War and the Child
“To withhold from a child some knowledge—apportioned to his understanding—of the world’s sorrows and wrongs is to cheat him of his kinship with humanity.”
A French poster hangs on my wall. It is drawn and colored with the deliberate excellence of the Gallic craftsman. Its sentiment is simple and sincere. Four children have stopped in their play to salute two wounded soldiers. The children are equipped with odds and ends of military trappings. A little boy of a realistic turn has an old canteen slung over his shoulder. A little girl, being without arms or accoutrements, has made good her claim to the flag. The soldiers, bandaged and lame, stump unconcernedly by. They are no more identifiable with the gentle and debonair patients of ‘Mademoiselle Miss’ than with the greedy, smutty, feeble-minded degenerates who were so unfortunate as to be nursed by Miss La Motte. They are sons of France who, as a matter of course, have defended their country in the hour of her utmost peril; and they are unaware that the children of France have opened to them the doors of the citadel where dwell the secret things of childhood; that they have been accepted as companions in arms, as creatures recognizable and understood. A sense of comradeship is expressed in the round-eyed stare of the little boys, a dawning perception of the great sacrifice has stiffened their swaggering little bodies to attention. They pay their homage eagerly, although they cannot reckon the extent of their indebtedness. They do not know that France is giving her men to save her children, to hand down to these unconscious beneficiaries her untarnished honor, and the holy of holies, freedom.
For this is what war means to the nations which are now combating the great Teuton drive. This what is implied in Lloyd George’s simple statement: ‘The British Empire has invested thousands of her best lives to purchase future immunity for civilization, and the investment is too high-priced to be thrown away.’ If the Allies permitted themselves to be caught sleeping in a fool’s paradise, they woke up to see their children’s heritage imperiled by their illusion, and they have spared no cost to preserve it. The orphans of war are the innocent causes of their own uttermost desolation. The menace which threatened them has been intercepted by their dead fathers, and they live, poor little wondering ones, to see—as God wills—the vindication of justice, or its final defeat and dishonor.
A few years ago, Chancellor David Starr Jordan dared to say in a commencement address, ‘France is, by her own admission, decadent.’ This decadence, he averred, was the inevitable result of the wastage of Napoleon’s wars, the loss of the flower of her manhood. To-day, not even a German would repeat such words. Ennobled by patriotism, purified by self-abnegation, the soul of France mounts like a flame to Heaven. The fineness of her civilization is shown by the spirit in which she defends it. Animated by a single purpose, sustained by a single hope, she lives only to free her soil from the invader. Her children are growing up in a world bleak with pain, but swept clean of gross ideals, of class hatred, of commercial greed, of smugness and frivolity.
The children of England have come early to a realization of their country’s profound peril, her stern resolve, her indomitable valor. They see the wounded soldiers in the streets, the Zeppelins in the sky, the grass-grown courts of Cambridge and Oxford, never so splendid as in their desolation. Their young eyes perceive in the object-lessons which surround them the cost and the value of nationality. They are being moulded by the austere hand of adversity into the material of which men are made.
The children of Belgium share in the martyrdom of their parents. They are like the young boys and girls, baptized in water and in blood, who stood with the early Christians in the arena, before the callous eyes of Rome. They are feeble with privation, and sad with premature grief. Pope Benedict has begged the children of the United States to keep alive a million and a half of these little unfortunates by giving them a cup of milk or chocolate and a larded biscuit once a day. It is not too much to ask of prosperous America, which has thriven on the calamities of Europe; but the asking is a revelation of shame. On Belgium’s vast storehouses of grain Germany’s battened for a year. On Belgium’s harvests, garnered but not shared by Belgians, Germany feeds herself to-day. With the money wrung from Belgian towns, Germany paid, and pays, her army of occupancy. With the labor forced upon deported and enslaved Belgians, Germany fortifies herself against her enemies. The coal dug from Belgian mines is Germany’s bait for the friendship of Switzerland. And now the Pope of Rome asks the children of the United States for a cup of milk to keep the children of Belgium from starving. The forlorn irony of it, the acquiescence of the neutral nations in it, shadows the civilized world; but the soul of Belgium lives. In every wasted little body this soul survives ill-usage and ill-will. The Christian children thrown to the beasts cemented with their innocent blood the indestructible edifice of Christianity.
