Skip to main content

Some people who are well-known and widely respected in their time nevertheless slip out of the public consciousness as the days march on.  For Harry Golden, that's a particular shame, because it's not too much of a stretch to say that Harry anticipated the moment we live in when he was writing in the late 1950s.  I'd even go so far as to say that in some very small measure Harry is responsible for Barack Obama.  If nothing else, Harry's life -- from immigrant to convicted stock manipulator to famous writer, journalist and advocate for civil rights -- is a fascinating story, one that Harry himself knew could happen "Only in America."

And, as you'll see below, Harry had a knack for clarity -- a skill that would serve us well in the next few months.

Harry Goldhirsch was born in Galicia in 1902.  By 1905, his family had settled on the Lower East Side of New York.  In his early 20's, Golden ran a "bucket shop" stock brokerage that speculated on his client's purchases and skimmed profits.  He spent three years in jail for stock manipulation.

Upon release, he worked in his brother's hotel operations, then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  There, in 1942, he founded The Carolina Israelite, a sporadically-issued newspaper written entirely by Golden.  The paper became highly influential in Jewish communities throughout the country.  Golden wrote a unique mix of Jewish humor and socialist thought, espousing integration, civil and labor rights and cultural pluralism with a light touch.  His first book, a collection of his Israelite essays titled Only in America, became a best-seller and a successful play.  Golden became a regular contributer to The Nation and Commentator, a frequent television guest and a lecturer.

On the topic of integration, Golden was best known for two Swiftian ideas.  One was the Vertical Negro Plan.  Golden had noted that integration naturally occurred at the checkout line at the grocery store, but not at the Woolworth's counter.  His solution: Eliminate chairs.  The other, the White Baby Plan, involved integrating movie theaters by assigning a white baby to each black moviegoer.  The absurdity, of course, made the point.  

I have a copy of Golden's second book, For 2c Plain, that I picked up secondhand when I knew nothing of him.  It's full of reminisces about his childhood, but also includes trenchant observations about politics and the liberal causes of the late 1950s.  I'd like to share one in particular with you.  Here's Golden toward the end of an essay about the Eisenhower legacy:

...[T]he fat cats who wanted Eisenhower in the White House have no legitimate complaints about how he defended their policies... As soon as they were in the driver's seat, the professional Republicans knew that "creeping socialism" was here to stay; they knew that if they so much as suggested tampering with social security the working people who got them to Washington were going to get them out just as quickly.  But Eisenhower was still braving the blasts and talking about too much spending and how important was individual merit.  The New Deal and the Fair Deal were the way things were going to be.

The astute professional Republicans saw this immediately.  Still they let Eisenhower fight the conservative battle.

Except that they only hold the House at the moment, the only real difference in the GOP is the level of crazy.  The GOP leadership, I'm convinced, knows that they are between Scylla and Charybdis: between the 'toons on their fringe and their future relevancy.  They know their future depends on reining in the Tea Party, but they have to proclaim fealty to its ideals for fear their Party disintegrates.  The current shutdown battle is not about Barack Obama and the Democrats at all.  It's about the threatened schism in the Republican ranks.  Harry Golden would have seen it immediately.  Watch for yourselves; I think, if not now, at some point you'll agree.

Update -- Had to add this: Harry's papers are housed at UNC Charlotte.  In the notes for the file, I came across this:

President Richard M. Nixon pardoned him in 1974.
Seriously -- Only in America.

Originally posted to mspicata on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site