Letters to and From the Editor
Poland and Democracy
Your magazine has a great history, rich with inspiring traditions. Hence it is that you cause me to question seriously my own identification of the author of an article appearing in your October issue under the title “Getting Democracy in Poland,” although the title considered against the text would seem to confirm my understanding. I shall be grateful to you for correct ing me if I am in error.
My understanding is that Anna Louise Strong is the wife of an official of the Stalin regime and has been a communist for about fifteen years. In using the word “communist” in this connection I am not using it loosely, but to denote a person who believes in and serves the communist doctrine. If my information is correct, it would seem that the author, although born in the United States, is hardly qualified to give an impartial report to the citizens of this country on “getting democracy in Poland.” If my information, which seems to be rather common knowledge, is incorrect, you could perform a valuable service to your readers by telling us exactly who Anna Louise Strong is.
WILLIAM J. PALMER
Judge of the Superior Court
Los Angeles, Cal.
Do you not think it would have been more honest to have prefaced Anna Louise Strong’s article with the statement that she is a Communist, an expatriate married to a Russian official, and that she has been Communism’s special pleader for a full twenty years?
Washington Correspondent, Collier’s
It is theAtlantic’stradition, as it isCollier’s,to hear from both sides of a bitterly contested issue. The London Poles have been vociferously in print since 1941 and we know that they do not look with favor on what is going on in Poland. Meantime, we were curious to hear from an American who was on the spot and not unreceptive to what she regards as the new democracy in Poland. — THE EDITOR
Professor Rabi Answers a Critic
In his article “The Physicist Returns from the War,” Professor I. I. Rabi attributes to the New York Times a plan to corral “the scientist in large research institutions” where “he would have as overseers and public guardians a group of wise men who know the important problems better than the scientist himself.” The Times made no such statement. It suggested an organization which expressly left the scientist as free as he is now and gave him the benefit of the knowledge and experience of men who worked in fields other than his.
Professor Rabi has given your readers a masterly distortion of what the Times advocated. As a reporter he would not last more than two weeks on any great metropolitan daily.
Science Editor, New York Times
New York City
It is interesting to note that Mr. Kaempffert is still capable of writing about distortion with heat and indignation. The phrases he quotes from my article in the Atlantic were of course my own and not an unacknowledged quotation. Nevertheless they represent, I believe, a fair, if perhaps lighthearted, summation of his expressed views. May I suggest that he reread some of his articles in my favorite newspaper, and also the letters of Drs. Conant, Weaver, and Buckley, together with his comments on them. He will find that he has little to learn from me about distortion.
I note with regret from the last sentence of Mr. Kagmpffert’s letter that a future avenue of employment is now closed to me.
I. I. RABI
Department of Physics
New York City
No Sermons, Please
When I opened the September Atlantic at page 63 and saw the title “Why I Read the Bible,” by Lt. Com. C. Leslie Glenn, I expected to read a highly individual statement of innermost reasons for reading the Bible. The “I” attracted me. Here is a believer,
I told my wife, who is going to tend to his own knitting and leave ours well alone. In my innocence, I believed I had excavated that rare species, a divine too anxious to bare his own Soul to meddle with mine!
The very first sentence of the article made me wonder. “To recommend the reading of the Bible is to launch on a sea of difficulties,” it began. It somehow presaged that the author was launching not only upon a sea of difficulties but upon a sermon as well.
It hinted he was out to tell the readers that they ought to read the Bible, a clear transgression of the title “Why I Read the Bible” — that is, unless he wished to point out that he read the Bible primarily because he wanted to set a good example. This struck me as a tolerable reason for a clergyman to read the Bible but hardly an eruptive one for a confessing pen.
The suspicion irked me. I respect titles. Around the turn of the century, I was belted for turning in an essay on my cat when told to write about “My Dog.” I didn’t have a dog, but that didn’t matter to my “magister,” who tutored, as he laid it on, “Titles are Coined, not Counterfeited.”
The author of “Why I Read the Bible” should be belted (figuratively and nicely, of course) for going beyond the title, and so should the editors for not changing it into, say, “Why You Should Read the Bible.”
In all fairness to the editors, it must be said that the article is so frequented by “spiritual hummingbirds” looking for trouble that it is hard to fit with an honest title.
Let me wing a few of them.
In part 2 of “Why I Read the Bible” we find the author indignant because “science, or literature, or anthropology, or psychology . . . are being taught to people before they have read the book itself!” I am not equipped to take a stand on this hoary issue (like the author, “in a sense, I was not educated: I was trained.” My training culminated, decenniums ago, in the rear ranks of the U. S. Army, where — notwithstanding the author’s assertion that “trained men are generally religious” — I found no piety), but as a bread-and-butter writer I would opine that it doesn’t belong under the heading “Why I Read the Bible.”