The mounting emotions which accompany every great historical crisis are crystallized in the heart of a child. When Haydon’s mother lifted her streaming eyes, and said to her four-year-old son, ‘My dear, my dear, they have cut off the Queen of France’s head!’ she gave him not only an indelible impression of horror and grief, but a point of view which life was not long enough to efface. To-day, thousands of children are receiving impressions as deep and as poignant. Their sensitive minds are being hardened into convictions and resolves. They are being prepared by the destiny which despoiled them to play their hazardous parts. Mr. Ernest Moore, in an address delivered last spring before the City Club of Chicago, emphasized a truth which Americans for the most part ignore or deny, — that the child does not belong to its parents, but to the state, to organized society as a whole. ‘The parents,’ said Mr. Moore incisively, ‘have duties to the child, but no property in him. He must, whether they are willing or not willing, spend his earlier years as an apprentice to certain social activities, which he is compelled to perform as long as he lives. He must come to a realizing sense of what sort of an undertaking he has inherited.’
The American sentimentalist is wont to speak of a son, even a grown-up son, as if he were the exclusive possession of his mother, as if he spent his life in a perambulator, to be wheeled about at her volition. Mr. Bryan warned the National Education Association last July that we should not ‘rob the cradle’ at the behest of militarism. An agitated correspondent of the Survey, troubled by the sending of the National Guard to our frontier, asked what influence could be brought to bear—not upon Mexico, and not upon Washington, but upon ‘the mothers who so thoughtlessly throw their sons away.’ One would suppose that the National Guard wore knickerbockers, and had been withdrawn from the innocent pastimes of infancy. Kittens would be granted as much sense of personal obligation as are the young men who stand responsible to the state for the performance of their civic duties, whose manhood compels citizenship, and whose citizenship compels unswerving loyalty to the Constitution.
It is true, and I freely grant it, that far too much oratory has been used by the civilized world to glorify danger (which in itself has no moral or intellectual value), to confuse and conceal political issues (which may be barren of rectitude), and to awaken (regardless of circumstances) the fighting spirit of youth. But it is also true that the most beautiful phrases which language can afford have been used to glorify safety, to disguise our sensitiveness to discomfort, and to appease the conscience of the materialist. ‘Blazing the way for an era of peace and good will’ is a euphemism which consecrates our commercial activities. ‘Idealism based upon a love of man,’ describes pleasantly our smiling unconcern. These flowers of speech bloom brightest in the electioneering hothouse; but they are very decorative at mass meetings and public dinners. When combined with certain familiar generalities, such as ‘the abolishment of international hostilities,’ ‘the establishment of international good-will,’ ‘the enforcement of international equity,’ they soothe our troubled spirits, and give us courage to count the ships trading in our ports, carrying our citizens, and sunk on our coast, for the edification of our attentive navy. Now and then an impassioned pacifist assures us that ‘when men shall have learned truth, faith, compassion and love, there will no longer be need of warfare, or need of world-politics’; and it seems, on the whole, easier to await the undated advent of these charming virtues than to vex our souls now over their stern sister, justice.
