War on Communism? The United State’s Clandestine Motives
Disoriented by the Soviet Union’s bellicose front to spread the Communist Party’s ideals, the American people looked to their leader, President John F. Kennedy, to answer their overwhelming concerns and state of confusion. On October 22, 1962, Kennedy addresses the body of American affirming that,
“Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right. Not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom—here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” – Kennedy
Originally, any individual, educated or not, would succumb to Kennedy’s persuasive speech unifying America under a heightened sense of nationalism, but after reading Jorge Luis Borges’s short story The Mirror and the Mask, one’s perspective on the speech may cause him to devise a different interpretation. Fostered by a progressive plot, the individuality of each character along with their dynamic interactions in the story, divulge the character’s true intentions. Similarity, in the context of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, President Kennedy was able to utilize the above quote to coax the body of America into believing that the militaristic response to the foreign affairs conducted by the Soviet Union were enacted to cleanse the world of Communism and promote the necessity of Freedom. While this sounds like a noble gesture, the true intensions of the U.S. was rooted in economic benefits and egocentric desires.
Public speaking is a tool used by political officials to directly address the people, and any good public speaker is going to structure their speech so the message will adhere to the intended audience. With this in mind, it is important to note the first two words in the President’s quote. Kennedy judiciously chose the simple phrase, “‘Our goal…,'” to bring to the attention of America why the government intends to act with military force. Kennedy’s outright and lucid statement instills the idea that the U.S. government has nothing to hide or keep classified from the public. Initially, this tactic of developing mutual trust to diminish undesired questions went unnoticed, but the interaction between the king and the poet in The Mirror and the Mask sparked a revelation. In the beginning of the story, the king addresses the poet by stating, “‘The brightest deeds lose their luster if they are not minted in words. I desire you to sing my victory and my praises'” (Borges 451). According to the king, the task of writing a trinity of poems was given for celebratory purposes, for the king and his military succeeded in triumph over the Norwegians at the Battle of Clontarf. Later, it becomes common knowledge to the reader that although the king wanted to commemorate his kingdom’s victory, his intentions were entrenched in a narcissistic motive. Both Kennedy and the King were able to employ a technique which endorsed trust through a seemingly clear goal. In addition to the direct tone of Kennedy’s speech, he uses gallant words and phrases such as, “vindication of right“ and “peace and freedom,” to justify the United States’s actions. This necessity of peace with freedom implies that this confrontation with the Soviet Union is a war on communism, which incidentally labels Americans as virtuous and Soviets as heinous. To further illustrate that Kennedy convinced the body of America that the war was solely on eliminating communism, is the anti-communist comic book in Figure 1. When analyzing the cover, the concept of the iceberg and the ship, depicts the fear and evil associated with communism. On top of the ship, is Uncle Sam who to America symbolizes freedom, and the blood-stained iceberg contains the universal symbol of communism along with tombstones of all of the countries “killed” by the expansion of communism. The importance of the iceberg, is that icebergs are responsible for sinking ships, and this illustrates to the reader that if not contained communism will lead to the destruction of the United States, but more importantly freedom. Through forthright and valiant diction, Kennedy was able to capture the support of America and redirect their attention to a falsified depiction of a primary goal to eliminate the spread of communism.
From the Borges story, The Mirror and the Mask, the progression of the poems’ structure and content, along with the gifts received after each one, epitomizes the human nature to sacrifice their principles to obtain a desired goal. In the beginning of the story, the poet pretentiously tells the king of his vast collection of talents, and proceeds to say, “I have mastered the secret script which guards our art from the prying eyes of the common folk” (Borges 451). Each poem written by the poet seems to become less sophisticated in the implementations of literary skills, illustrating how the poet is slowly relinquishing the principles of his profession in order to reach immortality. In addition to the change in the poet’s writing style, the gifts after each poem symbolize the abandonment of identity. After the first poem, a mirror was given, allowing himself to see his own reflection since this poem displayed his typical work. The second gift was a mask, and this symbolizes that the poet was unable to recognize his identity since it did not depict his literary merit. The final gift was a dagger, and the blade, which often refers to death, symbolizes the complete abandonment of his principles. From the story, it becomes evident that the actions of humans uncover their true aspirations, and this theory encompasses the United States participation in the Cold War. It is ironic that the cliché phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” manifests the reasonings for the United State’s increasing participation in foreign affairs, since Kennedy’s speech was written to unite the nation under a jingoistic attitude to dispel the world of communism. A primary example discrediting Kennedy’s claim is how the democratic doctrine implemented in communist pressured countries became vitiated with authoritarian principles, and nonetheless, Kennedy continued to support these countries. A specific case was when the United States delegation named Diem as the new ruler of South Vietnam in order to prevent Soviet influence from spreading into South Vietnam (Simkin). Figure 2 captures how Diem ignored democratic ideals during his reign, exemplified when “Diem threw many political opponents into prison camps where they were tortured and killed” (Leonard). The flag in the background is a representation of American support, and the caged eagle symbolizes how the foundation of democracy, freedom, has been apprehended from the Vietnamese citizens. Since democracy is the antidote to communism, how can ignoring the foundations on which democracy lies upon to fight communism? Clearly, this must mean that the United State’s attention is not focused on institutionalizing democratic principles in communist pressured countries. Through the parallels between the Borges story and the U.S. involvement in the Cold War, it is evident that individuals will slowly fall victim to their own hypocrisy in order to fulfill an internal motive.
The Borges story provides a significant impact regarding the congenital nature of human beings. With a refined perspective on Kennedy’s speech by a developed interpretation of The Mirror and the Mask, the way humans interact with history is greatly changed. Many people believe that humans study history so society does not make the same mistakes they did in the past, or more simply put, so history does not repeat itself. This may or may not be true, but what is important, is that by looking at the intrinsic desires of humans, human interaction and confrontational conflict can be properly addressed. With this in mind, what is trust if humans have ensconced desires? Could trust be appurtenant to honesty, or is trust simply the fact that one will stay true to their word? For Kennedy’s sake their is no doubt that the United States fought communism, but was the reasoning determined by ensuring peace along with freedom? Honesty was clearly lacking, but the deployment of U.S. troops obviated the spread of communism, making kennedy a man of his word.
American Flag Drawing. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://becuo.com/american-flag-drawing
Borges, J., & Hurley, A. (2000). The Mirror and the Mask. In Collected Fictions. London: Penguin.
HERB: Resources for Teachers | An Anti-Communist Comic Book Warns of “The Red Iceberg” (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/661#citation
Killing Kennedy | National Geographic Channel. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/killing-kennedy/
Leonard, K. (n.d.). Ngo Dinh Diem, First President Of South Vietnam. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
O’Reilly, B., & Dugard, M. (2012). Killing Kennedy: The end of Camelot. London: Macmillan.
Simkin, J. (2014, September). Ngo Dinh Diem. Retrieved January 23, 2015.