In part 3, the author “accounts for” his “prejudice against certain aspects of education in American colleges.” Why should an avowed follower of Jesus Christ be prejudiced? To be sure, the author’s prejudice is of the common variety, but that doesn’t make it less objectionable. Dictionary Johnson, as wise a man as many an Old Testament ancient., said: “A common prejudice should not be found in one whose trade is to rectify error.”
On page 66 we read: “It shocks the audience of parents and graduates to be told that the poet meant, among other things, ‘Down with the liberal arts college!’” Well, it shocks many that the author, masquerading behind “ Why I Read the Bible,” voices t he same sentiment.
Later on, the author is “advocating.” He wants us to read the Bible, “in great gulps”; he wants us to kneel; he wants us to get the devout commentaries; and, “above all,” he wants us to “ go to church”; in fact, he is so intent upon telling us what to do that he forgets that we want to hear why he is reading the Bible.
It takes great courage and humility to strip one’s soul and confess in public. “Why I Read the Bible” doesn’t mark our hearts because it is more a strident advocacy and prejudiced attack than a humble confession. Promised an insight into the workings of a soul, we are lectured by an epauletted mind; and we are disappointed.
Lt. Com. C. Leslie Glenn would have served us better had he whispered to himself, “Ego — at ease,” instead of barking in all directions but his own, “SINNERS — ATTENTION!”
Santa Barbara, Cal.
The Letter from Mr. Keister
Congratulations on losing the subscription of Newton H. Keister, Registrar-Genealogist, Indiana Society, Sons of the American Revolution (“Atlantic Repartee,” October). The money can be far better used to help Gerald L. K. Smith or swell the coffers of the Chicago Tribune than given to your splendid publication.
Reading his letter was like delving through some musty archives of the French Revolution; I expected suddenly to come across the word “rabble,” which really is a much milder invective than “scum.” Even the French kings didn’t have that much contempt for the people. I wonder how the millions of “scum” who have built up this country and have bled and died in the recent war like to think that their efforts and sacrifices have gone towards propping up the kind of thinking exemplified by Mr. Keister’s letter.
The wish to preserve the past under the Genealogists-Of-Failure, Upton Close and Fulton Lewis, Jr., rather than the hope of creating the future, is the last death rattle of the rapidly dwindling minority who fear thought and know that it is merciless to privilege and comfortable habits.
Incidentally, if Mr. Keister would like to know when my ancestor’s boatload of “scum” infested this country, I’ll be willing to bet a subscription to the Atlantic Monthly that it was long before his, but I’m not living ‘way back there— I’m living for the world of thought and understanding as championed by those “crackpots,” Swing, Winchell, et al.
ALFRED WAGSTAFF, III, 2ND LT. AUS
Information and Education Officer
Presidio of Monterey, Cal.
You might advise Mr. Keister to stop wasting his money on your magazine.
It is quite evident that he needs to improve his mind, but I fear his is incapable of improvement.
His letter burned me up! Despite this, I shall be gentleman enough, and show enough breeding, to refrain from calling someone with whom I disagree “scum.”
The S.A.R. cannot be proud to have their organization’s name besmirched by this bigot.
GEORGE H. JAMES
Member of National Association
of Letter Carriers, A. F. of L.
The letter by Newton H. Keister regarding Mr. Dixon Wecter is so ridiculous that it is an enigma to me how such “scum” can subscribe to your liberal magazine. As a “scum” subscriber of some years, I liked Mr. Wecter’s article and I took out another subscription for a relative of mine on the strength of that article. I should think the Atlantic could do without Keister. I believe in freedom of expression on the radio and in the press, but I think that the printing of such a distasteful, vulgar letter as that of “scum” Keister is really wasting space in your good magazine.
H. B. JAGO
San Francisco, Cal.
Your “Hearing Is Believing” was so popular and interesting that I believe a similar series doing for (and to) the Columnists what you did for (and to) the Broadcasters would prove equally acceptable to your readers.
WM. P. BOATWRIGHT
“Who Wants Taxes Cut?”
Will you please say “Hooray!” to Karl F. Zeisler. In his article “Who Wants Taxes Cut?” in the October Atlantic he has struck the nail on the head so that it goes in. May he spread that doctrine far and wide. Liberal taxes as against low ones are the difference between doing small things individually (making your own little road) and doing large things together coöperatively for everybody’s well-being.
Of course if we are to tax ourselves we must perform our duties in a democratic society; we must see that taxes are wisely and honestly spent. We are so lazy.
EVA G. PRICE
In the article by Karl F. Zeisler there is a section on education. May we have permission to reprint this statement beginning with the last paragraph on page 71 and running through the remainder of the first section of the article? We have inaugurated a publication to go to lay leaders, and should like to carry this statement by Mr. Zeisler in it. We shall, of course, give full credit to the Atlantic Monthly and to Mr. Zeisler. I think it will be a service to education and to the teaching profession if you can give us permission to use this.