It is asserted, possibly with truth, that juvenile delinquency has been on the increase in England and Germany during the past two years. A ‘noted’ but nameless British psychologist is of the opinion that war has provoked this outbreak of youthful depravity. ‘The boy knows that cities are being looted, and his own wild, predatory instinct tends to break forth.’ Perhaps. But to the untrained, unscientific mind, the fact that the boy knows his father is not at home to thrash him seems a simpler solution of the problem. Something of the kind has been observed in piping times of peace, when parental discipline chanced to be relaxed, and it has been held to indicate ordinary astuteness rather than any great depth of depravity. As a matter of fact, the English boy’s father who is soldiering
From Wipers down to Noove-Chappell,
Has had no chance to loot anything more sacred than the commissariat, and this pillage is profanely believed to be the prerogative of the Army Service Corps. ‘A whiff o’ shrapnel will dae nae harm to thae strawberry-jam pinchers,’ observes Private Tosh in a moment of unworthy misgiving. The German boy’s father has looted safely and unreservedly in conquered provinces; but one doubts if his offspring—under the awful eye of authority—has done anything more lawless than tread on the grass. If he has gone so far as to wheel his bicycle on the wrong side of the road, the Empire is tottering in its fall.
Meanwhile, in our peaceful states, juvenile delinquency has reached a stage when it has become a serious menace to society. Determined theorists cling desperately to ‘war news’ and ‘pride in fighting kin’ as one way of accounting for the excess of misconduct; but they look too far afield. The Brooklyn boys, who last August proved themselves to be daring and accomplished burglars, did not rob because the towns of Flanders had been sacked. The ingenious little lad who held up the service on the Fourth Avenue subway by turning off the current, and the less adroit youth who laid iron piping across the Essex Street tracks, were not incited to this dangerous mischief by the calling out of the National Guard. The ‘baby bandits’ of Chicago were not impelled to law-breaking by the devastation of Poland.
Something is amiss with communities which cannot train their children to order and decency. The enforced absence of fathers in the fighting countries may be considered a legitimate cause for youthful misbehavior. It is counterbalanced by a quickened perception of patriotism, an early acceptance of responsibility. The increase of juvenile crime in our own country has no legitimate derivative, beyond a growing disdain for consequences, a candid contempt for magisterial jurisdiction. Cheap standards and self-indulgence must bear their share of blame. The nations which are warring for aggrandizement or for safety have changed the face of Europe; but to charge the lawlessness of American children to their account is to underestimate our liability.
This brings me face to face with the dilemma which confronts our American educators. How much information concerning the great war is fit to be imparted to the immature mind of the child? Who far should we enlighten is innocence? How long dare we leave him in doubt? There are parents and teachers who would, if they could, guard American children from any knowledge of the overshadowing sorrows of Europe; and there are parents and teachers who think no child too young to feel his share of pity, to hold out his little hand in help. There are boys and girls who know nothing and care nothing about the conflict; there are others who have been encouraged to ‘adopt’ some French or Flemish orphan, to write to this desolate child, to work and save for him, to follow from the security of their homes, his precarious career. It is the difference between courage and caution, between cotton-batting and the open road.
The clear and candid presentation of current events has for years been recognized as an important element of education. It is designed to quicken the child’s interest in the living world, and to give him some foundation of fact, upon which he must sooner or later build for himself an intellectual dwelling-place. His personal convictions and his sense of values depend largely upon the way in which he has been taught to regard the happenings of every day. Since the outbreak of the great war, current-event classes for the old as well as for the young have been profoundly stimulated by the pressure of affairs, the speed of history in the making. They have also been complicated by the ‘strict neutrality’ which compels teacher and lecturer to engage in intricate academic egg-dances, — few things on earth being harder than the drawing of polite inferences from murderous deeds. War-maps are the only avenues of information which preserve an unviolated passivity.
For thirteen months after Austria had struck the match which fired Europe, the St. Nicholas magazine, which is read by many thousands of little Americans, ignored the conflagration. For thirteen months it presented its young readers with its accustomed blend of fact and fancy, but took no notice of the stupendous events which left little else to be considered. In September, 1915, it abandoned this attitude of unawareness, and started a ‘Department of Current History.’ Since then it has published in every issue a brief commentary on the European war, the Mexican disasters, the labor troubles, the presidential election, and other news of the day. It condenses its budget into a few curt, clear, intelligent, impartial paragraphs, warranted to arouse no partisanship, and offend no sensibilities.
