Friday, April 11, 2014

What America Was Like in 1963

Birthright or Birthright (Kindle)

I’ve written a number of novels including A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle); andStalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show what was happening in America when Deborah de Kronengold arrived and how it affected her.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE OVERWHELMING PREPONDERANCE of Americans in 1963 believed devoutly in the democracy, capitalism, and technology that had brought prosperity, the good life—or at least, a progressively better life—to all of them. They believed in change, which had become almost a constant, and the capacity of the nation’s institutions to absorb the bombardment of the new and still remain solid. They believed in their global mission to contain the Communist menace and to spread selflessly their abundance and freedom. They believed in their young, vigorous president, who held these beliefs up before them as a standard they could march behind, who was strong enough to force the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles from Cuba and still secure enough to sign a nuclear-test-ban treaty with that country. They believed, almost as devoutly as the Establishment coterie that held the foreign policy reins, that the time had come for America to take over for Britain as the moral leader and military policeman of the world. They believed in the promise of America. They believed in themselves.

On September 26, 1963, the day Deborah arrived in New York, The New York Times reported that two bombs had been detonated in a Negro Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama, eleven days after four girls were killed there in a similar incident, and that twenty-eight Negroes were arrested in Selma, Alabama, for demonstrating in front of the courthouse. On the foreign front, the Times quoted a defense official, who was on a survey of the military situation in South Vietnam with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Joint Chiefs of Staff head General Maxwell Taylor, as saying that "military events in Vietnam" were "getting better and better, rather than worse and worse"; the point was rapidly being approached where "the goals set will be reached relatively shortly."

For most Americans in 1963, Vietnam was merely a minor squabble half a world away, the purview of the military boys and diplomats, who knew far more than they. And the Negroes? Now that the problem had been pointed out, civil rights legislation would solve it. After all, this was America, the land of prosperity, of goodness, of ever growing perfectibility, one and united, now and forever, its good crowned by God with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

Deborah de Kronengold stood on the steps of Federal Hall beneath the commanding, oversized statue of George Washington, who had taken the presidential oath of office here. Churning with people, Wall Street bisected the skyscraper canyon like a turbulent river rushing at her feet. The taxi driver had suggested a modest hotel in a respectable neighborhood and then driven her to the financial district, as she requested. The taxi fare was a wild extravagance, given her meager resources, but she was impatient to find a job and begin her new life.

She detected little beauty in the facades of the buildings on either side of Wall or Broad streets. The beauty was in the buildings’ massiveness, the walls thick and strong to contain all the energy crackling within them, all the ambition. Here, she sensed, was a country unembarrassed by ambition, nurturing energy. Here was a country for dreaming as high and as far as talent and determination could reach, to the stars and beyond. Here was a country endowed with the possibility of choice. And if the choice was to amass riches and one pursued that choice ferociously, single-mindedly, forsaking all others, every waking moment applied relentlessly to that end, every sleeping moment a grudging delay, here was a country where riches could still be won.

That was Deborah’s goal: wealth so great that she need never rely on another human being again—for anything. When that goal was finally reached, there would be no doubt who she was.

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle).

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