LYLE W. ASHBY
Assistant Director, Division of Publications
National Education Association
We should like to reprint in the October issue of the Wisconsin School Board News portions of the article by Karl F. Zeisler, and request your permission to do so.
Also, do you furnish reprints of Atlantic articles in quantity lots? If so, what would be the charge for facsimile reprints of “Who Wants Taxes Cut?”
N. E. MASTERSON
President, Wisconsin Association of School Boards
Stevens Point, Wis.
It is unusual to read that someone is advocating higher taxes, as Karl F. Zeisler does in his audacious article. All my life I have heard politicians promising, “ If I am elected, I will lower taxes.” And the average citizen hears the word “lower” and immediately thinks that’s pretty good.
After reading Mr. Zeisler’s article, I don’t see how anyone could be satisfied with the present conditions in our cities. His article is sound philosophy when we consider the results obtained from higher taxes — better education, city government, sanitation, fire and police protection, and many other services which have a direct bearing on the average citizen.
I favor Mr. Zeisler’s belief in higher taxes because we can’t afford the low taxes which we have been propagandized into accepting by a mistaken lowtax philosophy pushed by powerful interests. These powers would disappear if we paid enough for good government and if we elected qualified legislators. We individual citizens must be heard above the voices of corporations and high-pressure powers. We must say loudly and repeatedly that we need better education, better sanitation facilities, a better fire and police force.
What we need is more people like Mr. Zeisler, willing to brave the storm of protest and do something in the interest of higher taxes.
Lakewood High School
Lake wood, Ohio
Karl F. Zeisler’s wonderful article should be read by every voter in the United States.
Would it not be good citizenship (as well as good publicity) to reprint this in leaflet form and distribute it widely?
Please send me at least six copies of this article (or the October issue) for our new City Commissioners here.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Just a line to commend your courage and thoughtfulness toward many tax-supported services in publishing Karl F. Zeisler’s article.
While he does not mention libraries, I feel that they, as well as other important public services attempting to return at least a hundred cents on the dollar to the taxpayer, will be greatly benefited and encouraged by this article.
JOHN B. KAISER Director, The Public Library
I have read Lewis Gannett’s article “Feeling Tired?” from the “Accent on Living” section of the August issue. There is one question I should like to ask. If the Commercials which Mr. Gannett regrets so deeply are eliminated from our radio programs, who is going to pay for the quality programs we receive in America as members of the listening public?
Anyone who has been compelled to choose between the General Forces Program and the Home Service Program of the BBC, or turn off the radio, soon longs for the many and varied programs which are obtainable at home, even though “cursed” with the accompanying commercials. After a few weeks the novelty and pleasure, of not listening to commercials wear off and one begins to curse a broadcasting system run by the state where the choice of the two programs at one of the better evening listening hours turns out to be “Home Talks from Scotland" and “Fishing in the Lake Country.”
The AFX program is, of course, different. But the AFN program comprises to a great extent, the belter American commercial programs with the commercials deleted. And who is going to pay for the programs if the commercials tire never there in the first place?
In closing, I should like to add that I am probably crazy, but after a year or two of being away from it, the radio commercial is one of those American customs that find a soft spot in my heart, and is one of the things that I miss the most about the U. S.
JULIAN A, ALTMAN. MAJOR. QMC
I find myself interested in the comments made by Mrs. Robert H. Williams and Mr. E. M. Burnet in your department, “Atlantic Repartee,”in the October issue. Both have to do with radio, and both are rather aptly described (in my opinion) by a word which Mrs. Williams employs in the last line of her second paragraph. The word is “asinine.”
Mrs. Williams announces, with some pride, that she used her radio only “ for one daily news broadcast; and on Friday and Sunday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.” From that schedule, it is difficult to judge the type of broadcast which Mrs. Williams prefers, but it is reasonable to assume that she likes good music and listens for the operas on Saturday afternoons and the symphony orchestras on Sunday afternoons.
Well, if one’s musical appetite is such that it is a case of all or nothing, then I suppose the complete opera and the complete symphony are about all that radio can make available. And when you hear them for nothing, it becomes the best bargain I know anything about.
Let Mr. Burnet take himself to the audition department of any major New York station or network and make a transcription of himself reading fifteen minutes of mixed international news, continuity narration, and commercial copy. Then let him have any of the accepted staff announcers or actors on t he list read the same copy and record it on wax. I have a hunch that Mr. Burnet’s ears will be very red when he hears the two transcriptions.
I can’t speak for network operators, of course, but I have an idea that they would be glad to have Mr. Burnet point out any staff announcers or actors who habitually say, “hunnerts,”“tenatif,”“inernashnl,” “ whirldwind.” My bet is that he can’t find one top-flight CBS, NBC, ABC, or Mutual staffer who says any of them in that fashion. I think that Mr. Burnet is (a) pet ulant ly prissy about pronunciation, and (b) listening to modern radio through his hat.
REESE WADE Kansas City, Mo.