All such educational thoroughfares were closed to the children of my day. When I was a little schoolgirl, current events were left severely out of our limited courses of instruction. We seldom read the newspapers (which I remember as of an appalling dullness), and we knew little of what was happening in the present. But we did study history, and we knew something of what had happened in the past, — we knew and deeply cared. Consequently we reacted with fair intelligence and no lack of fervor when events were forced upon our vision. It was not possible for a child who had lived in spirit with Saint Genevieve to be indifferent to the siege of Paris in 1870. It would not have been possible for a child who had lived in spirit with Jeanne d’Arc to be indifferent to the destruction of Rheims Cathedral in 1914. If we were often left in ignorance, we were never despoiled of childhood’s generous ardor. Nobody told us, as some children are told to-day, that ‘war is always a cowardly business,’ or that ‘courage is a sublime form of hypocrisy.’ Nobody fed our young minds on stale paradoxes, or paralyzed our emotions, or taught us to regret—like those amazing youths encountered occasionally by pacifists—the foolish impulsiveness of adults. There was something profoundly fearless in our approach to life, in the exposure of our unarmored souls to the assaults of enthusiasms and regrets.
Even our sense of patriotism expanded fitfully, quarrelsomely (for the ferment bred by the Civil War had not yet subsided), and without artificial stimulus. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Pennsylvania said at a recent meeting of the National Education Association of Cincinnati that an American schoolboy should be taught to repeat every day to himself, ‘I will work and vote and live for the best interests of my country. Yea, if need be, I will fight for my country, and die in its defense.’ Apart from the exigencies of oratory, this seems a heavy programme. The average boy is charry of moral axioms, and high—articulate—resolves. If he has been reared in honesty and honor, he will vote, when he is twenty-one, according to his limited insight, and he will fight, if need be, at his country’s call. But he will not—if he is human—dilate from ten to twenty with sentiments of a declamatory order. He will not put the shy secrets of his soul into the familiar phrases of a theme.
Mr. William James, who dreamed always of some great ‘moral equivalent’ for the discipline of camp, would have had young men devote two years to battling with drudgery; to subduing Nature, and wresting from her, in mines or on ranches, on farms or in logging-camps, something for use to the world. An enthusiastic contributor to the New Republic, following Mr. James’s lead, but seeing breakers ahead if eager, but unaccredited, workers should interfere with organized labor, — which has no bowels for sacrifice, — has proposed, in place of soldiering or drudgery, two years of compulsory social service. All young Americans, girls as well as boys, shall be organized between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, into regiments, and sent forth to better conditions in twon and country. This ‘national service’ is to be administered by the state, but supervised and subsidized by the Federal Government, which is always intrusted with the paying of bills. There are to be ‘flying squadrons’ of youth, traveling widely, seeing the world, and lending everywhere a helping hand; and there are to be ‘long periods of camping in national parks, and upon ocean beaches.’ ‘I have a picture of eager young missionaries,’ writes this sanguine reformer, ‘swarming over the land, spreading the health-knowledge, the knowledge of domestic science, of gardening, of tastefulness, which they have learned at school.’
And I have a picture of an outraged world assailed by these advance guards of progress. What Mr. James sought was the apprenticeship of youth to noble bondage, and the wisdom to accrue was to be the wisdom acquired in humility. His plan was impracticable, because the peaceful processes of civilization—orderly rather than heroic—permit no serious deviations from their rule; but it was sound in theory. It did not include the enforced dissemination of the schoolgirl’s standard of taste, of the growing boy’s knowledge of hygiene. It never contemplated prolonged holidays at the expense of the public, or the subjection of society to the compulsory leadership of youth.
