We’ve made it to the end of the semester and I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself. This entire class has been a great experience that I will always remember, even with its ups and downs. The entire class led up to the presentations at the end of the school year, and now that it’s over I have to admit that I’m going to miss the anticipation and nervousness of explaining my research do a group of well-distinguished academics.
My presentation the Balbo Monument went better than I thought it would. Because I was so close to the end of the program, I was able to get more comfortable with the crowd and presenting my research findings. I kept trying to rewrite my opening and conclusion while everyone else presented, but when the time came I realized that only I knew the information on the monument and why I think the removal is important. While I did forget to mention the movements to rename Balbo Avenue due to some general jittery-ness, (drinking 3 cups of coffee before presenting wasn’t the best choice, but it was the one I made) I was able to get through my piece without any major interruptions. I was finally able to give the audience an argument, an issue I had been struggling with since the beginning. Along with supporting evidence to uphold the idea that fascism, racism, and Nazism all exist and monuments dedicated to those who were related to these issues are not educating the public, but instead glorifying the atrocities committed by those they represent.
Now that the semester has come to a close, I have to admit that I will miss the class even though I didn’t want to write the blog posts at times or I didn’t want to read for the week, but instead I’ve come away with a sense of gratification and further knowledge of history. I’ve found specific events that will continue to interest me for the rest of my life and I look forward to finding more throughout my educational journey.
The revising process has been very tedious, yet very rewarding. By editing my paper, I’ve been able to see the argument I’ve been trying to prove versus the one my paper has been trying to prove. By rearranging my paper, with the help of Dr. Shermer, Ruby, and the peer review I’ve been able to see the shortcomings paper, mostly in the Literary Review section and the definition behind my argument. While it’s been satisfying to edit my paper into the one that I can be proud to present, it’s been frustrating at times. When I’m overwhelmed I would just remember the mantra “one point per paper, one point per paragraph, and one point per sentence.” This was especially helpful when I would go through pieces of research I didn’t want to let go of because I thought it would contribute to the overall paper, but it was really just historical fluff that I have a personal interest in. Throughout the writing process, I’ve dealt with the annoying difference between information that’s relevant versus what I want to learn more about, thus turning my paper into an accidental rabbit hole about fascism and Neo-Nazis.
While revising, my paper has grown into a piece of work that I’m proud of with research that supports my argument that fascism still exists and is represented by the standing Balbo Monument. I’ve been able to see how rewarding it is to see all of my research and hard work standing on its own.
The peer review was one of the most helpful tools utilized while writing my paper on the Balbo Monument. Initially, I was concerned about the information I would be given by my partner and how I could actually help them with their own ideas, but my doubts were quickly dashed once the peer revising process began. When Mark first starting reading my paper the number of errors in the paper was insane. From run-on sentences to unnecessary historical background, my paper was truly a mess. The structure didn’t make any sense and didn’t uphold the argument of the paper. Here is Mark and I’s peer review session.
When I read my partner’s paper I was eager to learn how he formatted his paper and how I could learn from it. The hook was marvelous and the flow was fantastic, I was able to see a great example of how to set up my paper in an effective manner. I wanted to edit my paper so it would fit the same flow, but after reading the comments from Dr. Shermer and Ruby, I was able to see the differences in the event encompassing my paper versus my partner’s. My paper focuses on the timeline of fascism in Italian American communities which thrived under Mussolini’s dictatorship and his relationship with the Catholic church, whereas he focused on a single event that caused Mother Angelica to become a national phenomenon. Due to these differences, it was important that I looked at all criticisms in their own right to ensure my paper created an argument that could be substantially supported.
Now that I’m fully in the revising and editing phase of my research paper, I’m coming across more difficulties in narrowing down which information I can continue to utilize the “one point per paper” philosophy. I keep getting caught up in smaller details that bridge off into research holes with information that I can’t use in a beneficial way. After meeting with Dr. Shermer, I’ve been able to figure out a format that suits my research presentation and how to effectively establish support of my argument.
Beginning to write this paper was more difficult than I had imagined due to its overwhelming nature. When I originally wrote the paper, I thought it was so terrible that it needed to be deleted completely. After erasing three hours of hard work, I had to put the pieces back together and start from scratch…again.
Initially, I was overwhelmed by the amount of research I had compiled already and how I would be able to put into words that anyone would ever want to read. Additionally, knowing I wouldn’t use a lot of background information, that I had once believed was crucial to the project, was painful because it felt incomplete. Therefore I had to keep in mind that I was not writing a book, but instead a chapter that encompasses something bigger. By reading through the already completed part of my introduction that was turned in two weeks ago, I was reminded of what my project is about: The Balbo Monument and fascism in the Italian American Chicago community. By redefining the idea of the “community,” I was able to narrow down pieces of evidence. I depended on the interpretations of the Catholic church and family life in Italian American culture in the 1930s. Because I was able to figure out a clear understanding of the generalized community, the paper began to write itself for the first time. By focusing on these two aspects of Italian American culture, the reactions to the gifted Balbo Monument and Balbo’s flight seemed to fit into place, along with newspapers from differing neighborhoods.
