorsement of the justice of the stronger. Clearly, there is no isolationist Lindbergh to save us all. Unfortunately, there is not even a single Rabbi Bengelsdorf to suggest an alternative friendly human Jewish morality.
By the time I put Roth’s book down, the storm around the Iranian president subsided somehow. The Jewish world and the Jewish state had another great victory to be cheerful about. The UN's General Assembly has passed a resolution designating 27 January as the annual ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’ throughout the world.
Why the 27th of January? Because this is the day Auschwitz was liberated. The resolution also rejects any denial that the Holocaust was a historical event in which the mass murder of six million Jews and other victims by Nazi Germany during World War II took place. Seemingly, the UN has a new role, while for years it has been engaged in securing world peace, now it is mainly concerned with securing Jewish history. No doubt, a very nice present for the Jewish state, a state that holds the highest record for failing to comply with UN resolutions.
By the time I put Roth’s book down I am more or less ready to learn my lesson. Once again I failed to acknowledge that suffering is an exclusive, internal Jewish affair. No one is allowed entry, neither the Palestinians of Gaza’s concentration camp, nor the massacred inhabitants of Fallujah and Tikrit. One million victims of Rwanda are obviously out, two million in Vietnam are out as well, so are the innocent civilians of Hamburg, Hiroshima, Dresden and Nagasaki and millions of others who were killed in the name of democracy. By the time Roth’s ‘Plot Against America’ finds its way onto my bookshelf, I agree with myself at least: A young Rabbi Begelsdorf is long overdue. If we are being Judeified, we may as well take the best of Judaism rather than its supremacist brutality, namely Zionism. By the time Roth’s tome is resting I realize as well that the current plot isn’t just against America. It is a plot against humanity and human dignity