There are some of us who believe that military training would give to young Americans the patience and endurance which Mr. James coveted, and the readiness to serve which is rightly conceived to be the supreme test of chivalry. But military training is regarded with suspicion by people who fear that the beat of a drum will be the inevitable prelude to war; and by people who are able to convince themselves that we invite the danger we recognize, and avert the danger we deny. It is hard to meet the determined pacifist with facts, because he is as impervious to them as a tortoise is to a spring shower. He says academically, ‘It is easy to see that the present war is a war of rival militarisms. It is a soldiers’ war.’ Some one observes practically, ‘But England had no soldiers—to speak of—in August, 1914. She thought she could afford to “wait and see” before she “sprang to arms”; and while she was springing—which took a year, and was quick work at that—her best and bravest sons were sacrificed to this illusion.’ Whereupon the pacifist replies, still academically, ‘Too much of the world’s history has been written in blood’; and leaves the subject sunk in a phraseological quagmire.
How can we meet intellectually the type of disputant who points with triumph to the extinction of a Jurassic lizard in the year 8,000,000 B.C. (I accept the given date) as an argument for not building American cruisers in the year 1916, A.D.; and who distributes portraits of this engaging reptile to drive his lesson home? If the Stegosaurus had not been snatched from the pacifists to serve as an advertisement for dental cream and other toilet utilities, eh would still be doing duty as a timely illustration of the vanity of preparedness.
It has been observed by teachers (the kind of teachers who practice observation) that the interest of the child in cause and effect is a strong and vital interest. It is part of his unconscious effort to solve the crowding enigmas of life, and it is the foundation of his logical perceptions and his moral sense. It vies him his bias for physical science, for that experimental education of which Mr. Edgeworth was the first English exponent; and it is the secret of his vigorous partisanship when his human interests are fired. Alone among educators, Mr. G. Stanley Hall finds neutrality, a ‘high and ideal neutrality,’ to be an attribute of youth. He is so gratified by this discovery, so sure that American boys and girls are following ‘impartially’ the great struggle in Europe, and that this judicial attitude will, in the coming years, enable them to pronounce ‘the true verdict of history,’ that he ‘thrills and tingles’ with patriotic—if premature—pride.
‘The true verdict of history’ will be pronounced according to the documentary evidence in the case. There is no need to vex our souls over the possible extinction of this evidence, for closer observers than our impartial young Americans are placing it permanently on record. The phrase ‘high and ideal neutrality’ needs elucidation. Civic neutrality is a recognizable thing. It is enjoined by authority which has a claim upon our obedience. No citizen is warranted in offending against its clearly defined decrees. No nation is warranted in violating the pact which pledges its recognition. When Germany marched her invading armies across Belgium, she placed herself on record as overriding international law. She entered the ranks of the freebooter. Nevertheless there is nothing high or ideal in civic neutrality. Its object is not the good of others, but peace and security at home. Belgium was not neutral as a matter of convenience to France, but to save her weakness from assault. She asked of the Powers the right to live, and she asked it for her own sake, not for her neighbors’.
The United States cherishes her neutrality as an asset of enormous value. It has not saved her from grievous insults and shameful conspiracies. It has not saved American ships from being torpedoed and sunk. It has not saved American men and women from death at Germany’s hands. But the measure of our loss must be reckoned mainly in things of the spirit, and the measure of our gain can be reckoned unrestrictedly in material well-being. The nervous editorials in our newspapers, proposing ways and means to guard our new prosperity when we shall be at the mercy of peace, prove conclusively how high we rate the patronage of war. ‘America means opportunity,’ we are told by those who watch over our fortunes; and Americans have seized with ready sagacity the opportunities offered by the conflict. It is a legitimate course to pursue, and foreign nations will probably be just as glad to profit by our necessities when trouble comes to us; but to apply the words ‘high and ideal’ to our civic neutrality borders perilously on the absurd.
