Americanism

"Of all the countries in the world, we and we only have any need to create artificially the patriotism which is the birthright of other nations."
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Miss Kellor is not the only kindhearted American who holds her countrymen to blame for the deficiencies of the immigrant. Her point of view is a common one, and has some foundation in fact. She censures us even for his dirt, though if she had ever listened to the vitriolic comments of the police, she might revise her judgment on that score. 'Can't you do anything?' I once asked a disconsolate guardian of the peace, who stood on a fine hot day contemplating the forth-flung garbage of the Israelite. To which he made answer: 'Did ye iver thry to clans out a sthable wid a toothpick?' And as this had not been one of my life's endeavors, I offered no further comment. But Miss Kellor touches a vital truth when she says that Americans will never weld a mass of heterogeneous humanity into a nation, until they are able to say what they want that nation to be, and until they are prepared to follow a policy intelligently outlined. In other words, Americanism is not a medley of individual theories, partial philanthropies, and fluid sentiment. A consistent nationalism is essential to civic life, and we are not dispensed from achieving consistent nationalism by the difficulties in our way. No multiplication of difficulties makes an impossibility. Upon what props did the Venetians build the fairest city of the world?

We cannot in this country hope for the compelling devotion which has animated Germany; still less for the supreme moral and intellectual force which is the staying power of France. Mrs. Wharton has best described the intelligence with which Frenchmen translate their ideals into doctrine. They know for what they stand in the civilized world, and the first 'white heat of dedication' has hardened into steel-like endurance. To the simple emotions of men who are defending their homes from assault have been added the emotions of men who are defending the world's noblest inheritance from degradation. 'It is the reasoned recognition of this peril which is making the most intelligent people in the world the most sublime.'

The problems of England are so closely akin to our own problems, and her perplexities are so closely akin to our own perplexities, that we should regard them with insight and with sympathy. We too must pause in every keen emergency to cajole, to persuade, to placate, to reconcile conflicting interests, to humor conflicting opinions,—termed by those who hold them, 'principles.' We too must forever bear in mind the political party which is in power, and the political party which waits to get into power; and we must pick our way as best we can by the cross-lights of their abiding hostility. We too must face and overcome the doughlike resistance of apathy. I have been told -though I refuse to believe it on hearsay—that British laborers have asked what difference it would make to them whether they worked for British or for German masters. It is quite true that British pacifists and British radicals have not only put this question, but have answered it, greatly to their own satisfaction, in American periodicals; but American periodicals are not mouthpieces of the British workmen. I make no doubt that if we were fighting for our lives, there would be found American pacifists and American radicals writing in British periodicals that no great harm would come to America if she submitted passively to invasion; and that whether their country's cause were right or wrong, the slaughter of her sons was a crime, and the wealth of her capitalists was a sufficient reason for refusing to do battle for her liberty. The painful certainty that we should never be free from the babbling of treason, any more than England is free from it now, makes Americanism (the Americanism which means civic loyalty founded on civic intelligence) shine like a far-of star on a very dim horizon.

At present disloyalty founded upon ignorance meets with more attention than it deserves. Why, after all, should two thousand people assemble in New York to hear Miss Helen Keller say that, in the event of invasion, the American workman 'has nothing to lose but his chains'? He has his manhood to lose, and it should mean as much to him as to any millionaire in the land. What new and debilitating doctrine is this which holds that personal honor is the exclusive attribute of wealth, and that a laborer has no more business with it than has a dog! The fact that Miss Keller has overcome the heavy disabilities which nature placed in her path, lends interest to her person, but no weight to her opinions, which give evidence of having been adopted wholesale, and of having never filtered through any reasoning process of her own. It is always agreeable to hear her speak about good and simple things. When she said in Philadelphia that happiness does not lie in pleasure, and that, although she did not expect to be always pleased, she did expect to be always happy, by doing what she could to make those about her happy, we gave our hearty concurrence to sentiments so unexceptionable. It was the way we ourselves should have liked to feel, and we knew it was our own fault that we did not. But when in New York she adjured workingmen never to enter the United States army, and informed us that all we needed for adequate defense were shooting galleries 'within reach of every family,' so that we could all learn—like the old ladies in Punch—to fire a gun, there was something profoundly sad in words so ill-judged and so fatuous. It cannot be a matter of no moment that, in the hour of our danger and indecision, thousands of people stand ready to applaud the disloyal utterances which should affront every honorable man or woman who hears them.

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