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The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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"Fascinating and deeply disturbing. I love this book.--Simon Winchester (bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman)
"Difficult to put down...this is the book to read."--New York Times
David M. Friedman's The Immortalists reads like riveting historical fiction but raises provocative questions about the shape of the future.--Ron Rosenbaum, best-selling author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler
Fascinating and deeply disturbing. I love this book.--Simon Winchester (bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman)"
David M. Friedman s The Immortalists reads like riveting historical fiction but raises provocative questions about the shape of the future.--Ron Rosenbaum, best-selling author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler"
Difficult to put down...this is the book to read. --New York Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Friedman explains: 'For Lindbergh, Germany seemed everything that America was not and probably could never be: a country composed of one virile, morally and ethically pure race committed to science, and united in a vision of national greatness. That such unity came at teh cost of democratic institutions, individual rights, and a free press didn't alienate him. Democracy was anoble idea, Lindbergh believed, but the reality was quite different...in the United States, where social and political equality, together with a free press...produced a climate of degeneracy... Only a strong visionary, and yes, even fascist, leader was best equipped to restore moral order to western civilization.'
In Lindbergh's own words, from an article he published in Reader's Digest in 1939: Aviation "is a tool especially shaped for Western hands, a scientific art which others copy in a mediocre fashion, another barrier between the teeming millions of Asia and the Grecian inheritance of Europe -- one of the priceless possessions which permit the White race to live at all in a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown.... We, the heirs of European culture, are on the verge of a disastrous war, a war within our own family of nations... Our civilization depends on a united strength among ourselves, on a Western Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or an infiltration of inferior blood..." Aviation, by the way, was in Lindbergh's opinion the Third Reich's strong suite; neither England nor the USA could match the Luftwaffe in technology or skill, as he consistently testified to the Congress and war departments of the USA.
Friedman documents Lindbergh's enthusiasm for "social Darwinist" eugenics, his anti-Semitism and overall racism, his contempt for the rule of rules, and his indifference to dialogue and compromise. In all of this ideological extremism, however, Lindbergh had a mentor, one of the few humans he respected as his own equal or even superior, the French Nobel-winning Dr. Alexis Carrel, the WW1 discoverer of battlefield antisepsis and the first developer of techniques for suturing arteries. Through much of the 1930s, Lindbergh trained himself in biology and worked side by side with Carrel to develop instruments and methods to maintain the life of organs outside the bodies of mammals. Lindbergh's mechanical genius, in fact, enabled him to invent waht might be called the first artificial heart. The story of this collaboration is the heart of Friedman's book; he clearly sees it as a story of gigantic psychological hubris, almost a gothic horror story of Mankind striving for immortality. (I confess that the scientific aspects of this story are truly fascinating to me, as a tale of genius without a speck of rational sense!)
In every way except sympathy for Germany, Carrel was more a Nazi than Lindbergh - a virulent racist, an explicit eugenicist, a visionary whose vision was the creation of a "high council of experts" who would guide humanity behind the scenes. "There is no escaping the fact that men are not created equal," he told a reporter once, "as democracy, invented in the 18th century -- when there was no scienc to refute it -- would have us believe." The human race is moved forward, he continued, "by great men... Unfortunately, we don't understand the genesis of great men. Perhaps it would be effective to kill off the worst and keep the best, as we do in the breeding of dogs."
Lindbergh's strident opposition to FDR on every front, and his enthusiasm for letting Germany expand at the expense of the Soviets earned him some interesting support in the months before the die was cast at Pearl Harbor, especially from a group of young students at Yale, who called themselves The Committee to defend America First, and who inlcuded, among others, Douglas Stuart Jr., Kingman Brewster, Potter Stewart, Sargeant Shriver, and Gerald Ford.
Once the war involved American soldiers, however, Lindbergh found himself isolated, ostracized, even despised by his previous idolators and friends. Harold Nicholson, a close family friend and the biographer of Lindbergh's father-in-law, wrote of him that "his virility and ideas became not merely inflexible but actually rigid; his self-confidence thickened into arrogance and his convictions hardened into garnite. He became impervious to anything outside his own legend," largely because of the trauma of the kidnapping of his first son. It's an assessment that reminds me a good deal of Sen. John McCain's description of General Douglas MacArthur in the book Hard Call, and strangely enough, of McCain himself, whose formative experience was the trauma of captivity.
Lindbergh may have been rigid, but he was far from unchangeable. As gracefully and patiently as such a man could, he reinserted himself in the military campaign to defend America, first as an advisor and then as a comabt pilot, showing a courage in the air war against Japan that restored him almost entirely to the good graces of the American people. And then, in the aftermath of the war, when he inspected sites in Europe and encountered the evidence of Nazi brutality and genocide, Lindbergh re-invented himself once more... as an incipient pacifist and critic of war crimes committed by any country. Inspecting the ash pit into which twenty-five thousand human slaves had been shoveled, worked to death at the Nazi's V-2 factory, Lindbergh had an epiphany; he wrote: "What the German has done to the Jew in Europe, we have done to the Jap in the Pacific. As Germans defiled themselves by dumping the ashes of human beings into these pits, we have defiled ourselves bulldozing bodies into shallow, unmarked tropical graves. What is barbaric on one side of the Earth is barbaric on the other... It is not the Germans alone, or the Japs, but men of all nations to whom this war has brought shame and degradation."
One might think that Lindbergh had traveled as far and as fast as a lone eagle ever could, but there came still a later epiphany, in the 1950s, when Lindbergh turned against the technological, mechanical values he'd so ardently championed, and became a fierce crusader for conservation of Africa and of pre-modern cultures! This time, he wrote: "..the African framework of life contains ideas and values which may seem backward... but who is to say that the record of future evolutionary ages will prove the black to be less progressive than the white?...If civilization is progress in the basic sense of life, then why have past civilizations fallen -- sixteen of them in the last few thousand years, according to arnold Toynbee?" Is civilization progress, Lindbergh asked. "The final answer will be given not by the discoveries of our science, but by the effect our civilized activities as a whole have upon the quality of our planet's life."
Wow! I couldn't say it better myself! My childhood hero was quite a man!
Then... the world collapsed on this book when he started talking about Lindbergh's flying after Alexis Carrell's death. I know a little about airplanes and this thing was FILLED with inaccuracies that were completely out of bounds. Every paragraph had something that even a cursory amount of research would have shown to be completely ridiculous. He is asked to test a single-engine Corsair vs. a twin-engine Corsair? There is no such animal! The Corsair was built bt United? Again, it was a Vought (later Chance Vought) aircraft! I have never heard of the United Aircraft Company. Where did he get this information from? It goes on and on like this. I had trouble even reading it because he was SO ill-informed. And he talked like he knew these to be facts?
These inaccuracies made me wonder about the first half of the book. I suspect it too has a lot of manufactured information and I felt like I had been totally duped. Don't waste your time. Just go read Lindbergh's diaries yourself, you'll be better off.
It's a fascinating account of his relationship with another unusual person who happened to be a surgeon and medical researcher. Lindbergh is not well known for this portion of his life, but his mechanical intuition led to the forerunner of the cardiac bypass pump!
Great book. Vicki of Mobile