Mental neutrality, which is defined by Murray as the ‘absence of decided views, feeling, or expression,’ sounds—when matters of vital importance are at stake—like a contradiction in terms. If we have minds, we must think; and if we think, we must come measurably near a point of view. There is no intellectual equivalent of a treadmill. We may strive to be judicial, and succeed according to the accuracy of our knowledge and the clearness of our understanding. We may live our lives in a slough of indecision. We may be ignorant or unconcerned. Noe of these conditions imply mental neutrality. Marcus Aurelius said, ‘It is possible to have no opinion upon a subject, and not to be troubled in one’s mind’; but this adroit sentence neither advocates nor admits a limitless insensibility. We do not suppose that the Emperor would have considered that the triumph of Rome over the barbarians, or the triumph of the barbarians over Rome, was a matter upon which it was possible to have no opinion. His flawless serenity was never a cloak for indifference to the welfare of the world.
It is not in the mind of youth or in the heart of a child that we find the equanimity which escapes the ordeal of partisanship. Can we not remember a time when the Wars of the Roses were not—to us—a matter of neutrality? Our little school-histories, those vivacious, anecdotal histories, banished long ago by rigorous educators, were in some measure responsible for our Lancastrian fervor. They fed it with stories of high courage and the sorrows of princes. We wasted our sympathies on ‘a mere struggle for power’; but Hume’s laconic verdict is not, and never can be, the measure of a child’s solicitude. The lost cause fills him with pity, the cause which is saved by man’s heroic sacrifice fires him to generous applause. The round world and the tale of those who have lived upon it are his legitimate inheritance.
Mr. Bagehot said, and said wisely, after his wont, that if you catch an intelligent, uneducated man of thirty, and tell him about the battle of Marathon, he will calculate the chances, and estimate the results, but he will not really care. You cannot make the word ‘Marathon’ sound in his ears as it sounded in the ears of Byron, to whom it had been sacred in boyhood. You cannot make the word freedom sound in untutored ears as it sounds in the ears of men who have counted the cost by which it has been preserved through the centuries. Unless children are permitted to know the utmost peril which has threatened, and which threatens, the freedom of nations, how can they conceive of its value? And what is the worth of teaching which does not rate the grace of freedom above all earthly benefactions? How can justice live, save by the will of freemen? Of what avail are civic virtues that are not the virtues of the free? Pericles bade the people of Athens to bear reverently in mind the Greeks who had died for Greece. ‘Make these men your examples, and be well assured that happiness comes by freedom, and freedom by stoutness of heart.’ The prelate who said he would rather see England free than England sober, knew the supreme significance of self-control. It is not by selling the navy decanters that we honor sobriety, or foster the qualities of citizenship.
To withhold from a child some knowledge—apportioned to his understanding—of the world’s sorrows and wrongs is to cheat him of his kinship with humanity. We would not, if we could, bruise his soul as our souls are bruised; but we would save him from that callous content which is alien tot his immaturity, and which men have raised to the rank of a virtue. The little American, like the little Armenian and the little Serb, is a son of the sorrowing earth. His security—of which no man forecast the future—is a legacy bequeathed to him by predecessors who bought it with sweat and with blood his descendants may be called on to guard it. Washington’s soldiers and Lincoln’s volunteers laid their lives down that the American child might be safe—safe in freedom and with honor.
The Columbus Despatch told us some months ago the story of a man who, returning from Europe to the United States, laughed uproariously day and night at the contrast between the sufferings and horrors he had witnessed abroad and the peaceful prosperity of home. The distressing nature of his recollections added zest to his heart-whole enjoyment. It would be a glorious thing, said the Despatch, if more Americans could have a brief experience of war-stricken France and Belgium, to quicken their appreciation of their own blessings, their gratitude for their comfortable lot.
