Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


(Continued from last week.)

I wanted to get Stalin in with Lenin last week, so we skipped over Winston Churchill.

Churchill (1874-1965) was one of the key people shaping the world we live in today. Churchill is an enigma. He swapped political parties a couple of times, saw action in the Second Boer War and is held responsible for a disaster in the first World War.

But with an American mother and an aristocratic British father, more than anyone else but perhaps Stalin, Churchill created the modern world when, with bravery, dogged stubbornness and little else, he alone stood up to Hitler in 1940. Had he not done this, we would live in a very different world today.

Churchill was truly a great man.

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• Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) was a contemporary of Lenin and Stalin. He was from a wealthy Jewish family in the Ukraine. Exiled to Siberia a couple of times around the turn of the century for fomenting revolution in Russia, Trotsky was able to join Lenin’s revolution in 1917 with his own version of Marxism, which he suppressed while working with Lenin.

After Lenin died, Stalin expelled Trotsky from Russia in 1929. At odds with Stalin, Trotsky wrote many open critiques of Stalin. Finally, after many assassination attempts, a Russian agent succeeded in killing Trotsky with an ice pick in Mexico City in August 1940.

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• Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt (and also your humble correspondent) was born in 1882 in Hyde Park, N.Y. Roosevelt served under Woodrow Wilson (previously mentioned in this series) and was present at the Paris Peace Talks at the end of World War I.

In August 1921, Roosevelt was stricken with polio, from which he never recovered. Despite this debilitating illness, Roosevelt ran for president in 1932 and defeated Herbert Hoover.

It has been said that had Roosevelt been the sitting president and Hoover had run against him in 1932, Hoover would have won. The country was in the midst of the Great Depression and in a mood to try anything other than what it had.

Roosevelt’s solution to the Depression was to assume near dictatorial powers and lead the United States down the road to socialism, from which we have yet to recover. (He may be a cousin, but that does not mean I like him).

The Second World War finally fixed the economy (Roosevelt’s programs and ideas did not), and Roosevelt’s succumbing to Churchill’s flattering advances led to the Allies winning World War II.

Roosevelt died of heart failure in Warm Springs, Ga. on April 12, 1945, just weeks after taking the oath of office of president for the fourth time.

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• Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in April 1889. Seven years Roosevelt’s junior, their lives would follow eerily parallel paths from 1933 – when both assumed high office – until April 1945.

The Paris Peace Talks of 1919 (Woodrow Wilson’s folly) set up Germany for failure in the 1920s and led to the ability of a psychopath like Hitler being willingly accepted as a leader in 1933.

The war, the Holocaust and other ensuing atrocities have been well-documented. Hitler may have died by suicide on April 30, 1945 (18 days after Roosevelt), although conspiracy theories abound and are alive to this day contending he escaped to Argentina or other parts of South America.

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• I have mentioned the Paris Peace Talks of 1919 several times. The last person on our list was there and attempted to get an audience with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson declined to visit with Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969).

Ho may have lived in the U.S. in the 1912-18 era off an on. He actually claimed to have been a line manager at General Motors. He showed up in Paris in 1919, trying to get freedom for his country, Vietnam, from the French colonizers. Although a Marxist and revolutionary later in life, it has been said that Ho would have joined any side that would help kick the French out of Vietnam.

Unfortunately, the United States chose to take the side of the French, leading to Ho’s followers, posthumously, defeating the United States for the first time in U.S. history.

Well, it has taken 15 weeks, and I have seldom devoted more than three or four sentences to each of the 43 people or topics, but I hope you can use this as an outline to better understand the modern world. I certainly left out many things and many people, but it is my opinion that today’s secular world was predominantly shaped by these items and people. I hope the journey has been enlightening and enjoyable for you.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.