Throughout Dr. Winling’s presentation, I noted his use of digital resources and how they assisted in the explanation of his thesis rather overtaking the entire production. In my own presentation, I was unsure of how to present my information with the assistance of these resources, instead of presenting them as my project. Dr. Winling’s presentation of his research of Chicago elections was extremely helpful, as well as discussing our projects at Uncommon Ground. His research was extremely well-examined and has encouraged me to work on additional context for my presentation, rather than viewing the project as a single paper. This all-encompassing view has helped me in working with and adding additional pieces to my first draft.
The last few weeks I’ve been piecing together my research sources, which has proved to be an unknowingly difficult task. I’ve centered my project on the question as to why countries go to extreme political ends in times of economic distress, with a focus on fascism during the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt initially took office in 1932 he brought his ideas for a government that would help the Americans affected by the Great Depression. While he’s remembered for the great things his New Deal legislation brought to the United States, his ideas brought criticism. Those afraid of the continuation of the post World War I economy that caused the stock market to crash in 1929, rejected the seemingly fascist policies that were rising around the world.
Primary Source Article:
Primary Source Article Notes:
Week 4 Reading:
In Meg Jacobs, scholarly work ‘”How About Some Meat?”: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946’ she examined the importance of local politics in the upheaval of a war economy in the midst and directly after the conflict ended. Her writing explores the programs that remained intact through the war after being presented to the nation in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Below is my outline of how Jacobs chose to map her article out:
· Strong start with a great thesis statement –> establishing the importance of the agency in the New Deal legislature without giving away too many details until further in the paragraph
· Introduction of Richard Nixon (a name everyone knows) to keep readers interested –> establish his dislike for the program and how it affected his own politics when he ran for president
· 3rd paragraph OPA is presented as one of the “strongest manifestations” –> great language
· Jacobs set importance outside of WWII context à the agency helped with a debate over wages and prices –> foreshadowing that the administration stayed intact after the war ended
· Consumption helps the economy grow à weaved in very nicely –> propaganda during the war was set on trying to get the typical “American life” back and OPA helped with keeping prices and wages at a level where they were equally distributed
· Notes on that the population couldn’t change the market to suit their needs exactly or forever –> OPA worked best when we were in the war and political needs were more reflective
· OPA –> radical model of state management (government working with laborers and consumers = new social-liberal coalition)
· Argument at end of introduction –> OPA was the reason OPA failed –> they tried to help too many people and cater to too many needs –> ended with 1946 meat packers strike –> “beefsteak elections” cost the Democrats in Congress and it went Republican for the first time since 1930
Office Price Administration
· Created 1941 –> technical expertise and faith in the state allowed the office to run
· Two main sources: 1) recalling experiences from WWI –> inflation threat when the unemployment rate was way too low and economy remained in a war production economy 2) came from policymakers that were convinced that pushing the government into American lives would be a way to promote a perfect vision of a political economy
· Causes of the Great Depression –> underconsumption
· Jacobs begins working the “characters” into her article –> Leon Henderson, OPA first administrator –> focused on consumer relationships with New Deal legislation
· Henderson –> a fan of income distribution –> 1942 Keynesian economist work together to figure out General Maximum Price Regulation (Gen. Max.) and sent it out to merchants to approve –> they approved and it was working –> each product would pay its own way
· Gen. Max. eventually led to issues with increasing inflation
· Use of pictures/primary sources
· OPA used women volunteers to form grassroots organizations and teach others how to shop in a savvy way
· 1943 Chester Bowles new administration –> volunteers increase –> formed women into unions
· Women were seen as stabilizers at home and for the community at this time
· Perfect blend of consumption and patriotism
· As the article continues Jacobs breaks down each group that benefitted or were involved in some way with the OPA, each with a person spearheading the paragraph and how it impacted each group
· Truman vetoed the end of OPA and food and living prices soared
· Public wanted OPA and rejected higher prices without higher wages
· Public left OPA behind when they couldn’t get any meat without the prices being ridiculously high
· The people that supported the big government ideals and the intervention were now calling for the end of OPA
· Because of the meat riots, Democrats lost control of Congress again
· OPA gave consumers a sense of entitlement that they didn’t need
· Many voters stayed home –> OPA once mobilized the public, but it now almost discouraged them from voting altogether
· OPA represented the strength in the states and how public policy can make or break a society
· OPA –> high standards of living that workers still rightfully demand and expect
· Moving local politics into familial areas can cause great waves of political momentum
After reading through Meg Jacob’s fascinating article on OPA, I’ve picked up some interesting things she used in her writing. In her introduction, she didn’t saturate the opening paragraphs with lengthy facts or long winded statistics. Instead, she brought up the importance of the administration and why it came to be, which naturally flowed into the fuller description of the agency and how it helped the American people. When Jacobs expanded into her paragraphs, or should I say “meat” of the article, she cited the reasoning behind the formation with an emphasis on events that happened a decade prior to the formation to bring the reader into the correct mindset. Additionally, while building OPA up, Jacobs mentioned their flaws and hinted towards many of their issues leading to the administration’s demise after WWII. Before bringing the reader into the final months of OPA’s life, she brought up many minority groups and major contributors from each to expand upon her idea that OPA affected everyone in the United States. Additionally, her placement of primary sources, which mostly consisted of government-run propaganda and instruction sheets, highlighted each point she made in a previous paragraph rather than making the article feel clunky. Finally, the fall of OPA and her conclusion tied together the entire journey the article took the reader on, from before the US was involved in WWII until the essential end of the New Deal Era. From Jacob’s article, I feel much more prepared for writing my own research analysis. I liked the way she structured her research and how she thoughtfully presented each piece of evidence without mashing historical facts together. I plan on looking back on Jacobs research and other articles we’ve been provided from last semester throughout my own writing process.