There used to be some strong-stomached Christians who anticipated an especial satisfaction in Heaven from the contemplation of the torments of the damned. But they had the excuse of believing that it was the damned’s own fault that they were damned. Pity would have been inconsistent with justice. France and Belgium are paying the penalty of Germany’s violence, and of her repudiation of her pledge. Their sorrow is the heroic sorrow of those who suffer for justice’s sake. It implies the voluntary surrender
Of all that man may call his own,
in exchange for a triumphant ideal which is shared by les âmes bien nées of every race and clime. There is little in such devotion to sooth us to complacency; but there is much to awaken every noble and pitying emotion of our souls. The American child who does not know the tale of Belgium’s heroism and of Belgium’s wrongs has been denied the greatest lesson the living world can teach. The little state which defended her guaranteed rights against invasion, and by this defense saved France, has become one of the controlling forces of Europe. ‘The moral triumph of Belgium,’ says Cardinal Mercier, ‘is an ever memorable fact for history and civilization.’ Upon our understanding of such moral triumph, when linked to material defeat, depend our clearness of vision and our sureness of touch. If we forbear to tell American children this glorious and shameful episode out of consideration for the hyphenated vote, we place our scheme of education on a level with the education of Germany, where children are taught the things which a watchful bureaucracy deems it prudent and advisable for them to learn.
Patriotism in the United States is not subject to subtle reservations unknown to patriotism elsewhere. Its creed is the old simple creed of sacrifice, the old austere renouncement of personal comfort and well-being. It is inadequately expressed by draping a theatre in bunting on election night, or by having an actor dressed as Uncle Sam drive across the stage in a pony cart, and wave an American flag. If we have chosen Uncle Sam as a symbol of our manhood, of something homely, and strong, and self-respecting, why do we make him ridiculous, debasing him into a caricature, and employing him as a medium of advertisement in shop-windows and street cars! It is indicative of our national insouciance that, while in one theatre this absurd figure—rendered more farcical by the adroit use of electric lights—was received with lazy applause, a chorus in an adjacent theatre was cheerfully parodying our national hymn, —
My country, ’t is of thee,
Land of humility, —
To the unfeigned amusement of the audience.
If we were disposed to treat practical issues sentimentally, and to make abstract sentiment ludicrous, if we deny the impelling power of duty and the value of simple emotions, we have little left to fortify us in our hour of trial. It is possible for advanced pacifists to allude ironically to the Red Cross and the Army Medical Corps as ‘screaming anomalies,’ and to propose something called ‘planetary patriotism’ as a substitute for the protective love we bear to the land of our birth. But it would not be possible to make young Americans, who have worked fourteen hours a day on the French battle-front for the rescue and relief of the wounded, see anything anomalous in their labors; and it would be impossible to make little Americans put Mongolia and the United States on the same level of regard. Planetary patriotism demands nothing beyond committees and phrase-making. Practical patriotism may at any hour ask the sacrifice of life. Not even the ‘wooden Juggernaut, prudence,’ can be trusted to save us forever from the call of our imperiled country.
Therefore we do well to recognize that war for aggression is a sin against the civilized world, and that we have no right to demand immunity for the aggressor, because prolonged resistance is shattering to our nerves. Therefore we do ill to rob our children of reverence for justice, of respect for bravery, and of compassion for pain. It is not enough for them to rejoice in their own safety, in their immunity from personal violence. They must bear in mind that ‘happiness comes by freedom, and freedom by stoutness of heart.’ To strip from the service of the soldier its heroic quality, to deny him the fruits of his sacrifice, to see in his endurance, stupidity, in his courage, folly, in his wounds, mere festering flesh, in his death, only corruption and decay—this is the most terrible blindness that can befall mankind. So was the Pagan blind when he saw in the mangled body of the Christian nothing but foulness and defeat. The realism which repudiates the spirit achieves amazing accuracy of detail, but it stops forever short of the truth. The heroism which preserves the hope of the world is the heritage of the world’s youth. It is the ‘sovereign disinfectant,’ saving the soul of the child from the leprosy of materialism, form safety-worship, and from the elevation of his own selfish interests into the rank of a divine appointment.