For the Ramonat Synopsium in April, I’ve chosen to showcase Italian Fascism in 20th Century Chicago with a focus on the Balbo Memorial and the city-wide reaction to the gift from Mussolini in 1933. As I delve farther into my research and understand Italo Balbo and his relation to the United States, the stain of fascism and American complacency comes to a front. After our in-class discussion last week about our individual projects, I’ve been able to ask myself and my project some questions. The importance of local politics in relation to national politics has become a major point of my research. I plan on using news articles and radio shows from the time to understand the perspective of a person in 1930s Chicago. Additionally, I will continue to look into the relationship between Mussolini and the Pope’s friendship and the effects of his support on the grand Italian Catholic community, both inside and outside of Italy.
How did the unveiling of the Balbo Monument contribute to the furthering level of acceptance of Nazism and other far-right groups in 20th century Chicago?
Did the Immigration Act of 1924 contribute to acceptance of the monument and fascism?
Why would the city put the Gold Star Family Park, opened in 2006 to honor Chicago police officers who have died while on duty and Soldier Field, the world recognized field named in memoriam for the American soldiers who were killed in WWI, in such close proximity to the monument?
Why is the monument still standing today and does Italian-American culture contribute to its placement and relevance?
Finally, how did FDR’s presidency become iconic throughout history with the series of stains left on his terms with Japanese Internment Camps and working with, and meeting Italo Balbo, the head of the Blackshirts in Italy, without worldwide criticism?
While these questions definitely need to be narrowed down, as I dive into my research the question I routinely come back to is is why this happened. More specifically, how can we understand the reasons behind this structure to make sure a monument like this one can’t stand in Chicago, a city that prides itself on acceptance and liberalization.
This semester instead of exploring Catholicism and its effects on politics around the city of Chicago, we’ll be conducting a research project on the topic of our choosing. I have chosen to look into the religious and cultural ties to Chicago’s Balbo Monument and the relationship it had and continues to have, on the Italian Catholic population. The monument stands on the Lakefront Trail, not too far from Soldier Field. The monument is a large column dating back to over 2000 years and came from an ancient port in Rome. The large stature has become a controversial symbol of Fascism as it was a gift from Benito Mussolini to commemorate Italo Balbo’s trans-Atlantic flight to the Century of Progress World’s Fair. The gift had fascist wording placed on the front which was later removed by the recommendation of the post-WWII ambassador to the US from Italy after Mussolini’s death.
Outside of the fascist ties through the wording on the Bablo Monument, Italo Balbo, whom the monument was honoring, was a prominent Italian Blackshirt. The Italian Blackshirts were a paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party. To some, the monument represents the complicity the American government took place in at the beginning of fascism and Nazism before WWII broke out. Others were supportive of the gift because to them it represented growing relations between Italy and the United States.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of calls to remove the monument altogether, in response to calls for Confederate monuments to be taken down from public areas and placed in museums. Bishop Gregg Greer from Chicago stated “Chicago stands with all the communities around the country, to stay monuments have to go, especially when they represent a racist history of America” in an ABC article from 2017. Recognizing America’s racist past and tendency to be complicit in these actions around the globe have been a hot debate topic. In response, a defender of the monument in it’s standing, Lissa Druss, stated: “When Mussolini went pro-Nazi, Balbo said absolutely no way.”
Due to the new generation’s push to eliminate racist monuments from the past, there’s a growing amount of information on the topic of the Balbo Monument in Chicago’s Burnham Park. For my spring research project, I intend on using the varying research outlets that are offered throughout the city including many universities, institutions, and libraries. As this project progresses I look forward to refining my knowledge of these monuments that were once viewed as a positive relationship between two countries and how we interpret these monuments in the 21st century.